Much like the blustery March winds that blew me through the front doors of the California Museum last night for the Fresh & Easy Market launch party, it seems like Fresh & Easy has blown into town at full speed. I'll be honest I wasn't too excited about going to a launch for a supermarket especially when my allergies were going crazy due to the impromptu Sacramento windstorm we had all day; however, Mr. S. had expressed an interest in knowing more about Fresh & Easy since one was going in not too far from his casa and as a working dad he's always on the looking out for sources that offer healthy meals with minimal prep. So off we went and I'm glad we did. The night turned out to be quite informative.
Venturing over the pond, Fresh and Easy (a subsidiary of UK-based supermarket chain, Tesco) is looking to settle into Sacramento with the initial opening of five neighborhood markets in the month of March. Yep, we'll be seeing a lot of their green signs pretty soon in the City of Trees. At the launch event, F&E's Chief Customer Officer, John Burry, explained the reasoning behind Fresh and Easy choosing Sacramento as its newest location for expansion as being- "it's a city that loves food." Hmmm...ok. Well, they don't plan to compete with our beloved farmers' markets but do hope to provide another option to the Raley's, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's chains by providing a hybrid of the three. The company's main focus supposedly will be on nutritional, fresh meals that are affordable and taste good for the busy individual/family. They plan to deliver these pre-prepped ingredients and prepared meals by utilizing a manufacturing campus in California which will afford them quality control and quick delivery. In their house brand F&E products they promise that they won't use artificial colors or flavors, added trans fats, or high fructose corn syrup.
Check-in at the launch.
Also there was a photo booth you could go play in.
Anyhow, Mr.S. and I had an ok time at the the event. I got to try a few of their appetizers- the prosciutto wrapped shrimp, some pear bruschetta and the ahi poke. (I would have snapped some photos but there weren't many apps left on the platters by the time the servers got over to our side of the room and I knew better than to bother to snap pics of platters of crudites and dip, if you've seen one- you've seen them all...sorry, readers.) The apps were pretty good but I was pleasantly surprised at how tasty the wines and champagnes they served were (Trader Joe's you may have some competition in the affordable wines department!) There were a lot of business-y muckety-mucks there talking shop (I'll admit, we tucked ourselves away at a corner table and people watched) but their PR rep was quite nice, answered my endless questions (allergy medicine + wine makes me a bit chatty) and gave me the heads up that the F&E's tikka masala sauce is a fav of hers. I also found out these tidbits of interest:
- For the last 4 years Fresh and Easy has been rapidly opening stores in CA, NV and AZ at the equivalent of about a store a week. That's a lot of jobs, folks!
- Most of the seafood for the Sacramento stores will be from Santa Monica Seafood
- 60% of their produce is grown in California
- Although they primarily sell their house brand products, they will be selling some name brand products as well
- They have do-it-yourself checkstands where you scan and bag your own groceries (to keep their costs down) but have staff to assist you should problems arise
- Much like TJ's, some of their products are seasonal/limited so things will rotate through (holiday items, specialty food, etc)-- for example : Sparkling Pumpkin Spiced Apple Cider...mmm, can't wait!
Dinner Meal endcap at the front of the store
Overall, I think Fresh and Easy will fair well in the areas that are in need of a grocery store but for those areas that are already saturated with Trader Joes, Bel-Airs, etc., I'm not too sure they'll be able to lure away their competitors' demographic. It's a question of- what are they bringing to the table that makes them more desirable? There's a much more limited selection in their store than say, Safeway or Raley's, they've taken way the personalization of dealing with friendly associates at checkstands that you get at Nugget or Trader Joe's and their prices aren't substantially cheaper like at places such as Target or Winco. So why should I shop there on a regular basis? I for one will be curious to see how Fresh & Easy fares in Sacramento in 2012 with it's 5 store roll out. Like their CCO said, Sacramento, "[is] a city that loves food," and we do; however, we're also a city that's quite discriminating of the quality of what we eat as well as how it impacts our wallet and our environment. It'll be interesting to see how Fresh and Easy responds to that and how it acclimates its practices.