The Dill Pickle adheres to a set of product criteria, defined by the Product Selection committee before we opened our doors. These criteria grouped into seven categories: social impact, local production, organic production, environmental impact, consumer demand, price, nutritional quality. The co-op department leads are trained in these criteria and staunchly uphold them when selecting products for the store.
- International products which are either certified "Fair Trade" or employ fair labor practices
- The workforce of the company producing the product is unionized
- The producer has identified a specifically social-justice oriented agenda
- Produced and distributed by vendors who meet city and state civil rights policies and run their businesses ethically
- Produced or distributed by cooperatively-owned vendors
We are a Fair Trade business and partner extensively with Fair Trade Chicago on education events throughout the city. Most imported products at the store—sugar, tea, coffee, molasses, olive oil, coconut oil, chocolate, shea butter, many more—are Fair Trade certified. We work with social justice producers that employ marginalized populations, including Spark of the Heart soups and Bright Endeavors. We also sell products made by other locally and nationally based co-ops including Co-op Partners Warehouse, Co-op Sauce, Frontier, Peace Coffee, Just Coffee, Mt. Sterling Cheese, Rochdale Farms creamery and many more. Our major distributor, UNFI, is a well-reputed natural foods distributor which has good labor practices and unionized fleets.
-The co-op will carry local products (within an exact geographic radius to be determined) in order to reduce food miles, transportation costs, and to support the local economy.
- Seasonal products, meaning that the product is in season locally when we buy it and comes from a local source supporting regional farmers and producers. It is fresh and the seasonality encourages us to have diverse and flexible diets that support our health and local culture.
- Products which reflect the evolving relationship between food producers and its consumers. We can buy their products directly, removing the middleman, helping to maintain a fair price for all.
In 2012, the Dill Pickle board voted to define local as within a 4-hour drive and regional as within an 8-hour drive of the store. The co-op focuses on small, local producers who follow sustainable practices first and foremost. One third of the products sold at the Dill Pickle in 2013 were locally sourced; $315,000 went directly to over 80 local producers in the 2012-13 fiscal year. More than half of these vendors were small farms, most of which we purchase from directly. Our Produce Lead purchases in accordance with seasonality, encouraging customers to eat the freshest, seasonally appropriate foods. With a few exceptions, we do not import produce from other continents, meaning there are times of year when certain fruits and vegetables are not available at the co-op. We consider this choice a part of customer education and an important cornerstone of our mission.
Recognizing the health implications of organic produce for the environment, animals, and humans
- Products which have not been genetically engineered or which require any chemical or artificial fertilizers to be grown
- Produced utilizing farming and production techniques that reflect a healthy relationship between food production and the environment
Nearly all produce sold at the Dill Pickle is certified organic. Exceptions are made for small local farms that follow organic practices but have not yet obtained certification and for small local orchards that use integrated pest management. While there is not yet mandatory labeling for genetically engineered foods in the natural food industry, Dill Pickle buyers do their best to keep GMOs out of the store, pulling products that are suspected of using conventionally grown ingredients.
Recognizing the environmental impact of the product's production, as well as the impact on animals
- The product is cruelty free. Animals involved are treated humanely and with respect and live in healthy conditions.
- Packaged minimally, and/or packaged with materials that are manufactured and disposed of in an environmentally sound manner
- Items produced by manufacturers who do not utilize animal testing
- Products are ecologically sound, meaning that the production of the product has enhanced rather than depleted the soil or environment where it is grown.
- Products which can help us to reduce our carbon footprint in any way
- Products avoiding toxic substances, whether in a product's ingredients, production process, or use and disposal, particularly (but not limited to) avoiding use of products made with chlorine bleach and petroleum products
All meats sold at the co-op are purchased from small local farms that follow humane raising and slaughtering practices and do not use hormones or antibiotics. The staff has visited most of our meat farms to personally inspect the treatment of their animals. Our dairy products are also hormone and antibiotic free, if not certified organic. The co-op has an expansive bulk department, including herbs and spices and liquids. We have discontinued many packaged versions of items we sell in bulk, to encourage customers to save money and packaging by purchasing bulk. We use compostable or recyclable bags and clamshells for all in-house repacking. Our body care department is cruelty-free; our Health and Wellness Associate ensures all body care products have not used animal testing. Most body care products are vegan. The co-op shelves are toxin-free. Virtually all products in our cleaning section are completely safe. We sell one sku of non-chlorine bleach.
Serving the demands of the members and other consumers
- Products which increase the cultural diversity of choice at the co-op by reflecting the cultural diversity of different tastes and traditions of the co-op's membership base and community
- Help meet the needs of people on specialty diets or with specific allergies, such as products that are wheat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, fragrance-free, vegan, etc.
- Desired by our members and shoppers
- Profitable for the co-op
The product mix at the co-op is a direct reflection of the desires of our customer base. The co-op staff has been refining our offerings over the years according to what sells best and we have brought many products into the store via customer requests. When unable to regularly stock a request, we offer to special order it for the customer. We have a wide selection of gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free, nut-free, soy-free, raw and kosher products and a knowledgeable staff to answer questions about special dietary needs.
We are concerned with the accessibility of our products, which may prompt placement of items based on affordability. Products should be fairly priced, offering our members value for their money.
We strive to address this criteria, while upholding the other criteria in the product selection guidelines that often come with a higher price tag. When appropriate and possible the co-op offers a lower-price and a higher end/higher quality version of the same product. Our department leads are currently putting together a collection of staple items to be sold at a very low margin, to be launched in early 2014. We price compare with our competitors to check that our products are being sold at a fair, competitive price.
- Products free of growth hormones or antibiotics
- Free of harmful, unhealthful, or unnecessary preservatives or artificial additives
- Free of added artificially produced trans-fats
- Natural foods which are minimally processed and contain product appropriate ingredients
- No products which are irradiated or contain irradiated ingredients
All meats and dairy at the co-op are hormone and antibiotic free. We avoid products that use proven harmful processed ingredients and additives such as high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and flavors. Our focus is on whole, natural, unprocessed and minimally processed fresh food, which is reflected in our sales: 22% of the Dill Pickle’s sales are in the produce department, compared with 6% in conventional grocery stores and 19% for the average co-op. No products sold at the Dill Pickle have been irradiated.