Monday, December 13, 2010

House (Sparking) Cider Rules at Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market

Private Brand Showcase

Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market has introduced a new, two-item line of sparkling cider under its 'fresh&easy' private brand, just in time for the Christmas and New Year's holiday season, which is the key retailing period for the fizzy, fruit-flavored non-alcoholic beverages.

The house brand sparking cider (pictured at top) comes in two varieties - apple and grape. Apple is the leading flavor in the sparkling cider category in the U.S., followed by grape.

Both varieties of the 'fresh&easy' Sparkling Cider retail in the stores everyday for $2.29 bottle. This week Fresh & Easy has the items on promotion at $1.99 bottle.

The packaging for the sparkling ciders was designed for Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market by London-based international design firm P&W, which has a solid history of product-packaging design in the United Kingdom for parent company Tesco, and has designed the packaging for numerous fresh&easy brand lines and items since the grocer began creating its private brand products at corporate headquarters in El Segundo, California in 2006-2007.

Sparkling ciders are primarily seasonal specialty beverage items in terms of sales frequency and movement. Category sales in the U.S. are highest during the Christmas and New Year's holiday period. Sales of the beverages also spikes during other festive holidays, such as Easter, Valentines Day and (particularly of apple) Halloween.

The fizzy and fruity beverages have also become a beverage choice of consumers for celebrations like birthdays and similar personal events because they offer a non-alcoholic but still festive option for their guests.

Emphasis on niche, specialty products

The new sparkling cider line fits with what has been the primary emphasis of Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market's 'fresh&easy' private brand new product development in the shelf-stable dry grocery and beverage segment over the last two years. That focus: Specialty or niche-oriented packaged goods products, including those with natural/organic and premium attributes.

For example, the Tesco-owned fresh food and grocery chain recently introduced a new line of imported premium chocolate cookies under its 'fresh&easy' brand.

Packaging for the cookie line was also designed by P&W.

The cookies, which are covered in Belgian chocolate and have a variety of different fillings, come in four varieties: Orange flavored Belgian Dark Chocolate; Coconut Belgian White Chocolate; Caramel Belgian Milk Chocolate; and Hazelnut Belgian Milk Chocolate (pictured below).
Another recent example of Fresh & Easy's specialty foods private brand focus include bagged plantain chips, which we wrote about in Private Brand Showcase in October - October 16, 2010: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market 'Bags' the Humble and Nutritious Plantain For A New Snack Chip Item. The niche item focuses on both specialty and natural attributes.

Two other recent examples of the specialty focus are the line of' 'fresh&easy' brand kids' cereal and fruit candies, both introduced earlier this year. See -October 16, 2010: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market's Private Brand Kids' Cereal Wins Bronze 'Pentaward' in 2010 Packaging Design Competition. Also see - July 17, 2010: New Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Clock-Shaped Private Brand Candy Line Hits the Shelves at Fresh & Easy and June 24, 2010: New Fresh & Easy Clock Logo-Shaped Candies Are A Pretty Sweet Idea.

The kids' cereal line focuses on a niche market - kids - which makes it a specialty-oriented item rather than a mass-market one. The candies, which are in the shape of Fresh & Easy's clock logo, are niche and specialty-oriented as well, based on their unique shape and flavor profile.

The 'fresh&easy' brand is the fresh food and grocery chain's primary house brand.

Brand 'eatwell'

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market's other private brands include 'eatwell,' which it introduced early this year, starting with a line of ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat fresh-prepared foods. [See - April 2, 2010: Fresh & Easy's New 'EatWell' Healthier Fresh, Prepared Foods Brand to Hit Stores on April 7.]

The 'eatwell' brand is positioned as Fresh & Easy's healthy foods' brand, similar to what Safeway Stores has done with its 'Eating Right' brand, which it introduced a few years ago and has continued to expand. 'Eat Well' is approaching $1 billion in annual sales, according to Safeway Stores, Inc. CEO Steve Burd. To put the 'Eating Right' brand's sales in perspective, $1 billion is nearly double the most recently reported annual sales for Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market.

Over the summer, Tesco's Fresh & Easy then extended its 'eatwell' brand into the dry grocery category, introducing a canned chili item under the healthy foods' house brand. [See - August 18, 2010: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Extending 'eatwell' Healthy Foods' Private Brand Into Dry Grocery Category

Most recently, the grocer extended 'eatwell' into the frozen foods category, when it introduced a line of frozen meal items, based on the varieties of the 'eatwell' fresh-prepared foods entrees adn side-dishes, in September, as we reported on exclusively. [See - September 27, 2010: First Items in Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market's 'eatwell' Brand Frozen Foods Line Arriving in Store Freezer Cases This Week.

Brand 'fresh&easy' 'goodness'

This year Fresh & Easy also expanded its 'fresh&easy goodness' co-branded (goodness is the primary brand name but the packaging also includes fresh&easy as a secondary brand name) line, which is targeted to kids as a healthy foods' alternative. [ See - August 29, 2010: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Expanding its fresh&easy 'goodness' Co-Branded Line; Launching Numerous New Items.]

Tesco's Fresh & Easy meighborhood Market is in the process of developing a number of new food and beverage items under the 'fresh&easy goodness' brand. The new items are scheduled to be introduced into the stores early next year, according to our sources.

Cousin (Trader) Joe

Fresh & Easy's dry grocery category private brand focus is looking even closer today to the Trader Joe's model and strategy than it did when the first Fresh & Easy stores opened in November 2007, as the 155-store Tesco-owned fresh food and grocery chain has increasingly focused on specialty-oriented packaged goods products, especially under its flagship fresh&easy house brand, as we detailed earlier.

From the start, Southern California-based Trader Joe's private brand product strategy, as well as its numerous store brands and products, were a model for Tesco's Fresh & Easy. The original Fresh & Easy corporate category managers who created the first fresh&easy brand products, for example, were told to look to TJ's efforts - and private brand products on the store shelves - for inspiration and ideas. And they did. That hasn't changed today.

But there's already a Trader Joe's, which happens to be considered to have the best private or retailer brand development program - and most favored store brands - of any grocery chain in the U.S., by what arguably is a majority of industry experts, as well as by consumers.

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market's private brand efforts aren't a complete clone of what Trader Joe's does. For example, Fresh & Easy offers numerous basic grocery products under the brand, while the majority of store brand items in Trader Joe's stores are specialty, natural and organic category packaged goods items.

But the similarities are extremely strong - and as we've suggested Fresh & Easy's private brand focus is in the specialty segment - which begs the question: Is there room for two small-format grocers, with stores in California, Nevada and Arizona, with very similar private brand category (specialty/premium/natural/organic) strategies and product offerings, particularly in the dry grocery packaged goods category?

Time will tell. After all, three are a lot of stomachs and kitchen pantries in the three Western U.S. states. But there's also an increasing number of grocer's, led by Trader Joe's, mining similar private brand grocery product retail ore as well.

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