There have been a lot of positive changes since early 2012 in central London, which has welcomed more organic, and whole foods stores and cafes to the city’s ‘Square Mile’. Standouts are Planet Organic’s new store on Tottenham Court Road, As Nature Intended’s first ‘city’ store near Marble Arch, and Whole Foods Market’s presentation at Piccadilly Circus.

Planet Organic, founded by Renee Elliott in 1995, added a new store on the vibrant Tottenham Court Road strip by opening at the new Tottenham Court Walk retail development on November 9, 2015, close to the Oxford Street end. Next-door is a Hotel Chocolat store and an Australian tea concept retailer T2.

Planet Organic, the UK’s largest certified organic retailer, also has a fully refurbished store further up Tottenham Court Road at Torrington Place.

The new 5,000 square feet store (465sm) has two levels, with whole foods and grocery on the ground floor, together with a comprehensive range of organic and health food, coffee and juices. On the mezzanine level is a dining space, plus a cosmetics and body care department that stocks vitamins and supplements.

Stocked on the bright ground floor are organic grocery and whole foods featuring well-organised displays with leading UK and international certified organic brands. Also stocked were chilled and dairy, food to go and fresh produce.

US group Whole Foods Market picked an excellent location for its two-level Piccadilly Circus store, which opened in mid-2012 and still has an up-to-date look. Fulham Broadway was the 7th London store to open in April 2014 and the 9th in the UK.

The tight rectangular store layout allowed the use of side-on gondolas jammed-packed with a broad range of natural, organic and wholefood products. Wines and a deli are displayed at the cash register/checkout end and cosmetics upstairs.

At one end were freshly prepared foods and a bakery. The gondolas feature excellent merchandising, lots of specials and extensive product sampling adding to the sense of theatre.

Meanwhile, at Edgeware Road near Marble Arch, As Nature Intended opened its sixth and biggest London store yet and first in the ‘Square Mile’, with around 3,300 square feet of retail space (306sqm).

The new store’s customer friendly design and layout provide a pleasant shopping experience and excellent atmosphere, helped by friendly staff.

The new store ranges just about every category of certified organic food and beverages including grocery, tea and snacks. The broad range includes fresh produce, dairy, free-from foods, wines, vitamins and supplements, and cosmetics and personal care.

False organic cosmetics issue for retailers

The UK’s leading health foods retailer Holland & Barrett (H&B) seems to have health food outlets on every kilometre of central London, with its non-food ranging at around 50% of the store. Products on display include cosmetics, personal care, herbal products, vitamins and supplements with a high focus on protein and nutritional supplements.

H&B offers a good range of organic and natural energy bars and snacks, nuts, super foods, mueslis and cereals, beverages and teas with proper merchandising, while providing a pleasant layout and atmosphere for customers.

Too many brands of cosmetics it carries claim to be organic when they are not certified organic. In January, BBC News reported that H&B was accused of squeezing small businesses after demanding supplier contributions to its investment plan that included a 5% reduction in costs from all suppliers and asking them to pay for GBP 3 million worth of security tags and CCTV.

With over 1070 stores in the UK, Europe and China (35), H&B is now looking at moving into India. It has established shopfronts on China’s Owned by the American private equity company, The Carlyle Group, H&B increased profits by 12% to GBP 146 million in 2015.

One of the stars of the food to go trend in the UK is sustainable and chemical-free cafe chain Pret A Manger, which offers a range of healthy food to go or eat in including sandwiches, baguettes, pastries, fresh fruit, soups and coffee.

Pret is looking at opening a vegetarian-only store, expanding into beer and wine and offering table service that could impact on UK/European competitors, Le Pain Quotidien and Exki.

Pret A Manger operates around 380 stores and moved into New York/US, China and Paris, France in the last few years. Overall company sales rose 13.9% to GBP676 million in 2015.