When dedicated zero waste convenience stores started to bloom in bigger cities like Munich during the covid-19 spring of 2020 Bremen already had three established package-free shops, with a fourth one that opened its door early in 2020. Back then some of the shop keepers were afraid that there might be too many to survive in a city of the size of Bremen, and after the pandemic years it's not all sunshine for these small businesses. However, Bremen hasn't seen the same series of zero-waste shop closings cities like Munich have. Even when you run out of food on a Sunday you can grab your jars and boxes and set out for refill.
Dedicated package-free supermarkets
My favourite is crowd-funded L'Epicerie Bio in the Neustadt neighbourhood, just across Wilhelm Kaisen bridge. Lovingly decorated in the style of an old colonial shop you would find an abundance of food, spices, sweets and wine, body care and household items here, including fresh fruits and veges and pet food by the gram. Since 2021 the shop has also been offering organic frozen food by the gram: samosas, falafel, French fries, veges, berries and more.
As you marvelled at the interior you could also buy a coffee or refreshment.
Unfortunately this will be history from around mid of October, 2023: To make ends meet the shop keeper had to find a less expensive location, and the good news is: Anne Marie is moving to the neighbourhood of Walle. The new shop will have another name, but she wouldn't tell me yet. The new shop will be smaller, offering all the food stuff as before, but only a basic set of toiletries and bodycare.
While L'Epicerie was as far as you get from the carrots-and-dungarees cliche of a traditional organic grocery of the 1970ies, the second package-free shop in the Neustadt looks exactly like a traditional Bremen organic cornerstore 2.0: The dusty shop window of Füllkorn, with some wilted potted plants makes it difficult for passers-by to even spot the place. Inside everything is spotlessly clean of course, and there's also a coffee and refreshment option. Unfortunately the shop was closed when I was there, but I'm sure it's friendly and welcoming, too. They have a milk tapping machine from the Kaemena farm.
The youngest package-free shop in town is
Die Füllerei in Findorff which opened in February 2020. With a beautiful flower-bed in front of it you cannot miss the shop even though I couldn't make it here during their opening hours. Unlike the two shops in the Neustadt there's a vending machine for fresh milk from the Blockland. Just from the looks clearly my second favourite which, in 2023, wants to turn into a co-operative. Note that the shop is closed on Wednesdays.
The tram stop "Am Schwarzen Meer", (in)famous for a fastfood-and-beer kiosk popular among the city's enthusiastic football fans has become a destination for conscious eaters: At the end of the Steintor road you'll find both, a Sunday-open package-free convenience store and a friendly CSA farm shop.
The first one, Selfair, has by far the most liberal opening hours of all package-free supermarkets I've visited so far. It's a pleasant combination of a traditional organic cornershop, a contemporary package-free supermarket and an immigrant shop with a good selection of oriental-style bread, baklava, pickles and mezze. The latter aren't organic, nor are about 3/4 of the fresh fruit and greens. However, there's an abundance of loose-weight and pre-packaged organic food items, spices, sweets, beverages and more. There's tinned food and preserved food and dairy products in glasses, and almost all beverages come in returnable bottles. They also have a section with zero-waste household items and sustainable toiletries, and in general the shop is free from plastic foil packaging. Many of the organic veges, bread and cheeses are bio-dynamic and local, and most of the conventional food is produced in the region, with little agrochemicals.
On the Northern side of the tram tracks you'll find
a small and inviting farm shop, the
Solawi-Hofladen. Despite the name it's not
only a pick-up point for the members of the community-supported organic Sophienhof farm, but a cosy farm shop run by two bio-dynamic farms, the Sophienhof and the Lütjenhof, and an artisanal fair-trade coffee roasters', all from the greater region. Needless to say that you can have a coffee after having filled local grains and pulses from gravity bins and bought meat, eggs, cheese, veges and more.
On a former parking lot inside the disused production areal of the Kelloggs company you now find an urban gardening project producing organic veges and hops in raised beds: During the warm season the
Gemuesewerft is not only a nice beergarden, but also sells fresh organic greens according to the season just a few meters from where they are harvested.
Organic corner shops and supermarkets
Package-free sale of bakery items and cheeses over the counter, loose fruit and veges as well as dairy products and drinks in returnable bottles and glasses are of course the norm in all traditional organic convenience stores like the co-operative Oecotop in the Neustadt, the Bio-Eck in Grohn with some gravity bins for unpackaged grains, or the Kornkraft supermarket in Habenhausen which offers a day cafe and is part of a small local supermarket chain.
Traditional co-operatively driven convenience stores in Bremen are all open to the general public by now, and so is Abakus in Steintor founded in 1998 which in 2020 repeatedly was voted one of Germany's best organic groceries. The shop which doesn't hide its political views doesn't have a working web site, but sells loose-weight grains and cereals. When I was there again in summer 2020 there was however an information that they wouldn't order more muesli unless the demand by members of the co-operative was bound to increase.
