Via the Guardian:
Over the top and over here: ‘Disney World’ of food opens first UK store
US chain takes on supermarkets in battle for Â£1bn organic market
Thursday June 7, 2007
Whole Foods, the Â£2.85bn organic and quasi-messianic American superstore, took another step to realising its slogan – “Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet” – when it opened its first European outlet in London yesterday. And judging by the crowds, it could be as big in Britain as in the States.
“We have been interested in Europe for a long time and thought it would make sense to start in Britain, which has been more advanced when it comes to embracing organic foods than the United States,” said Jim Sud, executive vice-president of growth and development, surveying the hordes with a smile yesterday as they milled through the roughly 7,500 square metre (80,000 square foot) three-floor store on Kensington High Street.
“It is like a Disney World of food,” said one customer, Caroline Sharpe, at the bakery table offering 40 types of freshly baked bread while her three-year-old daughter, Serena, tore into a Â£1.29 pack of dried Alpine strawberries.
Aside from Whole Foods’ frequently expressed ethical and environmental concerns, the store is infamous for the sheer variety. In the London store there are more than 100 different olive oils, 40 types of sausage and 50 fresh juices. Truly, the tyranny of choice. The directory above just one of the dozen aisles in the London store reads: “Marinades, Tinned fish, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Macrobiotic, Thai.” But perhaps with the exception of the machines allowing customers to grind their own peanut, macadamia and cashew nut butter and the “make your own muesli bar”, many of the ideas have been available in Britain for some time – they are just doing it, in true American style, bigger and shinier.
Via the Evening Standard:
Raise your game Whole Foods boss tells rivals
By Jonathan Prynn, Evening Standard 06.06.07
London’s food shops were today warned by the boss of US giant Whole Foods Market to raise their game or face extinction.
John Mackey, the founder and chief executive of the world’s biggest organic chain, was speaking to the Evening Standard in his only UK interview ahead of the opening of Europe’s first Whole Foods Market in Kensington.
The shop, which opened today, is an 80,000-sq ft, three-storey giant in the building formerly occupied by the Barkers department store.
A launch party on Monday night was attended by the photographer Mary McCartney. Her late mother Linda’s range of vegetarian ready-meals is now owned by another American organic produce firm, Hain Celestial Group.
Mr Mackey had an tough message for local small shops and markets such as Portobello: Whole Foods Market is “not muscling anybody” but no London business has a right to stay open for ever.
Mr Mackey said: “An economy is dynamic, constantly innovating – you might as well say Apple shouldn’t have invented the iPod because that’s going to be bad for business.
“Every time someone comes into a market someone, somewhere is going to get hurt but I believe in a dynamic, capitalistic economy because customers will benefit.”
Mr Mackey, a vegan who founded the Â£3billion-a-year business in a garage in Texas in 1978, praised London’s “incredibly sophisticated” restaurant scene but said the quality was not matched by the shops and supermarkets.
He said there was less competition in the UK than the US because food retailing was dominated by the “Big Four” supermarkets and Marks & Spencer. The store will be the biggest food outlet in central London, with sales of up to Â£40 million a year. It is expected to be followed 20 or more Whole Food Markets in Britain, with others planned for Europe.
Expect to pay a bit extra though. Both articles go on to mention that most items in their shop cost on average 50p more than at Marks & Sparks or Sainsbury.