Check your deodorant and covered-toe footwear at the door – a new supermarket has arrived in Kensington and it isn’t afraid to embrace its inner hippy.
Whole Foods, the retail food chain so popular in America and now spreading to these shores, is all about organic. From the ‘make your own muesli’ mixing station to the in-house bakery with 35 varieties of bread, Whole Foods is gaga for going green. The minimalist packaging and carrier bag policy (customers are paid 5p for each reusable bag they bring along) are appealing to anyone sick of seeing their vegetables presented in a 2’x4’ plastic box with cellophane wrapped around it like bandages on a burn victim. The company also claims to be a humanitarian endeavour, encouraging its employees to participate in community service and contributing, at minimum, 5% of its annual profits to charity.
But the cynics (and oh, aren’t they the first to whinge and moan) gleefully point out its downfalls: prices are somewhat high, particularly for the ready-made convenience foods (a salami sandwich will set you back a fiver), but staples like a pint of milk are a steady, reasonable 49p. And as with any retail chain that sees success and expands, the backlash against it has already begun. Detractors in the US have taken to calling it ’Whole Paycheck’ and have criticised it for carrying a range that is only 20-50% wholly organic and locally sourced, despite signs in the store extolling its virtues.
We suspect that something about seeing a green company make it big unleashes the big ol' green-eyed monster in some of us. But that’s the price we pay for allowing places like Whole Foods to ‘take the hard work out of eating well and shopping with a conscience’, as they claim to do.
Only time will tell if the British public are going to hug that hippy or give it a good slap.
Whole Foods is located at The Barkers Building, 63–97 Kensington High Street
Image courtesy of AussieGold's food porn collection