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Real talk with Gary Jackson

Family man. Humanitarian. And wholefood warrior. Gary Jackson of Jackson’s Real Food Market spills the beans on how to optimise your health through real – and delicious – food.

Are you even from Joburg North if you haven’t been to Jackson’s Real Food Market? With two branches (Bryanston and Kyalami), it’s never been easier to get your wholefood fix. Gary Jackson is adamant about walking the talk – healthy food is much more than just a storefront for him. The ethos feeds into his family, his philanthropy and now through store tours!

It all began with a love story. For his wife of 20 years, Irene, a Mediterranean diet has always been her way of life. ‘We met on a blind date,’ Gary says. ‘She took one look at me and said, “Yeah, I think I need to feed you differently”. And she did! I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, kidney stones, and I was eating a lot of fast food. Once I moved to a wholefood diet, I managed to regain my former self, my energy, and my mental capacity again. I was inspired by getting better in three months just by eating clean.’

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Gary doesn’t even have a pantry in his kitchen. ‘If it’s not in the pantry, it can’t call your name. I love Kit Kat and Peppermint Crisp but if it’s not in the pantry, I can’t hear those chocolate bars screaming at me.’

Gary and Irene have two beautiful kids, Alex and Elena, who are currently in school. ‘My wife makes it possible for me to do what I do by running the family, but this is a family-run business. My brother, my mom and my dad, who recently passed away, have been a huge support to me. Jackson’s is a testament to the fact that a family business can succeed through supporting each other.’

But running the show is no easy task. ‘My working hours are hectic. It’s a seven-day week. Early until late. And I am often on my laptop and answering messages in the evening. It’s a tough balance but it’s something I work very hard at. I feel like I’m getting there. Because, at the end of the day, it’s all about family and you can’t sacrifice your home life just for work. It just doesn’t make sense in the long run.’

It’s vital to get in some quality family time. ‘We love cooking together and watching a good series. We love watching our kids play sports. We love eating out when we get a chance and trying new stuff, and we love going overseas to Greece every three years or so.’

Jackson’s is also passionate about community support. ‘We don’t work with any big farmers,’ Gary says. ‘Ours all have small plots, keep good compost, work their fields and get nutrient-dense foods from nutrient-dense soils. We’ve got about 350 small businesses and farmers that didn’t exist five years ago so we’re pretty proud of that.’

Through the Jackson’s Foundation, they launched A Little Realeaf outreach programme, which served 45 000 hot meals to underprivileged communities during lockdown. ‘We have also supported 16 kids’ charities over the past five years, as well as vulnerable widows. Our civic distribution system, which a group of volunteers have put together, makes sure our food gets to those who really need it. Real food really shouldn’t be a privilege. It should be a right and available to as many people as possible.’

Covid-19 saw customers taking more care in looking after their health and immunity, even when they don’t live close by. ‘Our stores are destination stores – we get people driving in from Potchefstroom and Witbank and even the occasional customer from Bloemfontein. We have an online platform that sends dry goods nationally, cold goods within the Gauteng area, and eatery foods within five to 10km from each shop.’ It’s clear that people want to learn how to restore lost health and energy – and Gary loves to explain how they can do that just through their diets. That’s why he launched store tours. ‘We do two a month and it’s a process. We talk about real foods and how you can optimise your health. We go into a lot of detail on gut health and small things you can do with your diet that can course-correct. You don’t have to feel lousy every day. Good food gives us mental vitality – your brain actually functions as it should and mobility improves as well. It isn’t about losing weight and looking good. Those just happen to be the by-products when going on a real food journey.’

If you want to start your real food journey, head to jacksonsrealfoodmarket.co.za today!

Jackson’s most popular products

Want to know what’s flying off the shelves?

  1. Long-fermented sourdough bread by our artisan baker, Barry Corp. We’ve broken down the gluten and the sugar and it becomes a low-sugar, low-carb and low-gluten loaf. It’s got such a nice crust.
  2. Veggies. Our farmers pick daily and bring them into our store. The quicker you’re picking, the more taste and more nutrients you’re going to get.
  3. Bone broth and collagen.
  4. Free-range meat. People are eating less meat, but when they do, the focus is on eating quality red meat that is free-range, pasture-reared, grass-fed for both lamb and beef, and then obviously pasture-reared chicken.
  5. Our eggs have become incredibly popular. Our hens don’t eat any GMO, so when you eat an egg from Jackson’s, you’re getting a high-taste profile on that egg but you’re also getting high nutrients. Eggs are nutrient bullets.

* Text: Tayla Blaire. Photographer: Nicole Moore. Details: 084-734-2253; nicolemoorephotography.co.za


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