Body care and nice things
During the nice season Der Fährmann Antony ("Antony the ferryman") sells hand-made natural shea and cocoa butter from Ghana on a mobile booth on the Kaemena farm in Blockland. Come with your own jar, and he will happily fill it for you. The opening hours below should however be taken with a grain of salt – when the weather is too cloudy or even rainy Anthony may decide that the effort of his bicycle tour out into the Blockland wouldn't match his sales expectation. In summer 2022 there were also shortcomings as deliveries from Ghana took weeks longer than usual, and during our stay in August 2022 we met him not before 4 pm.
Out of Bremen
If you take a bicycle tour to Lilienthal (which – despite the fact that the Bremen tram no. 4 ends there –
isn't a part of Bremen, but a municipality in the adjacent state of Lower Saxony) you have even more options – check out the Lilienthal post.
[Bremen, organic, lunch, coffee, cafe, grocery, supermarkets, vegan, vegetarian, zero_waste, unverpackt, bodycare, gifts, butcher, fashion, solawi, CSA]
Organic supermarkets can be found on almost every second street corner in Munich but density varies from neighbourhood to neighbourhood.
Organic supermarket chains
In addition to a local organic supermarket chain, Vollcorner (consisting of about twenty markets in Munich and around), Munich hosts several branches of Germany's biggest organic chains Alnatura (14 markets in Munich and surroundings) and Denn's (10 markets in the greater Munich area, seven within the city boundaries).
Until mid of 2023 Munich was also the home of the Basic supermarket chain with 11 markets – early in 2021 this chain restricted its activities to South Germany and Austria and sold all other nation-wide branches. However, these measures
did not stop the decline of the company driven by management failures, which
resulted in an insolvency. The shops were taken over by the conventional
teGut. Under the
only a few branches will continue as organic supermarkets, the Munich "Basic" branches are expected to continue under this name until the end of 2023. In July, 2023 I found the first conventional product in a Basic branch: a fairly traded hazelnut chocolate of the "teGut" brand had such an unexpected low price that I checked labels and the small print. I will continuously update this
blog on new developments.
With Basic on the verge, there are two regional full retail chains left in town:
Landmann's with branches in several Bavarian
towns, but only one within the Munich city boundaries (including an artisanal butcher's counter run by the Biometzgerei Pichler), and Vollcorner
which does not have branches outside the Munich S-Bahn network. In addition
there are still
many small independent supermarkets, often equipped with a Biomarkt sign, and even some homely, surviving corner shops.
Even without any gravity bins for loose weight dry food Vollcorner has made notable efforts to support zero-waste shopping for a long time. Shopping here you can be sure not to (indirectly) support huge, globally operating multinational concerns as Vollcorner consistently delists organic brands sold to such companies. So you will find neither Logocos brands (Logona, Lenz, Sante, Heliotrop, Fitne) anymore since the company was bought by L'Oreal (which is partially owned by Nestle), nor Pukka tea (Unilever). Wine-lovers may also collect the corks made from natural cork and return them for recycling at any Vollcorner shop.
On weekdays most organic supermarkets keep open between 9 am and 8 pm, Vollcorner markets open at 8 am. Saturday opening hours vary, the big retailers and Vollcorner close at 8 pm. All groceries except
the Biokultur supermarket in the basement of the central train station are closed on Sundays.
Apart from these full range retailers there is a small local food only chain, not offering any toiletries or detergents: Herrmannsdorfer specialises in meat products, bakery items and beer produced in the Herrmannsdorfer Landwerkstätten in Glonn, somewhat outside Munich. The shops close quite early, but if you come during daytime they stock sufficient dry food, dairy products, fruits, veges, sweets and more to spare you the trip to a second shop. Unlike the Basic chain Herrmannsdorfer allows you to buy meat in your own containers.
In 2015 a branch of the hyped Italian Eataly delicatessen chain opened within the architectonically interesting glass and iron construction of Schrannenhalle near Viktualienmarkt. It's true, they offer a good range of organic products, and organic food items are labelled as such on the shelves, but it's nevertheless a disappointing experience: Almost no fresh organic fruit and veges (not even the fresh herbs are organic), only pre-packaged organic meat (forget about the well-assorted meat counter), and the organic wines and spirits in the basement are not marked "bio" on the shelves, so it's very hard to find them.
If you want to support the local economy, both Vollcorner, Munich-based Basic and Herrmannsdorfer shops are all fine, but you may prefer to support independent markets where the owners are actually running the stores and create a homely and personal atmosphere. Often you will find products not on sale by the big chains.
