MORE Costa Ricans are lathering their heads with organic products and lowering their consumption of pesticides thanks to the success of Bioland’s organic and natural foods and beauty products.
Shoppers can find all-natural, additive and preservative-free Bioland products, such as organic prickly pear hair conditioner and whole-wheat sesame nacho chips, often with significant amounts of organic ingredients, in almost every supermarket in Costa Rica.
The company offers nearly 200 packaged snacks, grains and other foods and more than 90 personal-care products, including, for example, organic wild indigo anti-dandruff shampoo and organic carrot tanning oil, and all at accessible prices.
A sample of Bioland products found at Más x Menos supermarkets includes a 370-milliliter bottle of organic chamomile shampoo for ¢1,159 ($2.75) and a 250-gram package of whole-wheat cookies with carob chips for ¢484 ($1.15).
WHEN Costa Rica’s organic foods scene was limited to displays in small shops and farmers’ markets more than 20 years ago, Bioland’s forebear, Diproma, a macrobiotic products distributor, became the first natural products industry in the country.
Three years ago, it adopted the name Bioland and began to export its goods throughout Central America, as well as Europe, Japan, Taiwan and the United States. There is no secret ingredient to Bioland’s success, said the company’s owner, Gustavo Hampl.
“Everything is based on hard work,” Hampl said. “We are willing to make profits through the implementation of a certain philosophy.
There is a firm ideological frame of action within which we work, and what we do does not overstep that creed.”
HE said Bioland encourages local producers to become certified in organic agriculture.
Though the company buys some ingredients from abroad, it tries to patronize local farms whenever possible.
If a certain food would be cheaper to produce locally but is not available without pesticides and chemical fertilizers, Hampl and company work with the owners of small farms to convert to certified suppliers of organic produce.
To date, seven farms have traded in their fumigation pumps for compost heaps and now sell their organic produce to Bioland.
“The modern business is largely profit-oriented,” Hampl said. “We make money without passing the barrier that we place before ourselves. While others earn as much as possible while remaining within the limits of the laws of the state, we create our own laws.”
A large part of the company’s motivation is concern for the natural world. Its bilingual Web site (www.bio-land.org) warns about the “asphyxiating situation” created by over-population, consumerism, “fierce industrial competition,” and the mesmerizing effect of advertising on the human psyche.
Then it outlines the company’s mission: “Bioland represents the real commitment to work for a land full of life. Bioland promotes biological and organic agriculture, the recovery of natural and traditional industrial practices, as well as the use of cleaner and ecological commercial procedures, respecting the health of human beings and their environment.”
Besides the products it offers, the company respects its own ideology within its office walls. It has an extensive paperrecycling program, and teaches employees to reduce waste and recycle both in the office and at home.
THE Bioland Siembra program donates ¢5 ($0.01) of every purchase to a tree-planting project, which plants mostly native species within and around San José, and lists every tree they have planted, including the date and location, on the Web site.
The site also offers recipes for vegetarian and healthy foods, such as vegetarian empanadas made with Bioland textured soy, and sesame spaghetti.
“Our idea is to create a model for the business of the future,” Hampl said. “We consider the consumer a human being, not a number or a monthly statistic. The health of the client is a benefit to everyone – we benefit the future of our children.”