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Almonds & Yoga Pants, from SF to Shanghai

February 2014

By Sharon Li, San Francisco

Over the past few years, soymilk seemed be to the popular non-dairy alternative to the good old-fashioned cow’s milk. Mainstream coffee shops started to offer soymilk to go with your morning latte, and even mainstream hypermarkets– like Walmart and Safeway– stocked up ranges of soymilk products, including and vanilla flavorings, creamers and sauce bases. And while an anti-animal-milk revolution took place, more Americans demand a new veggie beverage alternative: almond milk.

In a healthy city, like San Francisco, the mindful locals have been singing the praises on the merits of almond milk over soy, unless the latter is fermented. Two favorite local coffee providers, Four Barrel Coffee and Ritual, decided to stop serving soymilk altogether. Some say soy is not good for you because of it contains phytoestrogens and destroys our bodies’ normal physiology. Some women are concerned it may lead GMO-induced fertility issues, and others try to steer clear of the immersive marketing campaign behind the soybean producers and food-makers. In the end, some simply like the taste of almond milk better, with its natural sweetness.

Scanning restaurants and grocery stores in San Francisco, you know the local foodies are not just talking about real food and good health… they demand it. And because they demand it, the market supplies them with everything from gluten-free toasted bread, to grass-fed burgers and free-range chickens that are conveniently and widely available in the city. This demand enhanced the popularity of a local community grocery store, Bi-Rite, which is not only cute, but also jammed with tasty homemade products and produce grown with good practices on family-owned farms. And the ethical freshness can be delivered to your front door. Good Eggs is a new service that delivers organic and sustainable meats, produce and other goods from locally sourced farms and vendors.

Living in a hilly city like San Francisco, the locals not only try to get around comfortably, they want to look fit and healthy with a touch of personal taste. Active daywear reigns queen in San Francisco, and women enjoy walking around with the Tieks designer ballet flat shoes. Made of Italian leather, they add a bit of glam without the heels. Women are of course also seen running shoes and slim-fit hoodies, all in basic color tones. Some retailers, like FitGeekSports, offer personalized athletic-shoe-fitting experiences with the help of a quick interview and gait analysis.

Casual-but-not-too-casual styles get love from the SF locals, while mainstream brands and big names have practically been pushed out the door. It’s a stark contrast to women in Shanghai, who are happy donning well-known fashion brands and sport bright colors and bold patterns, along with shimmery accessories that run from hairpieces to iPhone covers. What's more fascinating is to watch women in Shanghai wear high heels when they shop (where the city streets are still pretty rugged), or get on planes (where most Californian would prefer to dress comfortably). It’s been a fascinating contrast to behold.

Retail & Dining
Health & Fitness
Food & Drink
Fashion & Style
San Francisco
Nut butter sold on Bi-Rite's shelves in SF's The Mission
Almond milk slowly pushes soymilk aside on supermarket shelves in SF
Lululemon pegs the athletic daywear market in SF

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