Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, which built 20 new stores and strengthened its executive team this year, said it would build another 10 stores next year, including its first units in Pennsylvania.
Established in 2014, Fresh Thyme currently has 66 stores in nine Midwest states: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Ohio.
“From acquisitions and mergers to shifting consumer habits, 2017 was marked by significant changes, and the grocery and food retail industries continue to be ever-evolving,” Chris Sherrell, CEO of Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, said in a statement. “We enjoy the challenge this brings and work hard to continuously improve our shopping experience. As a three-years-young company, we’re extremely proud of our 5,000 employees and the communities we serve throughout the Midwest. Over the past year, we’ve made significant hires at the executive level, further developed our private label offerings, and continued to support the organizations that matter most to our communities. We’re excited for 2018 and all that is in store.”
See some of the notable developments below:
In May 2017, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market launched its new in-store magazine, Crave. As a bi-monthly free magazine, Crave features recipes from Fresh Thyme’s in-house dietitians, product spotlights, and helpful tips and insights.
Since introducing its private label in 2015, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market has introduced more than 1,000 SKUs (up from 400 in 2016), which aims to make nutritious foods more affordable, and allow the retailer to control both the quality and price of its offerings. Upcoming product releases include a line of Greek yogurt, kombucha, soups, mashed cauliflower and a continuing line of organic items. Fresh Thyme will also unveil a line of natural cleaners to take the harmful ingredients out of the home.
In 2017, Fresh Thyme made significant hires to expand its leadership team based in Downers Grove, Illinois. In March, Carol Okamoto joined as CFO and, in May, Mark Doiron was brought on as chief merchandising officer. Both bring more than 30 years of experience in the industry to their roles. In November, Fresh Thyme also welcomed Dean Little as COO. He brings over 40 years of industry experience to his role, where he will oversee "what makes Fresh Thyme Farmers Market a 'market.'"
Little most recently served as SVP of operations for Price Chopper and prior to that spent years at Safeway and Vons.
In addition, Fresh Thyme also made key hires in its marketing department including Amy Parker as VP and Art Scott as senior director. Fresh Thyme also brought on Kerry Clifford (MS, RD, LDN) and Meghan Sedivy (MS, RD) as its in-house registered dietitians, which company officials say helped increase awareness of the brand in key markets as the two developed ongoing programming to educate.
Community Initiatives and Corporate Fundraising
As part of its ongoing Cultivate Community initiative, Fresh Thyme continued to partner with a local nonprofits for each grand opening and support them through donations and fundraising events.
In addition, for the third year in a row, Fresh Thyme hosted its annual golf classic to fund the Fresh Thyme Giving Tree Foundation. This year, the foundation honored Mission 22, a veteran’s support project, and Warriors Heart Foundation, the first private treatment center in the U.S. providing detox, inpatient, outpatient and long term sober living treatment solely for first responders, active duty military and veterans. Between the golf classic and an in- store “Round Up At the Register” initiative, Fresh Thyme raised $500,000 in support of these organizations.
Sherrell said he anticipates that consumer habits will continue to change as they want to know more about the food they are putting on the table for their family, and Fresh Thyme will continue to adapt to meet its customers’ wants and needs. In 2018, the retailer will offer more organic options and transparency about how its food is grown.
Fresh Thyme’s rapid expansion this past year led increased sales growth overall. With 10 projected openings in 2018 including new locations in Evansville, Ind., Ames, Ind. and Pittsburgh.