Soundbite: Odhran Kelly: Nourish Health Food Stores

Posted January 13, 2019 in Food & Drink Features

Nourish has been successfully championing whole foods and environmentally sound products since first opening its doors in 1986. Odhran Kelly tells us more about what the popular Dublin Health Food provider has in store for 2019.


Nourish has been on the go since 1986. Tell us a little about how it first started.

My parents wanted to set up a business with a vegetarian, vegan, wholefood focus and they saw that there would be a demand for a health food store to complement the various like-minded restaurants such as Cornucopia and The Golden Dawn that were in Dublin at the time. The building at 93 Marlborough Street was a fun place to be as a young kid. I was five in 1986 and used to help with carrying stock and “tidying” which generally involved pushing all the products to the back of the shelf. I became more useful as I grew older, later helping to pack all of the brown rice, figs, raisins and almost every nut and seed you could think of. Marlborough Street was not the most salubrious location at the time, but my parents quickly built a following there under the original name of the business: The General Health Food Store.

The original colours were bright red, blue and yellow and I often bump into people who remember that shop – and the red-haired fella that worked there – my Dad!


Tell us more about the philosophy behind your approach and what inspired the name.

Our philosophy is based on a love of whole foods – unprocessed and unrefined. A good diet is the bedrock to a healthy body and mind and though we now have a huge range of natural cosmetics and supplements and remedies, the focus is still very much on food. We are very strict about what comes in the door at Nourish, each range we stock is carefully chosen with health and the environment in mind. If it’s grossly overpackaged, we don’t want it. If it’s packed with three kinds of sugar, unnecessary additives or artificial gunk – it doesn’t get in the door.

The other core philosophy is around our staff. Everyone who works in Nourish is given the opportunity to upskill and grow within the business, we do a lot of staff training and we are very proud of the service our staff provide to our lovely customers.

Our new name Nourish came in 2004 when we got a bit tired of our original, quite lengthy name. We had a competition among the staff of all four stores at the time and Linda, our Omni store manager came up with Nourish. It was perfect! We then got ourselves a funky new logo, still sticking with the original red and looking back, it was one of the best business decisions we’ve made.


You’ve recently launched a partnership with Dunnes Stores. What kinds of challenges has that entailed for a small operator like yourselves?

The biggest challenge for us in 2017 was to grow the business from a team of 50 to 80 over the space of five months. We knew we’d have to first grow our head office in order to be able to support a much larger team of staff, so we promoted a lot of our existing store managers and sales assistants to head office roles and that has been a great success. We are delighted to be able to create so many new roles and we are so proud of our staff for the work they have done to keep everything going.

Dunnes Stores have also made it very easy for us, they really support the brands they have brought in as concessions as they see the value that it brings for their customers. In terms of our range – we have the same core range in our concessions as in our existing stores – but each store has different customers with different needs so really, each store has little differences based on demand among its regulars.


You’re launching a “Make Soap Great again” campaign next month. What’s the thinking behind that?

Liquid soap dispensing products have become very popular over the last few years, but that involves a lot of packaging that’s not environmentally sustainable in the long run. There are lots of great quality bars of soap out there, so the campaign is really just to point out that the humble bar of soap, if made with good quality ingredients, can actually be really good. Years ago, having a full green bin was a sign of somebody being environmentally friendly but actually people are realizing now that having as little waste as possible is the way to go. The more bars of soap are being used the less packaging that’s involved, so we want to gently encourage people to have a bar of soap on their kitchen sink.


What other things can we expect to see from Nourish this year?

We plan to open more concessions with Dunnes Stores, but that will be later in the year. In the meantime, we would love to open another store in Dublin to provide more access to organic fruit and veg in the city. We have recently put a full range of organic fruit and veg into our refurbished store on Liffey Street and our plan is to roll this out to more stores in 2019.

We are also working closely with our suppliers to reduce the impact of the packaging created for all of the products we sell. The majority of our fruit and veg is sold loose, but obviously most of the other products we sell need some sort of wrapping or container to keep them safe and fresh, so we are really pushing our suppliers to source better, more sustainable materials – and we say no to a lot of products that are simply over-packaged.


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