Grocery Standards

Our shelves are stocked with the health of you, your family, and the planet in mind—and priced so your pocketbook can afford them.

Since 1955, we’ve been making the best, highest quality products affordable, that’s one of the reasons Natural Grocers was founded.

We read the labels, so you don’t have to—we still recommend that you do because knowledge is empowering. 

Our team of food quality standards experts reads every label, weeds through the minutiae of labeling regulations, and keeps the concerning stuff, the not good for my family stuff, the fake stuff, the what in the world is that stuff, off our shelves so that you can get your shopping done in a snap and provide yourself and your family with simply the best. (Now, the only thing you have to do is figure out what to do with all that extra time you’ve saved not having to scourer very label.) For more information on foods and food ingredients we won’t carry, please click here.

Food matters to us. It’s a foundation, it’s a future, it’s a choice.

We choose food that is better for us, better for our children and better for our planet. We refuse what isn’t. We use science-backed, ongoing research as our guide. These are the principles of our standards. The basic details are as follows:

The things we WON’T allow, the basics (for a complete list click here):

  • Hydrogenated oils are the invention of modern food technology, made from highly processed and refined oils and full of damaged fats and trans-fats. They haven’t been on our shelves since 1990. So, our customers have been free from this inflammation boosting and artery-clogging ingredient for over 28 years.  
  • Artificial colors which are made from coal tar have never corrupted the natural beauty of the real food on our shelves. When you shop with us you don’t have to worry about the fact that they are linked to ADHD and cancer, but when you shop elsewhere you should read the labels as artificial colors are commonly found in the products on the shelves of online retailers, other grocery stores, and farmer’s markets.  
  • Artificial flavors of synthetic chemical cocktails with questionable side-effects have been banned from our shelves since 1955.   
  • Artificial sweeteners with potentially carcinogenic histories never see the stamp of approval from our quality standards team.   
  • Artificial preservatives adding an unnecessary chemical burden to your diet, never make your food last longer than it should.   
  • Irradiated foods subjected to radioactive rays that reduce nutrients and cause potentially problematic chemical changes aren’t sneaking into your grocery cart along with your groceries, especially the herbs you choose to add zest to your favorite recipes when you shop with us. Most conventional herbs found at online retailers, other grocery stores, and farmers' markets are irradiated.  

The things we DO require, some of the basics:  

  • Certified organic produce. To maintain its integrity from farm to table, we’re also certified organic handlers. It’s the only kind we carry, and we’re pretty sure we’re the only largish grocery chain to do it. Learn more about our unbeetable Produce Standards.  

  • Pasture-based dairy. Let them graze! That’s our Motto and we stock only managed pasture-based dairy products in our dairy cases. The taste is udderly amazing and the nutrition benefits are hooves down the best. Moove on over to our Dairy Standards page to see what else makes our pasture-based standards the unabashedly best in the neighborhood.  

  • Free range or better is the only way we collect our eggs. It’s why we won the International “Good Egg Award” in 2017, and it’s why you should fly on over to our Egg Standards page to learn more about our eggceptional standards. 

  • Conscientiously and humanely raised meats without antibiotics, hormones or other growth promoters, is the best way to be omnivorous with a conscience. Check out exactly what that means on our Meat Standards page.

The things we PRIORITIZE, the basics:  

  • Certified organic is always top of our list when we’re checking out new products. The authenticity and environmental benefits are unparalleled, and it’s also naturally GMO-free.   

  • Non-GMO Project (or other Non-GMO verification organization) Verified delivers the kind of transparency we know you’re seeking, and we source it whenever possible.   

  • Fair-trade certifications help to empower the global communities who provide valuable resources to our food chain.  

  • Sustainability from compostable packaging to water re-circulating to root-to-stem innovations always catches our eye. We love food that is as good for the planet as it is delicious.  

  • Local is a connection that we value and prioritize in all our stores. We get our hands on as much of it as meets our quality standards.    

  • Transparency is something we value because shopping for food should not require looking up ingredients in the dictionary. We do our best to provide the best for you, our customers, and we're always learning so we will always keep raising standards and providing you with clear information. 

GMOs, oh no! The boogie monster in the fields  

In 2013, we stopped bringing in new products that contain GMOs (genetically modified/bioengineered organisms) or products that have ingredients that are made from them. Additionally, we are working with our vendors to replace GMO ingredients with comparable non-GMO substitutes.

When considering new items to carry at Natural Grocers, the ingredients are closely reviewed. If the new product is not organic or Non-GMO as verified by the Non-GMO Project other Non-GMO verification organization and contains ingredients that are at high risk of being made from genetically modified (bioengineered) organisms (GMOs) we ask the company to confirm that they are not made from GMOs. If a company cannot provide confirmation that the ingredients in question did not come from such a source, then we will not carry it.   

The natural foods industry went mainstream in the 1990s. This is when Whole Foods became a household name (whole paycheck) and went public in 1992, truly confirming the mainstream status of the health food/natural foods industry. And the race was on for some natural brands to sell up and out to big conventional corporations—you know the ones responsible for all those conventional products containing problematic ingredients and manipulating your taste buds. At the same time, the 1990s were when GMOs were approved for the first time. Bovine Growth Hormone was one of the first GMO substances approved in 1993 followed by soybeans in 1995, corn and cotton in 1996 and canola in 1999. The combination of these two forces—the mainstreaming of the natural foods industry and the introduction of GMOs—was the siren song for the term "natural" and it was when some natural products starting using ingredients made from GMOs. 

Today, GMOs are incredibly pervasive—more than 70% of packaged foods in the US, including ones labeled as natural, contain them and probably all grocery stores in the US sell foods that contain ingredients made from them.   

We have been working on eliminating GMOs in our grocery products since 2013 and we estimate that a limited number—between 5% to 10%—of the total SKUs that we carry might contain GMO ingredients. (As manufacturers are currently not required to disclose on their labels whether the product potentially contains ingredients from GMOs, this is our best estimate given responses to our quality questionnaires.) Across all our stores we carry over 9,000 Non-GMO Project Verified products and over 10,000 organic grocery products.   

All our Natural Grocers brand products are organic or non-GMO if organic is not available (excluding our honey). It is important to understand that organic products are naturally non-GMO as organic growing requirements prohibit the use of GMOs and ingredients made from them are not allowed in organic products. Organic crops are also produced without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers and they can also help regenerate the health of the soil.  

Additionally, we only sell 100% USDA Certified Organic produce (learn more about our unbeetable produce standards), so you never need to worry about GMOs in your produce when you shop with us. Currently, at other grocery stores, farmers markets, and online retailers, you could be buying GMO produce because they sell conventional produce and the produce does not have to be labeled in any way to indicate it is GMO, specifically, sweet corn, zucchini, and yellow summer squash, tomatoes, potatoes, apples, and papaya—buyer beware! 

A few other foods that are at high risk of containing GMOs include corn chips, salad dressings, frozen and packaged foods, soy milk, and anything that contains added sugar if it does not specifically state cane sugar. (For a list of crops, animals and other substances that have been approved to be genetically modified/bioengineered check out this link: