Real Foods from 1963 to the present day

Author: pip phillips

You may not have realised but we have been providing organic vegetarian, vegan, Fairtrade, free-from health and wholefoods to our customers now for over 50 years.

Here's a potted history of Real Foods since trading began back in good old 1963.

1963

Travel back and time with us and around about the same time as Doctor Who made his first appearance on the BBC, we were selling organic wholefoods to the anti-nuclear demonstrators near Aldermaston. In order to feed ‘Aldermaston Ban the Bomb’ (who would gather at an Elizabethan mansion in the Chilterns before setting off on their marches), we started buying commodities from a London merchant. Then we began importing macrobiotic foods from Belgium and Japan, items that are staples today, like rice, miso or sea vegetables could not be sourced in the UK at that time!

Photograph reproduced with kind permission of Les & Liz Pearce

1974

Did you know that in 1974 New Year's Day was celebrated as a public holiday for the first time in the UK? In the same year our first Edinburgh store opened on Morrison St and whilst we do still close on New Year's Day every year, we are still open 361 days every year and to this day our shops are only closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Years Day and (because we're Scottish!), 2nd January also. You can still place orders in our webshop on those days though!

It was described in adverts from the time as “Edinburgh’s original natural food store – small, but nice and cosy”. Although we have grown considerably over the years we like to think that our customers still view our stores as nice and cosy!

1975

Our Broughton Street store is fitted with ex Local Government oak desks for shelves, ready to start distribution of international wholesale bulk orders. A former draper's shop, it was kitted out with shelves and transformed into a warehouse for dispatching natural and organic health foods all over the world. The first printed barcode and supermarket checkout scanner had just been introduced in 1974, but most shops still used cash tills, paper receipts and handwritten logs to track stock and sales.

1976

Our Broughton Street store opens its doors to customers for the first time. An advert at the time of the Broughton Street launch reveals that world food prices had experienced a “phenomenal increase” and that together with a 20% drop in the pound and a home-grown food drought, this meant that 95% of the advertised food prices were due to increase when stocks ran out. As a result, we encouraged our customers to buy in bulk as it “makes good economic sense”. I’m sure you’ll agree! Indeed another vintage advert (pictured left), from The Scotsman, dated Wednesday 27th October 1976, refers in rather dramatic terms to “slashing profit margins to a precarious level” and “economic anarchy”. With a pound of rice flour costing just 9.3p in bulk we most certainly made sure that our customers could “eat well and cheaply”.

1981

Our Tollcross store opens its doors to customers for the first time. The fresh, natural, healthy, organic foods we stocked back then were not too dissimilar to the nutrient-rich produce we stock today. From wholemeal pasta, porridge oats and organic barley flakes to chick peas, lentils and broth mix, the emphasis was on fresh, nutritious wholefoods to encourage healthy and wholesome eating. Our mascot at that time was Rufus the red squirrel, who appeared in all our adverts, alongside the slogan: “Real Foods: Bulk wholesale victuallers”.