Scouting Report From Whole Foods London

Though modest as websites go, we have our ways and recently we sent our overseas correspondent to scout out the new Whole Foods behemoth on posh Kensington High.

She lives just a few blocks away, is wealthy and loves good, fresh quality foods. Most of the time she’s at the country house in Staffordshire. She avoids Tesco, calling it “synonymous with cheap, poor quality food,” adding that “they’re killing the local dairy farmers by bringing in cheap milk from Poland and now they’re doing the same with poultry.”

“Okay so whatcha think,” I asked, speaking more American-ized than usual, my normal response to the loveliness of her accent.

“Visually stunning,” she said. Other comments included “huge”, “terrific old building” and “they must have every cheese in the world world, how are they going to sell all this before it goes off?”

She also said “vulgar” and “expensive” more than a few times and by the end of our conversation I realized her feelings were mixed and I got something in her criticism of Whole Foods that I had never really heard before, inspired by her, like many other Europeans, awareness of issues of class.

“Matthew she said, its really quite wonderful and absolutely repulsive at the same time. They have these meringues that are nearly the size of my hand.”

Of course in America we love everything over the top, bigger and better. Convenience store 32-ounce big gulps are now called medium. SUV’s are overshadowed by Hummers, all part of shock and awe market driven America.

Perhaps Whole Foods is a more elegant, tastier version of America’s oversize efforts exported overseas, just like Starbuck’s, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Wal-Mart. Certainly Whole Foods is nothing like Wal-Mart, except that it too is bigger and better than the local markets, and it too has everything under one roof.

Another scout emailed me this: “You can walk one block and on the same side of the street from the Whole Foods and go to Marks and Spencer and get organic better -right sized- products that make more sense for half the price. Plus, they have been supporting local farms in the UK for decades – organic ones too.”

NBN is confident Whole Foods will do well enough in London. Moneyed cities are their strength. The bigger question might be whether they do well enough by local farmers and ranchers and what they will put back into their new community. We think they do that here, but frankly we never really thought to ask all that much until now.

Check out Urban Path for lots and lots of opinions on the store. Maybe while having some tea and crumpets?

As for Whole Foods’ community efforts we’ll quote from the company website below. They don’t return calls to trade media.

Whole Foods Market is a uniquely mission-driven company and one of its core values is to be an active community citizen. Company-wide, it donates five percent of profits annually to a variety of non-profit organizations in addition to hosting quarterly five percent days, during which the store donates five percent of a day’s sales to a local non-profit organization.

Currently, Whole Foods Market is partnering with the Royal Parks Foundation. Proceeds from the store’s opening benefit party support the Foundation’s efforts to replace the parks’ trees in Kensington Gardens, nearby the store.


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