As it opens the doors on its newest concept store, Ahold’s Fresh Formats team is keeping its distance from the company’s conventional supermarket banners.
Bfresh, the division’s fresh-focused store in Boston which had a soft opening over the weekend, is seeking to distinguish itself from its conventional cousins in its customer proposition, and doesn’t even stock Nature’s Promise, Ahold’s own natural and organic private label line.
“Fresh Formats is a new Ahold division, and wholly separate from the rest of the company,” Suzi Robinson, a spokeswoman for Fresh Formats, explained in an interview with SN this week. “We developed this store independently.”
That independent vision has resulted in what appears to be a store that’s unique and lively in all the ways a neighboring Stop & Shop is dependably unglamorous. The company calls it “a complete departure from traditional brick-and-mortar grocery stores.”
Robinson said bfresh builds on the learnings of the Everything Fresh store the Fresh Formats team opened in late 2013 in Philadelphia, but it’s not quite like that store, either. At 10,000 square feet, bfresh is more than three times larger than its Philadelphia sister, and, Robinson explained, more of a fully formed concept than Everything Fresh, which she refers to as a “learning lab.”
Chief among the differences at bfresh is an “on the spot” food preparation area known as The Little Kitchen where employees prepare fresh meals from scratch in full view of shoppers. That idea is imported from the Netherlands — not from parent company Ahold, but a chain of market-style restaurants known as La Place. The Little Kitchen uses recipes from La Place with menus changing daily, Robinson said.
The store seeks to appeal to neighborhood shoppers — largely students and young people in the bustling Allston neighborhood — who are frustrated by compromises on quality, price or convenience at typical food stores, Robinson said.
This positioning is supported by internal and external research, including a recent study by Deloitte suggesting the attributes most important to food shoppers today are “healthy,” “innovative,” “convenient” and “customized.”
Robinson said Fresh Formats was at work on a second location of bfresh, to open in Fairfield, Conn.
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