Alex Smith, CEO and founder of Alara, was a squatter in Central London in the early 1970’s. He was involved in a squatting movement that opposed the philosophy of destroying existing Victorian properties and replacing them with modern blocks simply in the name of making money. So he decided to live without any money.In this no money period all heating and lighting came by burning wood from builders skips. Water came from the roof and washing was done in a wood fired sauna bath, built in the basement. In 1975, the girl who was living with at the time got fed up of the situation and they agreed to start using money again. The very next morning Alex found 2£ notes on the street, enough to rent a small van from a friend and start collecting thrown away fruit and veg from New Covent Garden Market in Battersea and selling them in a squat.Then he bought a sack of flour from a wholefoods wholesaler near the squat and started baking bread. Finally he squatted in a retail premises and turned it into a wholefoods shop. On 1978 he got evicted from that shop and in another second premises he leased a small shop just off Euston Road. The shop continued to do very well, but the area was being redeveloped and Camden Council allocated his shop as the site office, so he struck a good deal with them to move to a bigger place on Marchmont Street in Bloomsbury. Alex’s desire was to produce really healthy food, and there were no cereals on the market that had no added sugar, salts or fats at that time, so he started making healthy muesli and porridge. With more space in Bloomsbury, he was able to get a muesli mixing machine. It all expanded from that point on, until he had his own factory in Camley Street, King's Cross.
Certified by the Soil Association since 1988, Alara is the first company in the UK registered with the Coeliac Society and the first company to produce certified organic and fair trade products.The factory now produces about half of all the organic muesli sold in the UK. The UK's main organic muesli producer achieved the goal of Zero Waste in 2008. The company now throws nothing away, they have achieved 100% waste management reusing or recycling all packaging and office equipment illustrating that it's possible for a company, even a food producer, to be a zero waste business and manufacturing process. Everything is recycled, composted or reused.
Donating food in excess to "Matchless Gifts" an Hare Krishna religious group, Alara collaborates in “Food for All” project. This charity distributes everyday over 1,000 nutritionally balanced vegetarian meals, to different groups of people, including the homeless, disadvantaged and financially challenged.
Alara sources ingredients in the UK whenever possible and is powered by large solar panels placed on the rooftop.It has been a long process but Alara is now 100% sustainable. In 2009 Alex Smith was nominated a London Leader for Sustainability by Boris Johnson.This passion for sustainability has resulted over the years in Alara continuously undertaking numerous projects to improve its environmental performance. Alex has built also his own orchard.This garden just off Camley Street National Park has been formed from the unused land around commercial buildings on an industrial estate close to King’s Cross & St Pancras station.The first job was the removal of about 50 tons of rubbish, plus four months digging out Japanese knotweed. The largest area was enclosed and terraced using coppiced sweet-chestnut logs.Planting as a permaculture forest the garden began in 2006 with mulberry, pomegranate, Japanese wineberry, figs,apricot, apple, pear, plum and many other perennial food plants.
Alara has done a long way since squatting, but being eco-friendly, sustainable and close to the local community remains central on what they do.