Grocery Chain Keeps It Fresh

Discussion
Aug 15, 2007

By George Anderson

Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s capture most of the headlines, but there is another specialty grocer that has achieved some pretty impressive results, even if it has done so with much less fanfare.

The Fresh Market operates 70 stores in 17 states, now that it is opening its first Wisconsin location in the Milwaukee suburb of Brookfield. Founded in Greensboro, N.C. in 1982 by Ray Berry, a former vice president of Southland Corporation (7-Eleven), and his wife Beverly, The Fresh Market has combined a service atmosphere (all meat is sold by the piece at the fresh meat counter, for example) with the ambience of a European market. Classical music fills the air as the chain seeks to “slow down” consumers as they shop the store with its tile floors, antiques, and soft lighting. In addition to the meat counter, the 22,000-square-foot store offers a selection of 400 produce items, a fresh seafood counter, European-style deli, prepared foods, bakery and floral area.

With its Milwaukee–area opening, The Fresh Market will also find itself going up against a number of local specialty grocery stores (Grasch’s, Sendik’s and Brennan’s) in addition to the national chains.

Jeff Jordan, director of new store operations for The Fresh Market, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “I think we’re going to be more along the line of Grasch’s. The atmosphere in the store is more service-oriented.”

David Livingston, principal with DJL Research and a member of the RetailWire BrainTrust, made the point that the store is “designed for the consumer with the high disposable income,” and, consequently, will face tough local competition from chains appealing to similar demographics. “I don’t think this is going to be a slam dunk for them,” he told the paper.

Discussion Questions: How do you explain the growth in fresh format stores such The Fresh Market? Is there that much affluence in the U.S. or is there a segment of the population that chooses to trade up when it comes to food? How big is the remaining market opportunity for upscale grocery store operators?

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12 Comments on "Grocery Chain Keeps It Fresh"


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Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
14 years 9 months ago

Increasing shopping alternatives where consumers can purchase fresh foods is in response to consumers’ growing interest in health. Studies have found a strong correlation between consumers who try the hardest to eat healthfully and those who eat dinner at home nearly every day. Retailers who promote fresh and convenience are responding to the “home-equals-health” belief.

As long as the prices aren’t way out of line with other retailers, The Fresh Market could be an influencing factor in the local marketplace.

Lee Peterson
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

Make no mistake, the opportunity for “fresh” stores is still huge. After the Chinese quality epiphany, perhaps the American public will wake up to the fact that quality beats price, but in any case, even if only 20% of us realize that quality food leads to longer, better lives, it’ll be a revolution to the foodservice industry (grocers included).

Story: A Fresh Market opened in Columbus about two years ago, followed shortly thereafter by a Whole Foods nearby. In talking to the manager of that store, he said that the opening of the Whole Foods “killed” them, and that their business was just now turning around, over a year later.

So, in case you were wondering why Whole Foods gets all the pub…it’s a customer-driven proposition.

Mark Burr
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

Consumers are looking for retailers that offer them a reason to go there and a reason to return. Those that offer that, like Fresh Market and others, have a market the size of the world available to them–upscale or not.

Sharon Bond
Guest
Sharon Bond
14 years 9 months ago

Way back in 1984, I moved to Greensboro, NC, and discovered The Fresh Market. I was earning all of $14,800 a year at the time as associate editor of a magazine. Was I too poor to shop at Fresh Market? Perhaps, but I knew quality when I saw it, and I was hooked.

I’ve long since moved away from Greensboro, but wish The Fresh Market nothing but success in every market they move into. And here’s hoping they migrate down to Chicago from Milwaukee!

