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Toby Watts - Planet Organic

11th Jun 2013

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Planet Organic is undoubtedly Domus Nova Westbourne Grove’s favourite place for lunch – just try and keep us away! All the food is a treat, whether you opt for the delicious pastries and fruit at the front or hide away in the café at the back. Each day there are several fresh soups on offer (our favourites are the chilli, chicken and pumpkin, and the roasted tomato), but if you fancy something heartier, they have freshly made dishes to mix and match as you please, the chef’s special being meatballs in a tomato sauce with brown rice. And the great thing is that it all doesn’t only taste brilliant, it’s doing us good too, as everything they sell is natural and organic.

Each Planet Organic store is a mini-supermarket with a difference, staffed by friendly, hard-working people who know and care about what they’re selling. We talked to Planet Organic marketing assistant Toby Watts, who’s based in our local branch on Westbourne Grove, about the store’s ethos, the Bayswater bubble and healthy eating…

So Toby, what’s the thinking behind Planet Organic?
Renée Elliot founded Planet Organic in 1995 to promote health in the community. Since then we’ve become a one-stop shop for everything natural, ethical and organic in produce, groceries, food-to-go, and health and body care. We have a strict policy on the products we sell and you’ll never find any artificial ingredients or GMOs [genetically modified organisms] in them. We think that a diet free from these ingredients is essential for a healthy lifestyle, both for oneself, for future generations and for the planet. All of us here are very informed about the products we sell – the ethos of Planet Organic is very much about information and being informed about what you eat.


Which are the products customers can’t get enough of?
Coconut water is a huge seller – we were the first store in the UK to offer Vita Coco so it’s very dear to our heart, and we stock an impressive selection. It tastes amazing! Our 100% organic fruit and vegetables are popular of course, and we’ve seen a big increase in sales of superfoods, baobab in particular. We recently starting selling Organic Burst's range of superfoods – they’re flying off the shelves.


Are there any trends we should know about?
We’ve seen a huge rise in interest in raw foods over the past year. We sell a lot of them – they are foods that at no point have been taken above temperatures of around 42ºC. If food is kept and eaten below this temperature, the nutrients are better preserved and the beneficial enzymes are still intact, so they’re great for an extra health boost. 'Raw foodists' are on the increase and all of them shout about the benefits of eating raw food for health and vitality. We have a raw coconut water coming into store soon which we’re very excited about.


Why did Planet Organic open a shop on Westbourne Grove?
When the health food scene started in the 1960s, West London was really the focal point of it, Portobello Road in particular. So when Renée Elliot started the business, staying around that area was really important.


Describe Bayswater in three words.


What are the benefits of having a business in the heart of W2?
Generally speaking, our customers here care a lot about the things we care about – it’s nice to know there are like-minded people nearby. We have a lot of high-profile customers – they’re all lovely and like to talk to everyone when they come in.


Do you feel part of the community?
We’ve always wanted to do good by promoting healthy living in the community, so we engage with surrounding businesses, schools and events to do our part.


You work in such a healthy environment – are you very health-conscious yourself?
I think that the more you learn about what goes into food, and about the industrialised techniques of modern agriculture, you can’t help but become more conscious of what you eat.


Tell us about one of your favourite dishes.
Everyone likes the new Lapsang Souchong Infused Beetroot Salad. Gary, our head chief, is very proud of it.


Planet Organic is mainly known for food; what else can we buy?
We have a great selection of natural health and body care products, natural cleaning products and items such as reusable take-away coffee cups. Yes To is a new body care range we’ve just added, with products such as Yes To Carrots nourishing shampoo and conditioner, and Yes To Cucumbers colour care shampoo and conditioner. They smell divine and the feedback has been really good.


What are you reading at the moment?
The Soil Association market report. This year has been very promising for the organic market in general, so we’re looking forward to a good year.


What can’t you live without?
Fresh fruit and veg juices!