Real Foods at Fifty

Posted by in October's Magazine

The first thing you need to know is that this is not an advertorial piece. It is a personal thank you from me to Real Foods for fifty years of sterling service. Not, you understand, that I am in my dotage (although a few friends chide me that I have long been in my ‘anecdotage’, what with my habit of repeating stories) but I have been shopping with them for a good twenty-odd years..

In my professional (eh?) cooking days, a visit to Real Foods could take up at least an hour and not a moment was wasted: Japanese Kabuki peas, Turkish mulberries, Colombian Amaranth seeds, Black Beluga lentils, American Wehani rice, all were first discovered in Real Foods and later appeared on my menus. As evinced above, every visit was like a mini tour of the world.


In 1963, when the first shop opened, most consumers were tucking into sugar coated American cereals and sliced white bread. Real Foods, which began life as a market stall selling organic fruit and veg then became known as ‘wholesale victuallers’ and, later, a ‘scoop-a-market’, set out on its mission to make healthy foods accessible to the nation.

Contrary to the popular belief that glowingly healthy Gwyneth Paltrow discovered macrobiotic diets, it was in fact Real Foods who first imported macrobiotic foods from Japan into the UK. They were also quick off the mark with dairy-free, gluten-free, raw and world foods, as well as organic baby food. (You can blame/thank them for Bombay Mix!)

The Broughton Street store opened in 1975, oak shelving made from former local government desks is still used in the premises today, and the Brougham Street store opened in 1981, relocating from Morrison Street. Both stores now provide advice to those in need of help with special diets and ‘free-from’ lifestyles, including coeliacs and diabetics.

Retro ephemera from the Real Food’s archives shows that products like carob snacks, broth mixes and vegetarian meat replacements like TVP have stood the test of time and remain among the retailer’s staple goods.

They have been joined however by more exotic and luxurious wares such as fairly traded rum, organic lipstick and raw, vegan chocolate.

Fairly traded rum, eh? I feel a visit coming on!

Info: Three generations of Real Foods’ customers are encouraged to share their memories of the store here:

One response to “Real Foods at Fifty”

  1. rushessay says:

    Tasting the real food of my country is an amazing for me. Thanks for sharing these tips with us.

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