01 November 2008

The Fresh & Easy

I simply love my Fresh & Easy grocery store. The name says it all! Fresh & Easy differentiates itself by: sustainability, freshness/healthy food, ease of shopping and everyday low pricing (without having to use those ridiculous loyalty cards).

Fresh & Easy is a chain of small supermarkets on the West Coast of the United States. It’s a subsidiary of the UK-based retailer Tesco, the world's fourth largest retailer, and is Tesco's attempt to expand into (economically re-colonize?) the United States. It has plans for rapid growth - the first stores opened a year ago, and there are now 93 stores in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada. (They plan to open a new one every two-and-a-half days in America, to mimic the successful expansion of pharmacy chains such as Walgreens in the U.S. Creepy or… amazing?)

Perhaps a back story on Tesco is in order. They should have been included in my anecdotal, quasi-analytic run-down of supermarkets in England. Frankly, I don’t know how I even overlooked mentioning them. Well, anyway, here it is: a day late and a dollar short. Tesco is a British-based international grocery and general merchandising retail chain. It has the largest British retailer, and in 2008, Tesco became the world's fourth largest retailer. Originally specializing in food and drink, it has “diversified” into areas such as clothing, consumer electronics, consumer financial services, retailing and renting DVDs, CDs, music downloads, Internet service, and software (among others. Read: the Wal-mart effect).

A Tesco Express store in London

Though, I have to admit, that when I was living in Manchester I frequented the Tesco Express (on an every-other-day basis). Tesco Express stores, like the Fresh & Easy groceries, are neighborhood convenience shops, stocking mainly food. They are found in busy city center districts as well as small shopping precincts in residential areas. Tesco (like the Fresh & Easy stores here, provide an simple-living solution by offering fresh, organic healthy options that are quick and easy.

A Fresh & Easy market in Las Vegas

I think that is why I love this little grocery store.  It has mostly natural and organic stuff, and most made without preservatives/artificial colors and such.  Their milk is made without cows that were fed those funky hormones.  Prices overall aren't bad, so I've gone here quite a bit for my grocery shopping, and the staff is very friendly and personable.  Only down side is that it is a bit small, so they don't have a great selection of a lot of things. But that is also to their benefit.

I think shoppers are also becoming choice fatigued and want their choices edited; I know I am overwhelmed by the number of brands of sour cream to choose from. Tesco and Fresh & Easy once again answer by only carrying private label and just the category brand leaders.

Even in their aesthetic: their stores have a look that is both green-minded and at the same time modern-minimal. Fresh & Easy has made a commitment to building eco-friendly buildings. It recycles or reuses shipping and display products. Its food transportation trailers are hybrid electric-diesel. Stores are equipped with LED lights in freezers, coolers and for outdoor signage. Their stores even have reserved parking for hybrid cars.

And lastly, people are not cooking as much but are more sophisticated about eating. Fresh & Easy’s answer: outstanding take-away meals at a great value. They put together many pre-prepared (refrigerated, not frozen) fresh foods that are healthy in a sort of suburban-chic way that one might think are from a trendy restaurant if they were removed from their packaging and served on a plate.

But I have to say their stores (no matter which one you patronize) are easy to navigate! So I guess the store lives up to its name.

Anyway, there is the low-down on grocery culture in Vegas.