Product Selection Guidelines

At People's, we thoroughly research the food we sell. We consider these product selection guidelines to be at the very heart of what we do. 

The following guidelines help us stock our shelves with the best products available and help create a demand for these important values. The Co-op staff responsible for product ordering strives to serve the grocery needs of our community members by following these guidelines. You are invited to contribute to the monitoring and evolution of product selection policy through the suggestion box, interaction with our staff, or proposals to the Board for amendment to these guidelines. We own it!

Organically Grown

Organically grown and produced food products will be prioritized and made available by the co-op. We will always carry organic unless one of the following factors tips the balance in favor of non-organic:

  1. Locally grown/produced;
  2. Ecological/cultural/ political factors;
  3. Lack of availability of a comparable organic product, yet consistent with the rest of the Product Selection Guidelines.
  4. Lack of availability of an organic option that fits a specific dietary need.


Vegetarian Ingredients

People’s does not carry any meat, poultry, fish, or any products that which contain meat for human consumption, or any products containing animal by-products for which an animal must be slaughtered. This was determined by a vote of the Co-op membership. Pet food is the only exception to the 100% vegetarian policy.

Genetically Modified & Additive Resistant 

People's prioritizes whole foods: those with minimal processing and refining. People’s makes every effort to provide our customers with products that, to the best of our knowledge, do not contain genetically modified ingredients. In rare circumstances we might carry something that has GMOs and in those circumstance we will use shelf signage so that people can make informed purchasing decisions. The Co-op will not sell products containing artificial coloring, preservatives, or flavorings.

Packaging Issues 

In acknowledgement that white supremacy and settler colonialism have exploited many cultures, made their foodstuffs ubiquitous in regions unsuited for their cultivation, and that there is no ethically neutral way to market commodities in regions of majority white consumption, we nonetheless work to minimize our negative impact and empower communities of alterity.

People’s prioritizes stocking bulk products and products with minimal packaging. We limit the number of products sold in non-recyclable and energy-intensive packaging. In relationships with small vendors, we negotiate delivery in reusable and durable packaging whenever possible. We also consider appropriateness and accuracy of information in products we carry. We will not carry products with violent and harmful imagery or wording (for example, slurs). When packaging is exploitative, appropriative, or harmful, buyers will engage with direct conversation with vendors to address their concerns and see if the vendor is willing to change the way that product is marketed. Buyers will also consult with impacted people including workers in the People of Color Caucus to determine whether or not we will discontinue the product.

Preferred Relationships

People’s will prioritize products produced and distributed by companies whose politics and procedures are in harmony with our mission statement and sustainability definition. When a company's practices are in clear contradiction to these principles, we make every effort to find alternative sources for their products. We prioritize Fair Trade products, especially when we know there is a history of exploitation within a particular crop or commodity. We support other collective and cooperative businesses.

Additional Details from Specific Departments

Produce Department

People’s produce buyers endeavor to promote local, sustainable farming by maintaining a network of growers who sell produce directly to the co-op. Almost all of these farmers are certified organic. On occasion, we will work with local growers who are not certified organic but adhere to growing practices allowed under the National Organic Program. The produce from these farms is the only produce accepted by People’s Produce Buyers that has not been certified by a certification agency, and this produce is always labeled accordingly. (Federal organic standards prevent us from applying the term “organic” to anything not certified.) All non-local produce is Certified Organic. Our produce department also works to limit packaging whenever possible.

Bulk Department

People’s bulk buyers prioritizes organic whole foods, fairly priced staples, locally grown foods, sproutable seeds, nuts and grains, and freshly milled flours whenever they are available.   Any product that is not organic is sourced from a reputable supplier. We value local vendors we can form relationships with, enabling access to accurate and detailed product information.  Our bulk herbs and bulk teas are each chosen with particular care for quality, geography, growing and harvesting practices, and cost.  We will almost always prioritize herbs and spices from local farms (with organic practices) and local ethical wildharvesters while also carefully considering the quality and cost to our customers.  Bulk teas are almost never grown and processed locally so we prioritize fair trade organic teas with quality harvesting and processing practices. Some small farms do not receive organic certification, but when their practices are excellent we love supporting them.

Non-Foods Department

People’s supplements buyer emphasizes food and herb-based products for maintaining health. In Personal Care, we emphasize products that use organic ingredients and come from local companies. We do not carry products containing synthetic fragrances, parabens, phthalates, propylene glycol, or any products that have been tested on animals.

Grocery & Frozen Department

People’s Grocery and Frozen Departments aim to carry products that compliment the produce and bulk department, without excessive overlap. The Grocery & Frozen Departments focus on competitive and accessible pricing, in addition to BPA-free canned goods whenever possible, Fair Trade & organic, bulk frozen fruits and vegetables, and raw food specialty items.

Perishable & Dairy Department

People’s Dairy Department pays careful attention to animal-derived dairy products and ingredients that are cruelty free, organically raised and fed. If possible, we support farms that kindly integrate animals into the overall landscape. We have a preference for milk, cheese and butter products that are organic and pasture/grass fed with the exception of farms that are local to People’s Food Co-op. Because we give special preference to farms in our own bioregion there may be exceptions to the farm being certified organic, but the farm must show utmost care in how the animals are fed and treated. Our choice for eggs is that chickens are allowed to range freely and not be caged. Due to economics and the competitive nature of marketing, there are exceptions here as well. In order for us to provide a full range of economically accessible foods we may compromise this standard but it is in no way our first choice. Thus, we emphasize eggs in bulk from small flocks that are allowed to wander and eat a natural, pesticide-free diet.

Alcohol Department

The majority of our beer & cider selection is sourced from producers based in the Pacific Northwest.  We give strong preference to producers who utilize ingredients grown in our region, with special preference given to products featuring organic and/or other third party sustainable certifications.  

We endeavor to provide an enticing balance in our wine selection between regional and international producers.  Our alcohol buyer works closely with vendors to select wines produced using organic and sustainable practices. 

We scrutinize all products in the alcohol department to insure, to the best of our ability, that they are consistent with the co-op’s vegetarian buying guidelines.  We do not knowingly sell any alcohol products that utilize non-vegetarian fining agents such as gelatin and isinglass.


If you have questions about our product guidelines or about a certain product, please call 503.674.2642 or email the co-op at and ask for the department buyer.