Let us tell you a little bit about us!

The Health Food Institute (HFI) is an independent, non-profit making, professional body promoting training and excellence in the UK health food industry. By providing top quality training for all health food retailers and their staff we are continually working to raise the standards of service and natural health information available to consumers, and in doing so, raising their awareness of holistic health, the potent value of wholefoods, nutritional supplements, herbal remedies and alternative and complementary therapeutic products.

The foundations of the Health Food Institute were laid in 1979 as a professional association to promote industry standards by recognising and rewarding excellence in education within the health food industry. We provide recognition and professional status for individuals who, through their personal efforts, have contributed to the success of the natural product market as a whole.

Committed to providing relevant retail training for health stores across the UK, the Health Food Institute Professional Diploma Course provides health food professionals with the fundamental knowledge required to operate and contribute to the operation of the modern health store. Applications from outside the UK are also welcome.

This distance learning, modular training course allows candidates to work at their own pace completing and returning multiple choice assessment tests as they complete each module.

We believe it is important for health food stores to show they have a strong commitment to an accepted standard of professionalism, as this has such a positive influence on the collective reputation of all health food stores. It is absolutely right that people who give advice and support to the general public on health matters, should be able to prove that they have a code of practice and have undergone formal and recognised training. This is the mission of the Health Food Institute.

Qualifications Offered

Professional Diploma Part 1

Professional Diploma Part 2

Supplier Course

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John Frisby


I had an early fascination with wholefoods (especially muesli!) and a quest for a natural way to treat digestive problems that I’d suffered in my teens – My health food business, “Food For Living” was created in 1977. My interest in nature cure blossomed and I have enjoyed 40 years in a wonderful industry.

My passion was extended when I was invited to join the Health Food Institute as a council member. I was honoured and proud to be asked to become the chairman of the Institute as I believe that training and knowledge are the cornerstone of our industry.


Ray Hill


I arrived in this trade in 1960 following a training in the practice of Nature Cure. The health food store being the obvious place to promulgate its principles, especially those relating to what we eat and drink. To offer organic, unprocessed food, nutritional supplements, herbal and homeopathic medicines to health store customers is a privilege and a pleasure.

In the late 1970’s I thought those people qualifying in the health food retail training deserved the status of a professional body to which they could belong. In 1979 this Institute was inaugurated and I have been here in one role or another ever since.

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Tom Moses


Tom Moses has been a member of the HFI Council for 9 years, serving as the Treasurer to the Council.

Membership of the HFI underlines a continuing commitment to the industry in both practical and financial terms. Tom Moses is also a fellow of the Health Food Institute.

Tom Moses, Director, has over thirty years in the industry with Brewhurst, Desert Essence and recently with Natural Trade Brokers representing leading brands to the independent health trade, and brings a wealth of experience serving the trade. It started out as a job and very quickly became a vocation, making life-long friends from the a plethora of wonderful equally committed people in the trade.


Ruth Hawthorne

Council Member

Ruth is General Sales Manager at Natural Trade Brokers, responsible for looking after nine Territory  Sales Managers, plus working with three sales people on behalf of Bee Health, Ruth is well known in the natural products sector and has over 30 years’ experience of working in a sales brokerage environment.


Dave Pollard

Council Member

In my first profession I was a fully trained Savoy Hotel Chef, then a Food Sales Representative, calling on health shops.  This resulted, in 1988, in my wife and I purchasing a 250 sq. ft. health shop.  Within a couple of years we had moved to much bigger premises, eventually ending up with a 1,000 sq. ft. health shop.

I am very health conscious myself and I love being in an industry that continually innovates.  I really feel part of my community and have met a lot of great people, it’s never lonely!


Cheryl Thallon

Council Member

Cheryl started working in health food stores when she was 21 and fell in love with the natural health movement. After a short career in children’s publishing, she became editor of Natural Food Trader magazine, visiting health business all over the world. Since then has worked within the nutritional supplement sector, forming her own business, Viridian Nutrition, in 1999. She is also co-director of Sheaf Street Health Store in Daventry, Northamptonshire with her husband, Shaun. “There is nothing more important than health, and a good, specialist health food store offers the caring and educated advice needed to develop a personalised programme of food, supplements and lifestyle choices. I am honoured to serve on the HFI committee, as education is the solid foundation of the natural health movement.”


Alison Collingwood


With a degree in Biology and a strong interest in natural health, nutritional therapy and herbal medicine, Alison started in the health food industry in 1994 working alongside Kell Sainsbury at the Health Food Training School in Nottingham.  Being immediately inspired and enthused with Kell’s passion for natural health, for health food retailing and the positive role of training and education in the industry, what started as a temporary part-time post turned into the full time position of Administrator of the Health Food Training School and later the Health Food Institute. Over the past 23 years she has helped to develop HFI training and provided her own brand of enthusiastic and friendly help and guidance to hundreds of students taking HFI training courses in independent health food shops across the UK and in Ireland.  In her spare time Alison is a keen organic gardener, dabbles with making her own herbal remedies and cosmetics, and loves to cook for family and friends.

The HFI Protocol - A guide for sales staff advising and selling in a health food shop

Everyone employed in the sales area of a health food shop wanting to give a customer sound, helpful advice needs to listen to the customer. There are many factors that influence a person’s health. So to avoid any confusion, and to get an immediate understanding of the customer’s reason for seeking advice, you will need to ask a series of relevant questions.

For some decades now the Health Food Institute has offered participants of its training courses a means of understanding how to proceed with a customer’s enquiry relating to a health problem without compromising the ethics and legal constraints imposed on retailers.

This is known as the Health Food Institute Protocol.

The Protocol is an important aspect of working in a health food store – please contact us for details on how your store can achieve certification. More detailed examples of how to apply it are given in Level One Module Two of the Health Food Institute Professional Diploma Course.

For further information contact the Administrator, Health Food Institute, Health Food Institute, Unit 10, Blenheim Park Road, Nottingham, NG6 8YP or email enquiries@healthfoodinstitute.org.uk