Although the pandemic has essentially put the kibosh on experiential food retailing, WGB’s signature monthly Grocertopia feature serves as a visual reminder of excellence in merchandising, engagement and retail theater. In this compendium of superb scenes of retail innovation spotlighted in the pages of WGB from November 2019 through May 2020, we present a roundup of seven Grocertopia profiles herein.
Giant Shells Out Multimillion-Dollar Investment for Concept Store
Giant Food’s new concept store in Owings Mills, Md., is part of the Landover, Md.-based regional grocery chain’s $175 million investment plan. As the chain’s first location to feature an enhanced fresh format built from the ground up, the new store has expanded hot and prepared food selections, sushi and an extensive organic section.
But perhaps the biggest lure of Giant Food’s new showstopping store is its custom clam display in front of the seafood department, strategically positioned to provide shoppers easier access to and visibility of everything available in the seafood section. This is the second Giant Food store to offer the eye-catching display showcasing locally sourced mollusks and more from the Maryland region.
“We are excited to feature the custom Owings Mills clam display and offer our customers fresh and locally sourced seafood,” said Bill Campbell, director of meat and seafood for Giant Food.
Save Mart Pushes the Prepared Foods Envelope
At its recently opened flagship store in Modesto, Calif., The Save Mart Cos. has created a hub for the freshest flavors of the Central Valley with its Valley Made prepared foods department. Here, the hot food, salad and ceviche bar selections, as well as the grab-and-go meals—including Street Corn, Chicken Tender Torta, Chili Verde and Old-Fashioned Meat Loaf—are as vibrant as they are locally inspired. The Valley Made area also features a produce-cutting specialist on staff; made-to-order smoothies; custom fruit bowls; olive and pasta bars; and live guacamole and salsa preparation.
“Selections in the store will change seasonally, and because the store also serves as an innovation center for the company, we will be pushing the envelope with familiar flavors,” said Dean Owens, VP of foodservice, The Save Mart Cos.
Kroger’s Kitchen on Wheels
“Kroger is leveraging ClusterTruck’s advanced technology to ensure our customers don’t have to sacrifice quality and value for convenience when it comes to meal delivery," said Yael Cosset, chief information officer of The Kroger Co.
Cincinnati-based Kroger has embarked on a partnership with Indianapolis-based ClusterTruck to open a series of delivery-only “dark kitchen” restaurants capable of delivering fresh meals to shoppers in less than 30 minutes. “The way our customers order and receive meals is evolving, and ClusterTruck’s innovative culinary and digital design is cracking the code for the future of profitable meal delivery,” said Cosset.
Powered by proprietary software that uses custom algorithms to optimize kitchen and delivery operations, Kroger Delivery Kitchen Powered by ClusterTruck will offer multiple menus from a single scratch kitchen. The Kroger service officially launched in December 2019 in Carmel, Ind., with additional availability in Indianapolis; Columbus, Ohio; and Denver, where the service will be known as King Soopers Delivery Kitchen.
Cardenas Markets Fuels an Appetite for Aztec Tradition
Known for its colorful produce displays and its aromatic bakeries, Ontario, Calif.-based Cardenas Markets will open its first in a series of stores west of Pomona, Calif., in May. Part of aggressive expansion plans for Los Angeles and Orange counties, Cardenas’ 34,642-square-foot Whittier store will feature the grocer’s signature Keep Life Flavorful design, as well as its popular Nixtamal Tortilleria, which boasts scratch-made tortilla products.
The Tortilleria’s secret sauce is “the traditional ways of precooking the corn and grinding it to prepare the masa, and ultimately the great products that complete many savory Mexican meals,” said Cardenas Markets Public Affairs Director Marco Robles. Nixtamal is an Aztec word that describes corn that has been partially cooked and soaked. Evidence suggests the process of nixtamalization was developed in Mesoamerica with equipment dating from 1200 to 1500 B.C.
“The Tortilleria produces a variety of tortillas and nixtamal products on a daily basis and is one of the most visited sections of our store,” Robles said.
Rhode Island’s Slice of Life
Designed to make shoppers feel at home and engaged, each Dave’s Fresh Marketplace location features thoughtful touches, such as aisles named for local streets, images of respected leaders and artwork that depicts what Rhode Island means to its customers, family and friends. Since 1969, East Greenwich, R.I.-based Dave’s has served its community as the largest locally owned and operated supermarket in the state. The grocer’s 10 stores delight shoppers with dedicated cases for hot bars, cold bars, cold case deli and grab-and-go—all uniquely designed to deliver an unparalleled wow factor, such as this brick oven pizzeria with pizzazz.
“Dave’s prides itself on providing the freshest quality perishable foods—beginning with an exceptional produce department, seafood department and prepared foods sections,” said Susan Budlong, marketing communications manager.
Barons Goes Above and Beyond the Board
Barons Market in Southern California has become a one-stop shop for creating a gorgeous cheese grazing board in minutes. “We noticed a social media trend in grazing boards, so we decided to become the go-to stop for shoppers to make their own grazing or cheese boards,” says Rachel Shemirani, SVP of Barons Market. All eight of the grocer’s locations feature “How to Build the Perfect Barons Board” displays complete with wine and Barons-branded cheese boards, which is “a great way to incorporate all of the different departments in one place. We’re a one-stop shop for charcuterie, and that’s really about shopper convenience,” Shemirani says. “You have to value the customers’ dollar, but you also have to value their time.”
“The grazing board promotion is a great way to incorporate all of the different departments in one place,” Shemirani said.
Rouses Markets Creates Makeshift Restaurant Row
When the coronavirus pandemic forced the temporary closure of restaurants across the country to all but takeout and delivery, Thibodaux, La.-based Rouses Markets took deliciously inspired action, testing a program that offers customers a chance to purchase meals to go from some of their favorite New Orleans restaurants.
The luscious menu of Louisiana favorites from some of the state’s iconic restaurants includes turtle soup, grits and grillades prepared by chef Tory McPhail of Commander’s Palace; pita and hummus prepared by chef Alon Shaya of Saba; crawfish mac and cheese from Ye Olde College Inn; and plates from Big Mike’s BBQ Smokehouse. The restaurant-made dishes are available as grab-and-go items in Rouses Markets’ repurposed salad bars.
“We are one food community, and as much as we can, we will support each other during these difficult times,” said Donny Rouse, CEO of Rouses Markets. “Our customers visit our stores for lunch or dinner, not just for groceries. This gives restaurants another way to sell takeout and our customers another way to support some of their favorite restaurants and chefs.”