London's newly-opened Whole Foods is relying heavily on imported fruit and vegetables, as revealed last month by The Grocer.
Despite an impressive range of produce on offer, when our mystery shopper called, many lines that were in season in Britain had been brought in from abroad. An employee flown in from the US for the opening of the Kensington store admitted there had been problems sourcing British organic lines. "Our British range will increase by season and as we meet more British farmers," he said.
The shortage hasn't prevented Whole Foods from proclaiming its support for local producers. Placards around the store's produce section claimed it sold the freshest local fruit and vegetables. In a leaflet handed to shoppers the retailer said it would buy organic produce direct from the farm wherever it could.
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey even described local food as "the new organic". Speaking at a lecture the night before the store opened, he said: "The benefits are self-evident: it is fresh and has a much better taste, a higher nutritional volume and it uses less fuel."
The reality this week, however, was that a high proportion of conventional and imported fruit and vegetables was on sale. The organic tomatoes were Dutch, while the organic artichokes and white asparagus came from France. Only one out of the 11 bean varieties on sale were British, while French beans had been brought in from Egypt. Much of the lettuce on display was French, and the cucumbers were Italian.
The store was selling British asparagus and several organic mushroom varieties grown in the UK.
Whole Foods said it supported local food in the US by hosting farmers' markets in its car parks and by pledging $10m a year in loans to US farmers.