Extending an earlier distribution, Giant Eagle has rolled out more packaged greens products from vertical- and robotic-farming specialist Fifth Season to supermarkets in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Pittsburgh-based Fifth Season said yesterday that four SKUs of its fresh, locally grown leafy greens and ready-to-eat salads are now available at more than 75 Giant Eagle and Market District stores in metropolitan Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, and Pittsburgh. With the expanded distribution, Fifth Season products are now available to over 650,000 households across the three metro areas.
Previously, Fifth Season products were sold at 10 Pittsburgh-area Giant Eagle and Market District stores, as well as at some local independent grocers.
“We are committed to offering Giant Eagle and Market District guests access to the highest quality fresh, locally sourced produce, no matter the season, through innovative growing practices like vertical farming,” Dave Rajkovich, vice president of fresh merchandising at Giant Eagle, said in a statement. “We are excited to expand our partnership with Fifth Season to make their delicious, local greens and salads available in 75 locations across the Giant Eagle footprint.”
Fifth Season products carried at the Giant Eagle and Market District stores include two packaged greens — Bridge City Blend (Chinese cabbage, red and green tatsoi, red and green frilly mustard) and Three Rivers Blend (leaf broccoli, green mizuna, red pac choi, red frilly mustard, red mustard greens) — plus two salads, Crunchy Sesame (leaf broccoli, green mizuna, red pac choi, red frilly mustard, red mustard greens, sesame sticks, dried cranberries, farro, ginger mandarin dressing) and Sweet Grains (Chinese cabbage, red and green tatsoi, red and green frilly mustard, chickpeas, feta cheese, quinoa, crunchy dried corn, poppyseed dressing).
Overall, Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle operates 474 grocery and convenience stores, including more than 200 supermarkets, across western Pennsylvania, north central Ohio, northern West Virginia, Maryland and Indiana.
Fifth Season noted that its indoor vertical farming operation is the only one that employs a fully autonomous process, whereas in many other grow rooms people operate forklifts or carry trays of plants. The use of proprietary robotics and artificial intelligence enables a more economically and environmentally efficient and safer operation, the company added. Fifth Season said its newest vertical farm, a 60,000-square-foot, solar-powered facility opened in June 2020 in Braddock, Pa., houses a 25,000-square-foot grow room, with twice the growing capacity of traditional vertical farms, and is on track to grow more than 500,000 pounds of produce in its first full year of operation.
“Our end-to-end automated platform run entirely by our Integra ordering system — both an industry first — combined with our entirely new flavor experience and product that stays fresh more than three times longer than field-grown products, are the factors that positioned us for success,” according to Austin Webb, co-founder and CEO of Fifth Season. “We are deeply grateful for our partnership with Giant Eagle and look forward to continuing to grow alongside them.”
Fifth Season products include ready-to-eat salads as well as blends of leafy greens. (Photo courtesy of Fifth Season)
In the United States, 98% of leafy greens are grown in Arizona and California or come from outside the country, requiring long-haul transport to reach stores and impacting freshness, Fifth Season reported, explaining that its vertical farms grow produce locally and eliminate the need for long-distance transport, extending shelf life. The company said its produce also is more sustainable — grown using 95% less water and 97% less land than conventional farming — and raised in a safer environment, a human-free grow room that lowers the risk for pathogens and other contaminants.
“We are thrilled about Fifth Season’s expanded partnership with Giant Eagle, as it’s further proof that Fifth Season has cracked the code of profitable vertical farming, an industry first,” commented Chris Olsen, co-founder and partner at Drive Capital, a Columbus-based venture capital firm and Fifth Season investor. “This expansion is just one of many that Fifth Season will be announcing this year, as more retailers and foodservice companies become aware of the benefits of Fifth Season’s model. It’s an entirely new era of fresh food for the $60 billion U.S. produce industry.”
Founded in 2016 and incubated at Carnegie Mellon University, Fifth Season launched under the name RoBotany and developed its technology at two R&D vertical farms in Pittsburgh’s South Side neighborhood. Besides raising funds with Drive Capital and other private investors, Fifth Season last year unveiled a partnership with NHL Hall of Famer and Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux. Along with Giant Eagle, Fifth Season sells its leafy greens at Whole Foods Market and local grocers and supplies area restaurants.