Whole Foods Is Coming to London: Man the Barricades

Whole Foods, the huge American organic supermarket chain, is coming to London and the knives are out. Located in a former art deco department store (pictured), their 80,000 sq.ft Kensington shop is in the midst of an area littered with green celebrities ( Stella, Gwyneth and Sienna). Many North American corporations, CEO's (and ex-pats) have learned to their dismay that while english is spoken here, the words don't mean quite the same. The British are more indirect than we are, it is quite a closed society and they are charmingly cynical. The word is that the Americans are coming in with a big bang but the organic community is not welcoming them with open arms. The English supermarkets have been cultivating their organic farm connections for years and have sealed up contracts with them. There is already a shortage of organic food to go around since the existing demand is growing by 25% a year. Meat and dairy are already hard to find and the organic industry here is small and very local as opposed to the mass-production in the US. British organic standards are higher than those in the US so some UK organic farmers do not want to jeopardize their purity and there are some foods sold in the US that wouldn't qualify as organic here. Supposedly Whole Foods plan to ship what they can't get here from the US but this is denied. Whole Foods insist that they are sourcing everything locally. However, one report says that they consider a 200 mile radius to be local—which could mean France. One final problem: Tesco has already copyrighted the name "Wholefoods" and launched their own range of food. So Whole Foods will have to sell their own brand food as Fresh & Wild instead. Yankee go home or sour grapes? Time will tell—the store opens June 6. :: Evening Standard

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