Posts Tagged ‘organic’

Natural Lawson takes it to the next level

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Natural Lawson & food kurkuu. A template for a new kind of convenience store?

If you’re looking for farm fresh, healthy produce, the convenience store isn’t exactly the first place you think of visiting, but there has been a shift in konbini (convenience store) culture in recent years that sees some brands offering healthier options. Busy office workers who want to snack on something other than cup noodles or reheated spaghetti bolognaise now have Circle K’s Think Body range of readymade meals, or 7-Eleven’s range of healthy salads available. But the brand which has really been at the forefront of providing healthier options has been Natural Lawson, and a new concept store that opened in the Gaienmae area last month might be a template for other convenience stores in the future.

A tie-up with online store kurkku, Natural Lawson & food kurkku convenience store offers an amped-up version of the Natural Lawson experience. Offering organic, healthy fare, the store stocks kurkku produce that has been sourced from farmers all over Japan. There’s been a trend in supermarkets of late to give customers a better sense of where their food is coming from, by providing information and often pictures of domestic food producers. Tying up with kurkku is a good way for Natural Lawson to copy this sales strategy in the convenience store. Embracing the slow food movement farm fresh vegetables, meat, fish and fruit are sold alongside the usual ready made meals.

The atmosphere is more posh department store than Kwik-E-Mart, and the brand is aiming to attract the demographic of health-concious female shoppers who are care about the provenance of the food they eat. Other features that make it stand out from the cheap ‘n’ cheerful konbini is its instore bakery, which sells fresh-from-the-oven pastries that can be eaten at the cafe-style “eat-in corner” and a coffee machine that actually grinds fresh beans. At the deli, the food is “produced” by celebrity chef Miyuki Igarashi. Downstairs is kurkku cave restaurant, which serves a healthy menu and has an impressive range of 1,000 wines.

The collaboration also marks another milestone for the kurkku empire, which is bankrolled by Mr. Children producer Takeshi Kobayash and continuies to claim plots of land in this neck of Tokyo.  Lawson, Inc., the second largest convenience store chain in Japan, will surely profit from its association with the eco-hip brand.

At the time of writing it’s not known whether more Natural Lawson & food kurkku outlets will be opened. Most likely that be determined by the success of this experiment. At the very least, perhaps this venture will inspire other konbini to up their game.

Apartment dwellers go potty for growing their own veggies

Friday, July 29th, 2011

John Moore's organic workshops has become increasingly popular

Over the past few years a trend for growing potted vegetables has been taking root on balconies throughout urban Japan. Driven by an increased interest in organic produce, many have been deciding to have a go at growing their own produce on tiny strips of sun-kissed balcony. Now with the crisis at Fukushima utmost in many people’s minds, the idea of growing your own vegetables is even more attractive.

Since the mid-noughties, a bumper crop of books containing the words “veranda saien” (balcony vegetable garden) have been published. Indeed, March this year alone saw three new titles hit bookstore shelves. “Easy to Grow Vegetables in Containers and Pots,” for example, shows budding gardeners how to grow veggies including cress, carrots, egg plants and cucumbers. According to Nikkei Trendy who reported on the “boom” back in summer 2008, one of the easiest plants to grow on a balcony are baby tomatoes, but as we reported a little while back, “green curtains” grown from goya have also been popular with those who want to use foliage to provide natural shade for their windows.

John Moore, a British resident of Japan, teaches classes in Tokyo on how to grow organic vegetables. Moore says that he has noticed a significant rise in the number of pupils recently.The numbers to our workshops have been increasing for the past three years. Safe food, safe DNA for the next generation and clean safe living is foremost in Japanese people’s minds, and also in the minds of overseas customers of food from Japan,” he said in a recent email interview. “On balconies, or inside the house in various places, good food can be safely grown, no insects, no climate worries, no nuclear worries, etc.”

As concerns about the safety of produce mount and vegetable-centric cuisine grows in popularity we think the trend looks set to spread even further. Japan’s cities are notoriously short on green spaces, so this is trend also has the advantage of making the concrete jungle look that little bit more leafy and pleasant.

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