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Fresh and Wild is a UK-based chain of supermarkets selling primarily organic and luxury foods.

I'm a sceptic when it comes to organic food - I'd never really seen the point. But Fresh and Wild has, if not totally converted me, at least shown me the value of the more natural approach.

At the time of writing, Fresh and Wild has seven shops in London and one in Bristol. Most of the fresh produce comes from local suppliers, so the Bristol store has a different selection to the others.

In the Bristol shop there's a huge selection of bread, including wheat and gluten-free varieties, and well-stocked cheese counter. All the cheeses are labelled with whether the milk is pasteurised, what animal it's from, and whether the rennet is animal or vegetarian. Every day, some bread, cheese and a little olive oil are put out for customers to sample, along with about twelve varieties of olive. Meat and fish is all pre-packed, but is still fresh and organic.

The shop operates a canteen-style cafe with an interesting range of food, all fresh, organic and expensive. A salad bar, soups, hot dishes and interesting-looking orange stuff, all clearly labelled, are available to eat in or take away. There's also a juice bar which makes fresh smoothies and sells cakes.

Most of the rest of the shop is devoted to normal supermarket goods, except that almost everything is organic, vegan, gluten-free or all three. The products tend to be a little dearer than the same things would be in a mainstream supermarket, but the sheer choice justifies slightly higher prices. There are organic versions of everything you'd expect to find in Tesco or Wal-mart; coffee, crackers, crisps, processed meals, beer, eggs and washing-up liquid. The fresh fruit and vegetables are wonderful.

Fresh and Wild also has an Alternative Medicine section, complete with an alternative pharmacist. That's a little out of my area, as I don't really believe in most of it, but it looks like a good one.

Worth a mention are the staff. They are friendly, enthusiastic and seem to really know their stuff and enjoy what they are doing. In the UK, service with a smile is a luxury and is therefore almost always genuine. They are always happy to let you try before you buy for any of the fresh stuff, too.

US-based organic supermarket chain Whole Foods Market bought Fresh and Wild in February 2004. This is likely to result in a shift in their product-base and more rapid expansion. And good for them.

www.freshandwild.com

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