Organic Shopping as a Designed Experience

While roaming the streets of Sloane Square in London after a week at sea, my dad urged us to pop into a small, chic looking space that “has been doing organic since it was cool,” according to him. That space, which encompassed two floors in a compact footprint, ended up being an outpost of Daylesford.

Daylesford is an organic farm located outside of London in Gloucestershire. Its website tells its tale in far simpler and better words than I could:

“Over thirty-five years ago, we began to turn our family’s farmland over to sustainable, organic farming, first in Staffordshire and then in the Cotswolds. What began as a simple passion for real food and a desire to feed our children better has grown into Daylesford as we know it today, one of the most sustainable organic farms in the UK.”

Produce from Daylesford
Beautiful produce from their own farm

In addition to the farm, where you can stay for a full-on, 5-star experience, Daylesford has five retail locations spread around London and the UK, each featuring the farm’s line of organic produce, many with brightly-lit cafes serving items for breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea (this is the UK of course) and supper, featuring dishes like roast haunch of venison and roast cod.

On the weekday morning I visited, a group of moms with their children met up for morning coffee in the cafe before dropping their children off at school. The whole atmosphere was bright, inviting and, most surprisingly, calming; a place I’d actually want to go to and hang out, even after grabbing some staples for the pantry and refrigerator (knowing that what I just grabbed is reasonably healthy and organic).

Coffee shop in Daylesford
Calming atmosphere of the Daylesford coffee shop

Rarely do I feel calm when I walk into a grocery store, organic or otherwise, in the U.S. They are most often large, warehouse-type spaces, with bad fluorescent lighting, filled with people and their large shopping carts navigating row upon row of foods and other product, with signs and labels of contrasting color and design. Just writing about it makes me feel anxious.

And while some chains do way better than others in creating an aesthetic, beautiful chalk art can’t make up for crazed consumers creating Subaru-filled traffic jams in the parking lot. Unfortunately, we have US consumer habits to thank for grocery stores as we know them – we grocery shop as a means to an end. Some choose organic chains to feel better about their choices, but it’s rarely for an experience.

I attribute most of the calm I felt in Daylesford due to its overall design and branding. Rows and rows of product, in excellent packaging with clear, crisp labels, organized by sections like Farmshop, Meat, Bakery, Fruit, Vegetables and Dairy, made navigating Daylesford a wholly-designed shopping experience. And you didn’t have to choose between competing brands or manufacturers; you go to Daylesford to buy into everything – the food, the cookware, the logo, the brand.

I hate to break out the term #millennials, but a lot of us increasingly shop brands that we know to have a well-designed aesthetic while also making a point about who we are as a person and what we enjoy, basically the definition of a lifestyle brand. For me, this includes brands like Topo Designs for my clothing and accessories, Apple for my technology, Jeep for my transportation, Warby Parker for my sight, etc. From the Fast Company article linked above: “Great design streamlines, clarifies, and delights—and the most complex or chaotic experiences need it most of all. But here’s the rub: For Millennials, design is not a differentiator—it’s a cost of entry. Every startup looking to re-imagine broken industries, whether it’s housing or health care, has one thing in common: well-designed experiences.”

Daylesford 2
The Daylesford experience

Millennials also care more about the planet, something that goes hand-in-hand with organic. Why have our grocery chains, even the organic ones already pretty popular with my age group, failed to pull this off in a way Daylesford has before they even knew they were pulling something off?

Create for us a well-designed grocery and product lifestyle brand, one that “designs, streamlines, clarifies and delights” a “complex and chaotic experience” like grocery shopping, and you can bet that I and every other millennial will be in there Instagramming (and shopping) the hell out of it.

By Ben Heinemann