Click on the picture to see the video from the Guardian

Alara was started in 1975 by me, Alex Smith. My wife and myself are still the present owners and Senior Managers.
The business started in a squat in Tolmers Square in Central London. This whole unique early Victorian, egg shaped Square, where Alara originated was due to be demolished to make way for a large office development. For a year before starting Alara I had been living in Tolmers Square with out using any money at all, as this seemed the only moral position to take to oppose this, for money, development.

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. Food was scavenged from New Covent Garden fruit and vegetable market, a dairy distribution centre by Regents Park and from spillage in a Natural Food Wholesaler, Community Foods that was also in Tolmers Square.

Life was a bit limited without money and, with someone else to consider it seemed serendipitous that, as I was walking in the square one day in 1975 I found two one pound notes in the gutter. The only money I had had during the previous year was a five-pound note given as a birthday present. This had been used to light the fire. Two pounds was the cost of vehicle entry to New Covent Garden Market. Using a friend's Morris Minor pick up van I went to Covent Garden and filled the pick up truck with thrown away fruit and vegetables from the bins. These were sold from an empty dairy squatted on the entrance to Tolmers Square. Alara had started.

On the first day we took £2, and by the end of the week were taking anything up to £5 per day. The second week we bought wholemeal flour from Community Foods and started baking bread in the old gas oven that had been left behind in our squat. Soon we were buying bulk beans and rice and selling them in retail quantities. Turnover went up to £40 per day, and we tried to open a bank account. Even though we had money to deposit and did not need to borrow anything it took us two months to find a bank that would take our cash.

After almost a year we were evicted from this shop which was eventually renovated. We moved business premises to a new squat, right next door to where we were living, 19 Tolmers Square. It was here that we started to make muesli in a fifty-gallon plastic water tank, mixed with a huge oak spoon. Wholesale customers at Community came over to us to buy their bulk muesli.

After a year we were evicted by Camden Council, who knocked down the whole square and built a huge office development themselves. By this time however we had saved enough money to buy the tail end of a lease on a small shop in Cromer Street, behind Camden Town Hall. We ran this as a wholefood shop and mixed muesli in the basement, selling it in bulk to Community Foods. To get good prices we also bought in bulk from Community and delivered to other shops in the area.

In 1981 Alara moved from Cromer Street to bigger premises, Marchmont Street where we did more of the same. In 1983 the wholesale delivery service and muesli mixing moved to a small industrial unit behind Kings Cross.

We then moved to larger industrial premises in 1985, still behind Kings Cross, where we are to this day. During this time muesli production was becoming more and more important. Production was increasing as we were very early producers of the natural, no added sugar type muesli that was getting very popular. We were also developing new varieties for both Alara brand and own label. Our customer base expanded and included most of the natural food wholesalers in England and through them the natural food retailers, all of whom we are still serving. Muesli exports began to flourish.

In 1983 we started to make organic muesli, again one of the first manufacturers to do so in England. In 1988 we joined the Soil Association, who still certify our organic production. In 1995 we decided to concentrate on muesli and began a long restructuring process so that by 2000 Alara was just manufacturing muesli. In 2000 we also achieved BRC certification. Among the almost 200 varieties we now produce are Fair Trade muesli, Nut free muesli, Gluten free muesli and from 1999 the Alara brand Organic muesli range.

Our aim is to produce very high quality, tasty, healthy and innovative mueslis. Organic muesli is the natural way to fulfil this desire.  
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