Tue. Jan 25th, 2022


You can’t really miss the American Food Store.Maria Noyen/Insider

  • I visited the American Food Store in London, and it sells everyday grocery items as luxury products.

  • Tide laundry detergent can set you back $61, and Campbell’s soup can is three times its US price.

  • There are also several shelves of dessert-like cereal and sweet treats.

I’m half-American but grew up in the UK and remember hearing US expats in middle school buzz about the American Food Store in London.

American Food Store London.

I wanted to check out the American Food Store for myself as an adult.Maria Noyen/Insider

I’m not British, but I spent most of my childhood living in the UK. My mom is Puerto Rican and my dad is Dutch, so they put me in an international school.

At that school, I met a lot of Americans and remember being fascinated with the various snacks and treats they’d bring to class from a place called the American Food Store — it’s how I learned what Gushers and Marshmallow Fluff were.

But knowing how American food is priced up in UK grocery stores, I wanted to see whether an actual American food store was also selling overly expensive grocery items.

An early indication it was going to be bougie is the shop’s location in one of London’s most expensive residential neighborhoods.

Holland Park.

The American Food Store is surrounded by pricey real estate.Maria Noyen/Insider

Most of London’s fast-food and candy stores can be found in bustling tourist areas like Piccadilly and Oxford Circus. But the American Food Store is somewhere different: Holland Park, one of the city’s posher residential areas.

It’s only a few minutes’ walk from the station, but I thought it was a bit unusual for the store that probably sold pop tarts and Doritos to be surrounded by towering white mansions and luxury apartment blocks.

The shop really stands out with all the stars and stripes, and inside it was just as patriotic.

American Food Store, London.

The cashier said Brexit has really affected their prices.Maria Noyen/Insider

Stepping into the American Food Store is like getting a full shock of American patriotism. There are flags everywhere — lining the counter, hanging from the walls, and on plates and cups for sale. I took a count of all the ones hanging from walls and it came to 12.

Interestingly, the store is British family-owned. According to the American Food Store “About Us” page, the store used to be a regular newsagents shop and was converted after a trip to New York inspired the owners to indulge in their “love for American foods.”

It was empty, so I got the opportunity to take my time checking out every shelf. The first area I gravitated toward was the Betty Crocker section.

American Food Store.

There were a lot of Betty Crocker varieties on the shelves.Maria Noyen/Insider

I was pleasantly surprised to find such a variety of Betty Crocker cake mix and frosting — though regular grocery stores in the UK do sell some select flavors, I’ve never seen so many different options in London.

But on closer inspection, my suspicions about the prices of these items were proved correct. The Red Velvet cake mix, one of my personal favorite flavors, was priced at £3.99, about $5.50. By comparison, Tesco, a popular grocery store in the UK, sells the same product in different packaging for just £1.79, about $2.50.

And at Walmart, the exact same Red Velvet cake mix sells online for $1.34, which is less than £1.

But what came next shocked me even more — Tide laundry detergent is sold for a staggering £45, just over $60.

American Food Store.

Customers better be ready to shell out to buy laundry detergent here.Maria Noyen/Insider

Further down the same aisle on a bottom shelf, I discovered various laundry detergents — something I definitely was not expecting to find at a shop that advertises itself as a food store.

The highest-priced item I found throughout the entire visit was a Tide laundry detergent selling for £45, about $61. The labeling said it would last for 89 loads — which I personally consider to be months’ worth of laundry — but the pricing still seemed pretty high.

And it is — according to Walmart’s online store, the same sized Tide product sells for just $17.94, a mere £13.

Crazy prices came to be a running theme throughout the store, but I loved seeing American items for sale that I grew up learning about in movies.

American Food Store London.

Windex will always remind me of the iconic dad in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”Amazon Prime, Maria Noyen/Insider

No product in the store brought me back to my childhood as much as seeing Windex for sale. The first time I heard the name or knew what it was, came from watching one of my all-time favorite feel-good films, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

It made me think that even though the items are overpriced, customers — and not just US expats living in London — will feel a sense of nostalgia browsing through the shelves.

But that feeling can definitely be dampened by the prices. This 26-ounce bottle of Windex costs £7, nearly $10, whereas the same amount of liquid at Target is priced at $3.69, about £2.60.

Another set of items that fascinated me was the Campbell’s Soup cans, which immediately made me think of those famous Andy Warhol pop-art paintings.

Campbells soup, American Food Store

Campbell’s soup is a throwback to my high-school art classes.Maria Noyen/Insider

It was also cool to see those iconic red-and-white Campbell’s Soup cans in person — I’d grown up seeing them in Andy Warhol paintings shown to my art class. I’ve never actually tried them though.

But at a cost of £2.25, or about $3, which is triple the price of the same can at Walmart in the US, I’m not sure it’s worth testing them out here in the UK.

