With all the excitement surrounding Sainsbury's, it's easy to ignore what's happening at the other end of the spectrum with the local grocer.

City financiers encourage profits from rolling out supermarket formats internationally, health analysts are troubled. 'Supermarketisation' is associated with the spread of over-processed foods (fatty, salty and sugary), unhealthy soft drinks and car use. This is now normal in the rich world, emerging in the developed world.

It's why people like me generally support local small grocers and markets. Anything for simpler food. It's why my household shops at Battersea's Northcote Road, a venerable London market street with old food shops alongside new upmarket specialists, plus an astonishing 30 or so cafés and restaurants.

A decade ago, we ran a successful campaign to stop the council killing off this food renaissance with parking restrictions.

The street is now justly celebrated as illustrating one version of what a localised food retail area could look like. Too many cafés, perhaps, but many outlets selling good quality fresh foods: butchers, bakers, fishmongers, grocers, delis, plus stalls.

Yet last weekend three shopkeepers told me they were closing due to rising rents. One was jumping from £19,000 to £43,000 pa.

Were people downcast? No. To avoid rents, they are returning to the oldest form of retailing of all, market stalls.

Conventional City thinking says this is not the future. The received wisdom is that 500+ farmers markets, the hundred or so old 'covered' or street markets, the thousands of delis, are all peripheral to the onward march of hypermarkets.

I am not so sure. Last week, I chaired a seminar in London's City Hall looking at pan-European and US data on consumers' deep values. There is untapped interest in real food shopping, held back by ubiquitous hypermarkets and 50 years of restructured lifestyles around cars and cheap oil.

But this era is ending - or is certainly stressed. Retail futures will not be resolved by whether Sainsbury's is asset-stripped or another surprise Indian Corus-style purchase, but by which retailer tailors its offer around real food, sustainably produced and distributed and which anticipates the coming big lifestyle changes driven by climate change.