San Francisco’s first major organic and natural food store helped pioneer how we eat today.

If you’re interested in knowing where many of the latest trends in natural, organic foods and products get their start, then turn your eyes to San Francisco, where at the historic Rainbow Grocery in the Mission District, you’ll find the proverbial pot of gold.

Since 1975, when the natural foods collective was started by members of a hippie ashram, Rainbow Grocery has embraced the ideals of the organic food movement and communal, progressive values. What began as a group of volunteers selling staples like oatmeal and whole-wheat flour out of barrels has morphed into an enormous worker-owned warehouse-like space that stocks one of the most mind-blowing selections of healthy foods and products you’ll ever encounter—all vegetarian aside from animal food. Especially notable is their niche selection of products from small, local Bay Area food artisans that—you guessed it—often become trendsetters for the nation.

“One of my favorite aspects of our store is that we are very often an entry point for new endeavors in the health food market,” says Destin Morris, a Rainbow Grocery worker-owner who gave Clean Plates a recent tour. “Very frequently, we stock something on our shelves before any other retailers.” For example, they carried Evolution juices and Odwalla when they were “teeny tiny little juice companies,” says Morris—long before they were acquired by Starbucks and Coca-Cola, respectively.

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