Retailers

One-on-One With Bristol Farms’ Adam Caldecott

CEO talks new format stores, what’s next for Good Food Holdings
Adam Caldecott
Illustration by Olivier Balez

Adam Caldecott is CEO of Bristol Farms and Lazy Acres Natural Market, part of Southern California-based Good Food Holdings.

Jennifer Strailey: When WGB spoke with Good Food Holdings CEO Neil Stern earlier this year, he indicated that expansion was top of mind and that a new generation of Bristol Farms stores was in the pipeline. What sets the new stores apart from existing stores?

Adam Caldecott: Our new-format store in Santa Barbara is built around food being the star. It’s experiential—appealing to all the senses. We’ve brought together a California vibe with the feel of an open-air European-style farmers market with high ceilings in produce at the front of the store. This premium food culture hits shoppers the moment they come in.

With the kitchens out front, our foodservice operations allow the customer to get a big look at what we have to offer as a fresh store format, while the high ceilings create more sound and excitement that is grander than a typical grocery store. We dropped the ceiling in the vitamin and supplements section to bring down the light and make it easier to read labels. In this part of the store, shoppers can pick up the music rather than the energy and excitement of people getting food and talking. It’s more of a library experience. In the wine department, we used wood floors to create an experience and bring forward the vibe of walking into a wine shop.

This is Version 2.0. As we continue to move forward with Bristol Farms, we’re really trying to push the culinary experience— whether by bringing more global ingredients into produce or upgrading our ready-to-eat food. The next iteration will bring in QSR-style formats to create a food-hall experience in our new stores. We’re not just a grocery store. Customers can fill a big basket at our stores but also come to us for a single meal. We are driving innovation relative to that and continue to position Bristol Farms to own the culinary space.

I understand you started your career with Bristol Farms as a dishwasher more than 20 years ago. In that time, you’ve worked through virtually every level in store operations and marketing. How has this experience influenced your leadership?

I actually started as a meat clerk, and they made me wash dishes. The experience taught me to never forget where you come from. I also did a stint as an assistant meat manager and worked one day a week in the accounting department. I relate to working in many different silos in the company. While there are silos within the business, all areas need to work together for the greater good.

This is a unique industry. For a lot of people, grocery is their first job. Some are looking for a career and some are not. Some are educated and others are not. Starting at entry level helped me to understand what we need to bring as a leadership team. We have to be a company that educates and trains. I came in not knowing exactly where I wanted to go and fell in love with the people. I recognize that it’s people who ultimately run a grocery store because I was one of them.

Bristol Farms has experienced a number of ownership changes in the last 20 years. How has being under the Emart-owned Good Food Holdings umbrella positioned Bristol Farms for future growth?

Emart has really pushed us to take a long-term growth perspective—to look at what businesses we should build and drive, including e-commerce. It’s given us a lot more range for growth beyond just opening new stores.

What’s next for Bristol Farms in the digital space?

From a tech standpoint, a lot of what we’re trying to do is enhance e-commerce and drive QSR delivery and pickup. With e-commerce, our goal and strategic vision needs to remain the same as it is for our physical stores. It’s not just boxes of food on a page.

As an experiential brand, Bristol Farms depends on the tastes, smells, sights and sounds in our stores. We are looking at how best to bring our knowledge base of selling goods and services in-store onto a digital platform. Being an experiential brand, we can’t just show up to e-commerce like everyone else. Our mantra is creative innovation.

Lightning Round

Other than Bristol Farms, what’s your favorite store to shop and why?

Bass Pro Shops. I love the way they create zones in the store that are experiential. They really know what they’re doing.

What three items are always in your grocery basket?

Oat milk, gluten-free products and Bristol Farms Garlic Salsa.

Best book you’ve read in the last year?

“Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In” [by Roger Fisher and William Ury].

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