The retailer’s niche is fresh food, customer service, cleanliness and in-house value-added products.
Originally printed in the June 2023 issue of Produce Business.
Cross-merchandising is one of the strengths of the produce departments at The Fresh Market. What’s more, the co-displayed offerings are not only what you’d expect, and need, but also include some out-of-the-box suggestions that make lip-smacking sense as snack and meal solutions.
The Fresh Market, a Greensboro, NC-headquartered grocery retailer that operates 160 stores in 22 states in the Southeast, Northeast and Midwest, astutely pairs premium produce with branded and private label products to create basket-building combinations.
Case in point, an artful endcap of palm-sized Honeycrisp apples with Fresh Market brand natural peanut butter signed with the suggestion, ‘Make it Better with Nut Butter.’ Another is the berry island. There’s the whole patch — strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, plus the new, pale pink, strawberry-like pineberries — with the traditional bags of brand-name melting chocolate ready as a dip, and pound cakes from the retailer’s bakery, and also trendier, pint-sized, plastic containers of private label granola.
Yet one more creative example is the multi-case, 3-foot-high display of a popular sparkling water positioned in front of the refrigerated fresh-cut fruit bunker. In the middle of the display is space for two baskets of navel oranges and Meyer lemons, poised to make a refreshing drink and add another produce buy. These are just three examples found in The Fresh Market’s location on Bayshore Drive in Miami, one of three in this city.
“Each store, and each produce department, has varying footprints,” says Chris Romano, vice president of produce and floral. However, “all stores are known for the freshest produce and floral as well as our meat and seafood, bakery and wine/beer departments. We’re still committed to our original values of providing guests with inspiring, fresh food to make everyday eating extraordinary.”
PAST TO PRESENT
The Fresh Market’s origins date to March 5, 1982, when Ray Berry and his wife Beverly opened their first store in Greensboro’s commercial corridor of Lawndale Drive. It’s still there today. Ray left his job at The Southland Co., where he managed 3,600 7-Eleven convenience stores, and the couple devoted their life savings to bringing to brick-and-mortar life a dream inspired on a trip to Europe. That was, creating a warm inviting shopping experience filled with a curated selection of local and global fresh foods, all in the charming environs of an Old World-style food market.
The Berrys envisioned their new store as offering a more personalized grocery shopping experience than offered by the warehouse-type supermarkets popular at this time. Thus, this initial store measured 14,000 square feet and served as a blueprint for the chain. Today, this small-box chain’s stores continue to range between 18,000 to 23,000 square feet. The Berry family remain shareholders in the Fresh Market, however, in May 2022, Chilean retail company, Cencosud, acquired a 67% stake.
Of the Fresh Market’s 160 stores, over a quarter are in Florida, the most of any state in which the retailer is located. The major competition includes Publix, Walmart, Aldi, Costco and Winn Dixie. The retailer’s niche is fresh food, customer service, cleanliness and in-house value-added, with a target demographic of shoppers willing to pay for fresh and an elevated dining-at-home experience. In 2021 and 2022, The Fresh Market was named the ‘Best Supermarket in America’ in the USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards.
A GARDEN OF GOOD EATING
The front doors to the Fresh Market’s Bayshore Drive location open to a bank of manned checkout registers, each set in the open-sided wood-built outlines akin to upscale farmers market stalls. The traffic flow leads immediately through a fragrant floral display that feels like walking through a blooming arbor. A left turn opens into the produce department, where refrigerated cases are packed with offerings like stoplight stem-end displays of bell peppers, crisp un-bagged and bagged leafy greens, and a Fresh Market-brand fresh-cut section with a variety of fruits, as well as vegetable combos ready for stir-fries and sides.
Several wooden island and shelf displays showcase combo tomato and avocado displays with garlic and shallots on one end; potatoes and onions of many sizes, shapes and colors; and a sizable apple and pear selection in a vivid arrangement. Soft lighting overhead combines with more brightly illuminated refrigerated cases to create a cozy feel with a focus on the produce. And all stores have misting units.
“We carry over 400 items in our produce departments,” says Romano. “We consider ourselves produce gurus, and our training program is robust. Our produce is rotated and replenished daily.”
The Fresh Market procures directly from growers and shippers from around the world, Romano says, and most of the supply comes from North, Central and South America. “We have a local product buying team that concentrates on produce. They work directly with the growers, often spending time in the field with the growers every chance they get. They also work in our distribution centers, in addition to state programs that support local.”
“We emphasize the highest quality and in-season products, and also offer what we feel are the best and most unique items available based on best of season.”
The Fresh Market employs a director of food safety and quality control team that works with its growers, packers, shippers and distribution centers.
The Fresh Market carries more than 150 organic produce items. Almost all cooking greens and offerings in the salad vegetable selection are certified organic.
The stores offer a large assortment of ready-to-eat, cut-in-house products, Romano adds. “More than 45 stores offer fresh citrus juice, and we love our fresh, made-in-store guacamole.”
SPREADING THE WORD
Social media is part of an active promotional program and is a place where fresh produce shines. Fresh Market also sends multiple daily emails, which include deals on produce. “For example, we recently ran a BOGO (buy one, get one) deal on Sweetpops Tomatoes,” Romano explains.
“We also offer member-only pricing as part of our free Ultimate Loyalty Experience, which is included in our emails. We recently ran members-only promotions on the following items: The Fresh Market bagged spinach; limes; and red, yellow, or orange bell peppers.”
The chain has also partnered with Firework, a live commerce and omnichannel digital platform, to curate short-form videos that showcase products, including produce.
In the community, The Fresh Market partners throughout the year with Feeding America, a large U.S. hunger relief organization based in Chicago, to host fundraisers that benefit local food banks where the retailer does business. This is in addition to weekly food donations that stores provide to food banks in their communities.
“The intimate and personalized shopping experience that is still offered today is enhanced with team members who are a hallmark of The Fresh Market providing exceptional hospitality,” says Romano. “The Fresh Market Code of Conduct is designed to support our efforts to meet the needs of our guests and guide our performance.”