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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Organic marries Fast

The history of the demand for organic food starts where you would expect: at a little farm in the country, with a farmer picking his way through his field.

That's nice and quaint, but not business for the masses. Co-ops brought the food to more people. Farmers markets caught on, even blocking traffic on busy streets in big cities like New York and Washington. Whole Foods transplanted the idea into corporate America, helping the growth of vast fields of organic produce throughout California.

Now there is organic fast food, and the options for it in the Washington area are about to grow. Organic to Go, a Seattle company founded in 2004, said yesterday that it has purchased locally based High Noon's four cafes, as well as its catering operation, and plans to turn the lunch hot spots into places where office workers can flee their cubicles and devour a meatloaf sandwich made with organic beef.

"We're trying to get more food that is of higher quality from organic and natural producers in the path of where people work, and that will in turn help to grow our company," said Jason Brown, Organic to Go's founder and chief executive.

The company is taking the Whole Foods prepared-food concept out of the grocery store and into places where people work and spend their days. With High Noon, Organic to Go gets District locations in busy business downtown corridors, including at 15th and K streets, and 19th and F streets. "If you stand outside High Noon and look around, there are great offices all over filled with people," Brown said. "That's who the customers are."

The average lunch customer is probably different from a decade ago, when standard fast-food fare would have done just fine. People who eat meals out increasingly want more nutritious food.

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