As someone who first moved to London in 1987, I’ve seen the city experience an enormous transformation since then. It’s always been an epicentre of cultural activity, but one had to be wealthy or look hard for the kind of lifestyle and consumer choices that are now so readily available – a proper cup of coffee couldn’t be had outside of Soho until 1999, for instance. Nowadays, however, London is a full-blown retail and consumer driven experience, catering to every whim and fancy that the market desires; one could argue against the homogeneous nature of globalization, but I think the options and incredible level of quality that the city now offers is fantastic, and people are beginning to desire something more personal. Suffice to say, a good cup of coffee is not hard to find in 2012.
One area that has benefitted hugely from this growth in public demand is food. With TV chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver, Britain is arguably leading the world in culinary activities – wave goodbye to the notion of over-boiled veg and boot-leather meat that has been the cliché of UK food forever. Now, Britain is trumping America and France for not only amazing restaurants, but also for grocery stores, offering incredible homegrown seasonal fruit, vegetables and free range meat. The options, and plenitude are staggering.
Smaller, concept food stores now provide a multitude of choices outside of the typical high street food chain. Customers are tired of over-priced Tesco and Sainsbury’s products and want something that is environmentally responsible, locally produced and benefits their community. The BBC recently profiled an interesting antidote to the bigger food chains – a new cooperative called The People’s Supermarket. This is an excellent, socially conscious, grocery with the aim of “providing the local community with good cheap food that’s fair to consumers and producers,” the only proviso being that you must be a member and also work 4 hours a month at the store.
Another business operating in a similar spirit, is the home delivery service called Kellys Vegies. Established in 2006, Kellys delivers farm fresh produce and free range meat to your door every week. The idea, like that of The People’s Supermarket, is to use the plentiful, seasonal food grown as close to the source as possible – cutting out the middleman and helping to reduce the carbon footprint of long haul food deliveries – an idea whose time has truly come. After all, people are tired of eating a tasteless tomato in the middle of winter that’s also flown all the way from Peru to get to their table.
In this rapidly evolving, and increasingly interconnected world, it’s nice to see quality and a community attitude taking such a prominent place in our lives. The age of Starbuck’s and monolithic brands is giving way to businesses that are responsible, accountable, affordable and better at what they do. This is very good news indeed.