New Health Food Superstore in Kensington, London -
Whole Foods Market is opening its first UK store on High Street Kensington this Wednesday (6th June 2007). A launch party took place for press and others invited yesterday evening. Whole Foods Market is opening its first UK store on High Street Kensington this Wednesday (6th June 2007). A launch party took place for press and others invited yesterday evening.
Whole Foods Market was founded in 1980 as one small store in Austin, Texas. The company “obtains [its] products locally and from all over the world, often from small, uniquely dedicated food artisans”. It also “strives to offer the highest quality, least processed, most flavorful and naturally preserved foods” (Whole Foods Market’s website). In 2004 Whole Foods Market bought Fresh & Wild, which they continue to operate under the Fresh & Wild name (Whole Foods' British invasion, Statesman May 27, 2007).
The new store is in Kensington, in the Barker’s Building on 63-97 High Street Kensington, W8 5SE. Whole Foods Market is planning to follow up with another 30 to 40 stores across the UK.
“Like Whole Foods stores across the United States, the focus is on fresh, organic, natural food. There will be no artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, preservatives or hydrogenated fats and customers will be paid about 10 cents for each bag they supply themselves” (Whole Foods targets British market, The Seattle Times June 2, 2007).
The store is situated over three floors of a former art deco department store. The ground floor encompasses bakery products, take away drinks, cheese, wine, prepared foods, charcuterie, desserts, and sushi. On the lower ground you will find the Market Hall, with fruit and veg, fresh juices, nuts and seeds, coffees, teas, frozen foods, chilled and dairy products, chocolates, organic clothing, body products, therapy rooms, fresh seafood and meat. The first floor comprises The Market with a lounge and 7 different café areas. There will also be a pub and a disc jockey at night where people can suggest what music they would like to hear in the store.
There will be boards telling customers what is in season (fruit and veg) and where products have been sourced (fruit, veg and meat), as well as many choices of teas, nuts and ready made meals (including a vegan pizza and vegan drinking yogurt; not found in many other stores in London).
The launch party included drinks (both alcoholic and a refreshing non-alcoholic elderflower drink), food (mostly cheesy things, some fish and meat, and a tofu vegetable kofta), some freebies and a tour of the lower ground floor with opportunities for questions. One peculiar board sign over the meat charcuterie was ‘Sirloin steak with a vegan steak sauce’. The staff did not know why they would serve a vegan sauce with a steak…
CIWF had a small stall at the party, where they gave out leaflets about compassion in world farming. There was also a Royal Parks Foundation stall, where the donation made would be matched by the Whole Foods Market.
There will be competition with ‘ordinary’ supermarkets for organics and fresh food, both in terms of supplies and customers, especially as many stores have alreday turned to organic foods. Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer have organic, natural food products that are more expensive than their standard lines, but probably cheaper than the Whole Foods Market products. There is also a question of food miles and carbon footprint. As the Whole Foods Market is American, will many products be imported from the US?
Quality standards Whole Foods Market does not seem to follow the British Five Freedoms animal welfare standards. Most of the staff seem to be American and not aware of British standards (although this staff is probably not the staff that will be on the floor). The company do fund the Animal Compassion Foundation in the US, and it follows its own standards, see below.
Overall score Overall, it is a good health food store, but also a good general supermarket, even though the prices might be a bit high. Whole Foods Market focuses on raising standards for animal welfare (but are those standards up to scratch when it comes to British standards?), as well as seasonal and local fresh produce. There are many options good for meat(and fish)-reducers, free-froms, ethical shoppers and dairy-frees.