When traditional Grüner Markt chain closed down end of September 2014, their main house in the Altperlach neighbourhood made an exception. Housed in a vault it has a pleasant italophilic, somewhat venerable atmosphere, definitely worth a visit. The perfect surroundings when shopping for delicatessen, and a must-go during the Christmas season. It's now dubbed Mohrhof Perlach.
The other big independent is Schmatz ("smack") in the Glockenbach neighbourhood. Step by if only for the lovely decoration of their bodycare section. Kids are invited to play in an old-fashioned corner shop, and selected items are lovingly set on display. It's the only organic supermarket playing music in the background. By the end of 2018 they issued a ban on fresh herbs in plastics packing, and in 2022 there's a dedicated unpackaged shelf with dry food in deposit glasses.
For the picturesque yet upmarket farmshop feeling in the city aim for Stemmerhof on top of the Sendlinger Berg. Once upon a time a wealthy village farm opposite the village church the nicely restored houses are now the home of an organic supermarket and a range of small owner-run shops. The supermarket's butcher's cum delicatessen disk will happily sell lunch snacks to eat on the spot or to take-away. The same enterprise also runs a second branch in the suburb of Grünwald, just a street crossing opposite of Alter Wirt hotel and restaurant.
In the posh Lehel neighbourhood near the Eisbach river within the Englischer Garten park you'll find an independent organic supermarket with a touch of a spice and greens bazaar, the Bioparadies Biomarkt. Its friendly staff was even willing to open after closing time, to sell me a left-over bread on a Saturday afternoon. The serviced bakery and cheese counter is also the place to refill your spice jars with loose-weight herbs and spices. The supermarket is conveniently located opposite the tram stop "Paradiesstraße".
The former Erdgarten supermarket a ten-minutes walk away from Pasing train station (or two minutes from Pasing Marienplatz square) reopened as a branch of the local Vollcorner chain September, 2019 and continues to serve organic and vegetarian wholefood lunch as well as coffee and cake. They also have a nicely decorated bodycare section. Whether they'll continue to serve knitters with a fine selection of organic wool I am not aware of.
If you by chance happen to strand near the Klinikum Harlaching hospital, don't dispair: two tramstops in North-Eastern direction on the left side (just follow the tram line along Grünwalder Str.) you'll find Biowelt, a crammed independent organic supermarket with a superb selection of both, bodycare and frozen convenience products: All you need if visiting a friend or relative in the hospital in urgent need of a proper meal. Starting with lunch time they offer a helping of organic soup and a small selection of snacks. You may ask for a sandwich made on the spot. The shop also has a zero waste corner with dispensers for legumes and a small selection of other dry food as well as an assortment of dried fruit. Make sure to step by check-out to weigh your containers before you fill them.
Attending a conference at one of the huge Bogenhausen hotels near Effnerplatz? Your lunch break should be sufficient to follow Bülowstraße in Western direction to Herkomerplatz. Here you'll find not only a Herrmannsdorfer butcher's shop cum grocery cum eatery and the Hofpfisterei bakery branch next to it, but also a pleasant family-owned organic supermarket dubbed Biovolet. The Riemensberger family placed some bar tables in the entrance area to have a snack, and there is a second branch in Eching (formerly a Grüner Markt branch). Pay with your EC (VPay) debit card, and they donate a few cent to the BioBoden co-operative which buys farm land in order to lease it to organic farmers. On Thursdays you will receive a 10 percent discount if your shopping cart is worth more than 50 euros.
In the neighbourhood of Schwabing one of the oldest organic groceries in town is located, these days rather boringly dubbed Echt Bio Markt which is the brand of a network of small-scale independent organic supermarkets. The pleasant, traditional shop in Tengstraße offers refill for organic household detergents.
However. not all supermarkets of this brand have been long established: The independent owner-run Echt Bio Markt in Nymphenburg was opened during the lock-down of the covid-19 pandemic: As its name suggests
Bio am Romanplatz is the perfect place
to shop for provisions at the tram hub at Romanplatz.
Another cosy neighbourhood with many small-scale shops and interesting food places is the Westend at the Western side of Theresienwiese (in)famous as the Oktoberfest location. Right at the border to the Schwanthalerhöhe neighbourhood, at the North-Eastern corner of the park at Georg-Freundorfer-Platz another bunch of young people is running a neighbourhood grocery dubbed Nicos Naturkost. It's just a friendly, clean and unspectactular shop with a superb selection of teas and tisanes of two small-scale organic brands usually not to be found in Munich organic supermarkets. If you stay in the vicinity for a longer period of time: They have a whiteboard where regular customers can co-ordinate orders of products which the shop usually does not stock.
There's only one Sunday-open organic supermarket in Munich, the Biokultur in the basement of the main train station. It's sister branch in the newly developed neighbourhood of Riem on the plot of the former Munich airport can be found inside the
Riem Arcaden shopping mall, sporting the only organic cafe in the neighbourhood. Unfortunately neither the cafe nor the supermarket are open on Sundays or public holidays.