Closer to the entrance of the store is what looks like the breakfast aisle.

American Food Store London.

The breakfast aisle is filled with sugary cereals and pancake mix.Maria Noyen/Insider

Pancakes and cereals are pretty much what anyone who hasn’t been to America or met an American would think is eaten for breakfast every day after seeing these shelves.

Cereal is still a go-to here in the UK, but the variety and sheer dessert-like flavors on offer in America are unmatched. Checking out this aisle, it’s also the first time I’ve seen an Eggos product in the UK.

Elsewhere in the store were items I’ve never seen sold similarly in the UK, like clam juice and bottled corn syrup.

American Food Store London.

I’ve never come across similar food items in the UK.Maria Noyen/Insider

There were a fair few products I’d never seen sold in a similar form in the UK. Bottled clam juice was definitely one of them.

But similarly, I’ve never been able to find corn syrup sold on UK grocery store shelves. Instead, the UK sells it under a different name, liquid glucose, and it’s still tricky to find for anyone looking to incorporate it into a recipe here.

If I ever need corn syrup in the future, I know where to go.

I’m a fan of tuna sandwiches, but for £10, about $13.75, I’ll stick to buying my cans at regular UK grocery stores.

Tuna at the American Food Store.

I also didn’t know a tuna brand called “Chicken of the Sea” even existed.Maria Noyen/Insider

I’m a big advocate of tuna sandwiches — they are versatile, easy to make, and I love food you can keep in the pantry for years. But when it comes to actually buying canned tuna, I’m going to stick to the ones sold in regular UK grocery stores.

By comparison, the same product costs $6.18, or about £4.50 in the US, according to Walmart.

There is a coffee section in the store, and yet again the prices were steep.

American Food Store.

Dunkin’ branded coffee is a luxury item here.Maria Noyen/Insider

Coffee at the American Food Store is a luxury item. A pack of ground French Vanilla flavored coffee from Dunkin’ will set you back £10.95, or about $15. Folgers Classic Roast is also pretty pricey at £8.50, about $11.70.

I was pretty surprised, especially knowing that Dunkin’ is essentially a fast-food chain in the US. There’s also a Dunkin’ location by London’s Baker Street Station, so I’m not sure that I’d be tempted to buy this when I could probably get my fix for less by going to the store itself.

It’s also surprising considering a similar-size pack costs $7.72, about £5.60, on Walmart’s online store.

I’ve also never heard of Irish Spring, or have seen anything sold as “deodorant soap” here in the UK.

Deodorant at the American Food Store in London.

Irish Spring Deodorant Soap had me confused.Maria Noyen/Insider

I’ve lived in the UK since I was a kid and I’ve never seen “deodorant soap” advertised in grocery stores here. But I’ll need to hear from Americans on whether it actually works before I buy a set for £12, which is about $16.50.

There’s also no shortage of American soda in store — here in the UK, it’s hard to find different flavors like Vanilla Coke sold in larger quantities.

American Food Store.

I wasn’t expecting the store to even sell household cleaning items.Maria Noyen/Insider

I remember having Vanilla Coke while visiting family in Puerto Rico in my childhood and thought it was the most brilliant idea in the whole world. Since then, however, I’ve rarely come across it in the UK and when I do, it’s usually sold as single cans.

If I ever feel like stocking up, though, I know I’ll have to hit up the American Food Store.

Two cheesy products seemed the most quintessentially American to me: Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and Goldfish.

American Food Store London.

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and Goldfish scream “America” to me.Maria Noyen/Insider

When it comes to really good cheese, Europe has America beat in my opinion. But when it comes to cheesy flavored snacks, there’s no doubt America has some strong contenders.

So it wasn’t surprising to see two classic American snacks, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and Goldfish, on the shelves of the American Food Store. What was surprising, perhaps less so given my experience in the rest of the store, was the cost.

Goldfish is sold for less than $2 at Walmart in the US, but at this store, it’s priced way up at almost $6. Meanwhile, the macaroni and cheese packs, sold at just $1, or less than £1, at Walmart cost four times as much here at £2.95, about $4.

I was happy with my small haul of items, but I couldn’t help but ask the cashier about the high prices when I came to pay.

American Food Store.

I’m a somewhat happy customer who probably won’t be back anytime soon.Maria Noyen/Insider

The cashier was pretty open when it came to why the prices were so high. He said it really came down to the effects of Brexit and the rising costs of import taxes. But all that being said, he was clear the store still had a loyal customer base with Americans living in the area.

According to the cashier, Holland Park is a popular area with US expats and they often drop by before American holidays, like Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July, to make sure they can celebrate them properly here in the UK.

Despite the prices, it makes sense to me that some Americans living in London are happy to spend a little more to have a taste of home. But for day-to-day shopping, I don’t think the American Food Store in London sees a lot of regulars.

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