NEVER BEFORE HAS health been so high on Hong Kong's agenda. Post-Sars, Hongkongers are far more conscious of their health and the environment, with even Victoria Harbour set for a clean up. For consumers, the influx of businesses such as Mix, Pret A Manger and Pure Fitness tap into the desire to be fitter, healthier and happier. Health food shops, selling everything from wheat and gluten-free products to Atkins-approved fodder, are sprouting up everywhere. Riding the crest of this trend is Life, a vegetarian cafe and delicatessen in the middle of bustling SoHo that offers healthy, ecologically responsible food. Life marries the philosophy of healthy eating to a cool aesthetic. Within its three floors, the outlet offers everything from salads to vegetarian shepherd's pie and organic beers, along with a comprehensive deli stocking items that are hard to find anywhere else - all presented in a friendly and relaxed environment. Life also has an in-house library, where customers peruse well-stocked shelves of books covering all manner of diet, health and wellness subjects, making the outlet a nutritional oasis among the neighbouring fast food and MSG- reliant eateries. This vegetarian health food outlet is the brainchild of directors Marian Clarke, 31, and Bobsy Jureidini, 39. 'We want to provide a healthy dining experience for Hongkongers,' Clarke says. 'It's so important in terms of one's physical and mental state to eat well and eat right.' The pair say they complement each other perfectly. 'I'm more business-oriented with my working background,' Clarke says. 'Whereas Bobsy brings his knowledge and work for the environment and his cafe experience.' Jureidini has owned and run the popular Bookworm Cafe on Lamma Island for more than six years. 'Life has the same spirit and mission as the Bookworm Cafe, though a totally different character,' he says. Befitting its location, Life has a more cosmopolitan atmosphere compared with the Bookworm's bohemian personality. Life was officially opened last Saturday (although it's been up and running for about two months), and the couple says they're pleased with how it's gone. 'From the minute we opened, people rushed in,' Jureidini says. 'It has taken us this long just to catch our breaths.' 'It has totally exceeded my expectations,' Clarke says. 'I had anticipated that we'd have to do more educating, though so many people were already seeking this. The tide is turning, especially since Sars. People are more health-conscious.' 'We have a great diversity of customers,' Jureidini says. The pair say their clientele is about 60 per cent local and the rest expatriate. And they say there are about equal numbers of men and women, and almost as many vegetarian and non-vegetarian, health food and non-health food clients. 'People just like the food because it tastes wholesome,' says Clarke. The co-owners say they have carefully researched their supply chain. 'We support local suppliers wherever we can,' Clarke says. 'We have found suppliers who are reputable and well-established, and we hope to build on our relationships.' 'All our teas and coffees are Fair Trade,' Jureidini says, referring to the group that aims to tackle trade exploitation of poorer countries. 'Wherever we can, we use organic produce. Packaging is also a factor we investigate. We'll ask suppliers to cut excess packaging and become more aware of the waste. It's not just the individual, but the Earth as a whole we have to be interested in. We have a responsibility to provide our service in an ecological fashion. We take these things into account.' Clarke got interested in nutrition after years of being unwell. 'I had three years of ill health,' she says. 'I had to do my own research on nutrition. Food and diet played a crucial role in my recovery.' The pair have also launched the Life Fund, which allocates 10 per cent of all menu item sales towards sustainable community initiatives and charities. 'Unfortunately, the cost of organic produce is four times higher than the alternatives,' Clarke says. 'The hope is that, if more people demand organic food, the market will respond and force prices down.' Life has already had some success, they say, with suppliers more willing to carry organic produce because of the growing demand. 'Hopefully, one day all restaurants will prepare food using organic produce and with health and nutrition in mind,' Clarke says. 'We'll concentrate on getting this business model right first, before anything else. We want to develop into a truly holistic cafe beyond food, and establish ourselves as a hub for this movement. Practitioners of holistic activity currently use our notice board to spread their word, although in the future we'd like to be able to host talks and forums on all manner of wellness, nutrition and health matters.'