Eva A. May
Guest
Eva A. May
14 years 9 months ago
Fresh Market strives to provide high-quality fresh produce, meats, and fish, as well as a wide variety of dairy products, cheeses, pre-prepared foods, baked goods, wines, plants, and snacks, as well as packaged goods such as sauces, pastas, baking products and canned soups and vegetables. They are located in upscale areas, and are slowly expanding into additional markets. While I enjoy shopping at several high-quality grocery stores in my neighborhood (Lowes Foods and Harris Teeter), I LOVE to shop at Fresh Market. The quality is outstanding, and the variety and consistency of supply of fresh vegetables and fruits and good-looking meats and fish make it fun to plan meals, since I know that I can count on being able to find the fresh ingredients I need. I believe that there is room for more fresh food stores in many neighborhoods around the US. Fresh Market’s offerings are top quality, pricing is reasonable, and they cultivate loyalty in their consumer base. Many consumers enjoy preparing good meals for their families and can afford to purchase good-quality… Read more »
Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
14 years 9 months ago

Consumers have been asking for fresh foods or real foods, as Ryan Mathews previously stated, for a long time and in a much more pleasant, and service oriented atmosphere! Why do you think that fresh foods is a new trend, phenomenon or whatever?

Please note, foodservice and grocery industries; the demand for fresh foods has been evident, over a number of decades. It isn’t just a niche or subsegment, upscale, or again, whatever. It is a live, and never aging business. Interestingly, the current and profitable stand alone produce; meat and poutry, specialty meals and foods, and the cheese, deli, and wine shops are prospering, too!!!

Add to this, the whole health foods and meal chains, and independents are fresh foods business.

These businesses are just more fresh in what ever they offer, or do for their shoppers…then any alternative, or the ‘big box’ grocers. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm

Ben Ball
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

Fresh food isn’t just for people with fat wallets. Fresh food is for people who still cook! The best offering of fresh meat and produce in the Chicago area is a store called Joseph’s in Crystal Lake. (There may be others I don’t know of.) The array of fresh produce, imported foods and ethnic baked goods will make your head swim. And you are guaranteed to gain five pounds just by breathing the air. This place screams EAT HEARTY! I don’t know the exact demographics of the store, but I’d guess 50%+ are first generation immigrants and the rest are recent descendants. I wouldn’t peg the average household income much over $40,000. But these people buy food by the truckload. And it is clear they can cook it. The Fresh Market story is a great one, but it isn’t the only viable entry into selling “real food.”

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

The Fresh Market offers part-timers immediate benefit enrollment into a limited medical plan, dental, and life insurance. It’s clear that the company wants to keep staff turnover minimized. This is a great lever to delivering better customer service and improving staff productivity.

David Livingston
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

Wal-Mart has destroyed the plain vanilla supermarket. Not everyone wants to take a step down in class and shop at Wal-Mart. This has opened up a new market niche for consumers who desire and deserved quality and service. Affluent areas continue to grow while conventional supermarkets disappear. Something just had to take their place.

J. Peter Deeb
Guest
14 years 9 months ago
As a front line baby boomer with an empty nest, The Fresh Market was a revelation to my wife and me as we moved to a semi-retirement market. There are very good traditional grocers in our area but Fresh Market is our choice for produce (outstanding), specialty items that you don’t see in traditional supers, a meat department staffed by professional butchers who know their business and a wide variety of FRESH meat products that you don’t see in the traditionals. The niche they fill is for people who will pay more for the best produce and who can and will order crown roast lamb for entertaining. Based on our local Fresh Market there are enough consumers (middle class and up) to support the market. Once you try Fresh Market it is hard to not make the extra stop for their products and service. They have identified their locations very well and to date, the results have proven that their research on demographics has been spot on. There is room in this country for many… Read more »
Ryan Mathews
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

Who knows…maybe Americans are developing a taste for real food after all.

Justin Time
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

It is wonderful to see how operators like Fresh Market as well as A&P Fresh Market and its various banners have initiated selling “fresh” to the masses.

The “fresh market” concept is the way for these retailers to go.

Buying local produce, prepared meals, fresh seafood and tender, juicy meats, cut to order, gives the consumer a choice. Yes, consumer buying habits are indeed changing. Consumers are willing to spend a little extra for higher quality. And in the long run, a better and more extensive selection of quality fresh food choices at reasonable prices will make for a healthier and perhaps leaner American food consuming public.

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