Alex Smith became involved in the squatting movement in the early 1970s. He moved to London to study architecture and was living in a building just off Tottenham Court Road. Being opposed to the philosophy of destroying existing Victorian properties and replacing them with modern blocks solely in the name of making money, he decided he had to live without it.
He didn't spend money for a year until, in 1975, he found two £1 notes in the street and decided to start a business with it. He began what's now Alara by selling fruit and veg that would otherwise have been thrown out. He and fellow squatters bought a sack of flour from a wholefoods wholesaler near the squat and started baking bread.
Eventually they squatted in a retail premises and turned it into a wholefoods shop.
After being evicted from that shop and another, second premises within two years, in 1978, they leased a small shop just off the Euston Road. The shop continued to do very well, but the area was being redeveloped and Camden Council allocated their shop as the site office, so they struck a good deal with them to move to a bigger place in Bloomsbury.
They wanted 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 they started making muesli. With more space in Bloomsbury, they were able to get a muesli mixing machine. It all expanded from that point on, until they had their own factory in King's Cross. Alara was the first cereal company in the world to be certified organic, and now the factory produces about half of all the organic muesli sold in the UK.