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.