If you happen to take the S7 urban train in southern direction to the municipality of Höhenkirchen-Siegertsbrunn take the time to visit Roberts Bio-Genussmarkt on the premises of a former farmyard. The spacious, pleasantly refurbished and nicely decorated barn with its dark wooden shelfs makes it easy to spend some time on a coffee and cake in the included cafe area. When the weather is nice sun-shaded outdoor seating is provided. The former village of Höhenkirchen is part of the Mangfall bicycle route from Munich to Rosenheim, and this is a pleasant place for a break.
By 2016 the first wrapping free supermarket made it into town: Check the zero-waste post for reviews. That post also has details on the zero-waste efforts of both, Vollcorner and Basic supermarkets.
Co-operatives with membership schemes
In the 1970ies and 1980ies many organic neighbourhood shops in Western Germany were co-operatively organised and sold to members only. In the 1990ies most of the surviving shops like the "Abakus" in Bremen opened to the general public, with discount schemes for members. To my knowledge, there's no such surviving shop in Munich, but recently established co-operatives such as "Deine Alternative" in Zorneding continue this inclusive approach.
As community supported agriculture (CSA) has an increasing appeal to city dwellers (the biggest one in Munich is the Kartoffelkombinat), the concept of an organic supermarket for members only came back to town in 2016, with
the Ökoesel ("eco donkey"), by now a small, yet full-fledged organic supermarket
in Nymphenburg near Leonrodplatz, focussing on
When the founders of Munich's oldest organic
supermarket, Lebascha in Haidhausen,
were to pass over the shop to a younger generation in summer 2022, the Ökoesel folks stepped in. Although both branches focus on a membership scheme, they are neighbourhood groceries open to everyone. As a non-member you'll simply pay non-subsidised (i.e. higher) prices.
summer 2021, another approach followed with the establishment of the Foodhub co-operative in Giesing, next to the lovely cafe "Shotgun Sister" and an organic bakery shop.
If you live in the vicinity you may consider joining this special organic food co-op which runs on the principle of solidarity: every member works three hours per month for or in the project and what's sold in the supermarket (predominantly regional produce) is decided democratically by its members. The shop concentrates on pre-packaged food, household and toiletry items, with the exception of loose weight fruits and veges, a small number of dry food gravity bins offering grains and nuts, and the self-service bread and rolls section. The household cleaning and bodycare shelves are filled with products in environmentally friendly packaging and focus on re-use (like the bamboo paper kitchen paper which can be washed and thus used several times) or little packaging through bigger volumes. There are plans for a zero-waste station to refill cleaning agents.
When I visited the shop at their open day in autumn 2021 I was surprised to not find a serviced fresh food counter given the fact that Karl Schweisfurt of Herrmannsdorfer Landwerkstätten is one of the three legal heads of the co-operative, most likely due to the fact that such a counter needs to be staffed.
No membership fee is required for becoming a member of the on-line market platform Marktschwärmer.
Marktschwärmerei pick-up hub in the neighbourhood of Milbertshofen. If you decide to join, you can order food, beverages, sweets and more from predominantly organic producers in and around Munich.
The following organic supermarkets do no longer exist although you will still find references to them on the web:
- Alnatura Innenstadt, Sonnenstr. 23 (to re-open after reconstruction work)
- Biochicco, Ohlmüllerstr. 19 corner Zeppelinstr.
- Biomarkt CM, Schlüsselbergstr. 13 (Berg am Laim)
- Denn's w/in Hofstatt mall, Sendlinger Str. 12a, basement (city centre)
- Die Bio-Bäuerin, Peter-Wolfram-Str. 31 (Gronsdorf)
- Entenbach Naturkost,
- Johannisgarten Naturkost, Johannisplatz 21 (Haidhausen)
- Gut zum Leben, Motorama Ladenstadt, Rosenheimer Str. 30-32 (Haidhausen)
- Tagwerk-Bioladen Hofgut Riem, Isarlandstr. 1 (Riem)
- Marktschwärmerei Werksviertel, c/o Cafe Guatemuc, Atelierstr. 1
- Veganz, Baldestr. 21 corner Auenstr., including self-service cafe Goodies
- Radix, Thalkirchner Str. 88 (Isarvorstadt)
- Vollcorner Ludwigsvorstadt, Lindwurmstr. 80
[Munich, Au, Bogenhausen, Haidhausen, Harlaching, Lehel, Maxvorstadt, Nymphenburg, Schwabing, Pasing, Hoehenkirchen-Siegertsbrunn, Englischer_Garten, Mangfallradweg, Mangfall_cycle_route, organic, supermarkets, grocery, lunch, snacks, deli, Italian, CSA]