It takes a more than modest amount of courage to enter the food retail sector at the moment. With competition as fierce as ever and flying in from all directions, starting a new chain of grocery stores must be a daunting prospect.

There is such a new entrant that recently began trading in north London, and very impressive it is too. The first Naturally store – positioned by the company as a “new local, reliable grocery store and deli” – recently opened on Holloway Road and is to be shortly followed by a second unit in a former pub in Kentish Town.

The retailer places a great deal of emphasis in provenance, with plenty of national flags used on POS to show the origins of each product. As the retailer notes: “All of Naturally’s hand selected produce can be traced through its journey across Europe – from the markets of Madrid and the vineyards of Tuscany.”

The store itself is beautiful. The main service counter – which houses freshly baked bread, charcuterie, deli and meat – has a lovely tiled backdrop, while the rest of the store has eminently handsome fixtures that use chipboard to great effect. The ceiling of the store is an oddly attractive feature in its own right while lighting is used well, highlighting key displays and the instore seating area.

The range is a quirky affair spread across key categories comprising condiments, oils and preserves, snacks, tea and coffee, pasta, wine and beer, biscuits and confectionery, soft drinks and juices and dairy. No-one’s under any illusions that you could do anything like a regular grocery trip here, but those looking for special ingredients or less commonplace items and brands will be pleased by what they encounter.

There is also an excellent self-serve bulk unit of unpackaged cereals, pulses and pasta etc, the unit supplied by Unpackaged Innovation, which has installed similar displays in other retailers such as Planet Organic.

With the current fixation on plastic waste, as well as the fact that such units are commonplace in supermarkets and hypermarkets across Europe, I’m surprised that major grocers haven’t embraced this type of concept in the UK. Just a matter of time perhaps?

The main counter was used to provide sampling opportunities for ham and chorizo and the store has intentions to host cooking demos and masterclasses – all of which will help bring the products to life. Overall, the look and feel of the store is magnificent. Coupled with some genuinely lovely staff and the strength of the highly differentiated offer, Naturally should have the ability to prosper despite the incredibly crowded nature of the market. Good luck to them.

Bryan Roberts, Global Insights Director

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