London based organic food retailer Fresh & Wild has secured cash to fund an ambitious expansion plan that will take it into the big league of organic retailing. Bank of Scotland Business Banking has pledged £3.5m to fund 14 new stores and create 750 new jobs. Chief executive Bryan Meehan told The Grocer: "The challenge ahead is to find visionary landlords able to see our potential against competition from M&S and Sainsbury's Local for stores of this size." The group is looking for outlets between 4,000 and 20,000 sq ft in London and university towns such as Edinburgh, Cambridge and Leeds, where there is a ready supply of target consumers, who are generally "well travelled and well educated," said Meehan. "There is definitely the potential for another 10 stores in London alone. The hard bit is finding the sites." The group has expanded rapidly since it entered the market in 1998. Like for like sales topped 30% and total sales at the six London outlets now exceed £16m. Fresh & Wild stores sell more than 5,000 certified organic lines and 3,000 natural remedies. An increased range plus additional facings would go into larger stores. "The market is starting to split into mainstream and specialist organics," said Meehan, expressing concerns that the organic project's integrity could be damaged as more companies jumped on the bandwagon without sharing the founders' principles. "Over the last 20 years food stores have become big and impersonal. "Our outlets are like the traditional grocery store you would see in days gone by, with fresh, natural aromas meeting you as you walk through the door and an abundance of colourful products on every shelf that people can touch and feel." The group recently beat off competition to win the title of Best Independent Retailer Award for Vegetarians 2001 from the Vegetarian Society. {{NEWS }}