Our founder, Renee Elliot, was born in Pascagoula, Mississippi in the south of the United States in 1964 and raised in a small town on the north shore in Massachusetts.
“Food has always been an important and happy part of my upbringing. My mom is an incredible cook and spent her time raising the family, cooking and baking. Meal times always meant the family sitting down and spending time together and every event – birthdays, holidays and achievements – involved a celebration with food at its centre. Food was abundant, delicious and homemade. This was complimented by my father’s love of gardening, which meant us having an enormous vegetable garden that we kids had to plant, weed, prune and pick alongside our dad.”
Renee graduated from college with English as her major but also with a minor in Nutrition before moving to London “to get to know an Englishman I had met on a night bus on Lower Regent Street while on holiday the previous year.” In 1990, she married that man, Brian Elliot, and, after visiting and working for organic food businesses on both of the Atlantic, in 1994 Renee decided it was time for them to open their own business. The first Planet Organic store opened on 4th November, 1995 in Westbourne Grove, Bayswater.
“Planet Organic’s mission was to promote health in the community. My goal was to push organic and natural food out of the niche that it was in and into the mainstream as the best quality food around. And the dream from the beginning was for a chain of organic stores.”
Renee’s husband Brian joined the company as Commercial Director in March 1999 and Renee was elected onto the Council of the Soil Association in October the same year. Because of Planet Organic’s impact and early success, HRH Prince Charles broke the tradition of royalty not visiting commercial businesses and came to Planet Organic on 11 November 1999, where Renee walked him around the store for nearly an hour.
We opened our second store in Torrington Place in June 2000 and in October Renee released our first three collaborative books, written with other authors, with a fourth published in the April 2001.
As well as the early success for the business, Renee received personal recognition for her work at Planet Organic and was named as one of Britain’s Top Fifty Foodies in The Independent in June 2004. Grazia Magazine then named her Businesswoman of the Year in January 2007, before she was invited to Buckingham Palace a month later where The Queen acknowledged Women in Business and, later that year, Americans Working in the UK. The Evening Standard included Renee in The 1000: London’s Most Influential People that October.
In 2008, Planet Organic opened stores in Islington and Muswell Hill that summer, and Peter Marsh joined as CEO in September. In March of the following year, Brian left the business after ten years of running Planet Organic, and he and Renee moved to Tuscany.
“Brian farmed our seven acres of olive trees, fruit and nut trees and vegetables. I blogged for Planet Organic, the Boden Community website, and I still do recipe creation for our Westbourne Grove kitchen. The children ran wild in Italy, planted, picked and baked. As it said on a hand-written sign in the kids’ small Tuscan school, ‘Mangiare bene; vivere meglio.’ Eat well; live better.”
A Planet Organic store opened in Devonshire Square, near Liverpool Street station in the heart of the City, in July 2011. Our Wandsworth store then opened in November 2013, our first store south of the river Thames, followed by our store on Tottenham Court Road in September 2015.
In August 2019 we opened our latest store on Salusbury Road in Queen’s Park and, in March 2020, Planet Organic acquired natural food and health product retailer As Nature Intended, adding another seven London stores in Balham, Chiswick, Dulwich, Ealing, Marble Arch, Spitalfields and Stratford.
Westbourne Grove is home not just to our oldest store, but also our central kitchen, E-commerce division and our offices. Many of our customers remember the day Renee Eliot opened its doors in 1995, becoming the first of a growing trend in Bayswater and Notting Hill for fresh, healthy food stores and eateries over the next twenty-five years.
Torrington Place is located near the northern end of bustling Tottenham Court Road and yards from the globally-renowned University College London and the UCL Hospital, home to the single largest critical care unit in the NHS. As well as being a hot spot for students, Torrington is famous for its friendly welcome, its tastings and Christmas shopping nights, and the largest organic and vegan Food-to-Go lunch offer in London.
Opened in 2008, Muswell Hill has become our largest store and was the first to launch Unpackaged shopping in London (now also available in Westbourne Grove, Torrington Place, Islington and Queen’s Park). The store has quickly become a community focal point for local meetings and clubs and proudly sponsors a team in the Haringey Hounds Junior Ice Hockey club, the Planet Organic Stars, who play their games at the Alexandra Palace ice rink.
2008 also saw the opening of our store in Islington on Essex Road.
Our first store south of the river Thames, Wandsworth also became the first to also include a suite of gym and fitness studios run by Local Motion. Members receive a discount in our store and enjoy combining a class or workout session with a delicious smoothie.
Tottenham Court Walk
As it said on a hand-written sign in the small Tuscan school attended by the children of Renee and Brian Elliot, “Mangiare bene; vivere meglio”, meaning “Eat well; live better.” This is the phrase that greets every customer entering our store on Tottenham Court Walk, opened in November 2015 less than one hundred meters from Oxford street in one of the busiest shopping districts in the world. Our customers can get London’s greatest organic coffee in minutes, enjoy our homemade pizza slices, and browse our upstairs Health & Bodycare range for all things wellness and natural beauty.
We opened Queen's Park in August 2019 on Salusbury Road. The local community spirit is extremely strong in Queen's Park, and the store feels like it has always been there.
As Nature Intended
On Monday 16th March 2020 Planet Organic was delighted to announce that Planet Organic had acquired As Nature Intended, the chain of seven London-based organic and natural food stores.
Back in 2018 when we received investment in the business, we set the target of opening ten new stores in London over the next five years. Our mission is to provide food and products that are healthy for both our bodies and the planet, and to become pillars of the communities we serve.
“This deal allows us to further the mission of Planet Organic to provide food and products that are healthy for our customers as well as healthy for the planet” said Planet Organic Chairman, Ben Thomson. “We share a similar outlook to As Nature Intended, a company which, like Planet Organic, promotes wellness with high environmental standards. Both organisations believe the future of High Street retailing is in providing experience- based shopping for the communities where we are located.”
“In the short term our primary focus is to make sure we are there to support our customers, and the customers of our newly acquired stores, through the coronavirus outbreak. We have a very knowledgeable staff who can help answer questions on what foods, supplements and lifestyle changes we can make to help to boost immunity and general wellbeing.
“In the longer term this acquisition allows Planet Organic to grow quickly into locations we have already identified as ideal for our brand. With the addition of As Nature Intended stores, we will be the largest organic grocery chain in the UK with plans to grow further as the popularity of healthy foods continues.”
Planet Organic’s CEO, Peter Marsh, said, “Planet Organic is the original organic supermarket chain in the UK. There is nothing we like more than to see our customers relaxing and chatting over a cup of coffee, an immune boosting juice, or helping them to shop in an environmentally friendly way, enjoying our unpackaged products, home- compostable packaging and zero-food waste policies. Ours is the sort of shopping that is the future of the high street. We are looking forward to providing this Planet Organic approach into the newly acquired stores in new communities.”
Caroline Gooding, As Nature Intended owner and CEO, who now steps down from her role, commented, “Planet Organic is an amazingly complementary business, operating similar stores in London, with limited overlap with our own premises, and most importantly pursuing a similar mission and sharing our core values.
“While I am naturally sad to have reached the end of this 20-year adventure, I firmly believe that stepping back now is in the best interests of the As Nature Intended business, my colleagues and our customers. I am confident that I am passing the company into highly capable and committed hands, and that its new owners will be able to make the most of the opportunities for what now becomes the biggest and best operator in this market.”