AKRON, Ohio -- Fred W. Albrecht Grocery Co. here is launching Fresh Market, a new format that will emphasize freshly prepared, ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat foods.
The retailer is aiming for a piece of the home meal replacement market, according to observers.
The company will spend more than $30 million to introduce Fresh Market -- revamping as many as 20 of its 30 stores over the next 10 years, local sources said. The chain currently operates units under the Acme Markets and Y-Mart banners and does not plan to expand them during the transformation process.
Sources said the company is spending $6 million alone during its current Fresh Market prototype remodel at a North Canton, Ohio, superstore. About 30,000 square feet of that 81,000-square-foot unit will be devoted to "meal replacement," a local source said. The meal replacement area will include a cafe with tables and chairs and a large, open-preparation area designed to underscore the food's freshness, according to local sources. A chef will also be added to the staff at that location.
Earlier this month, the chain unveiled a miniature version of Fresh Market's look -- complete with a small food court -- in a renovated store in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
The 40,000-square-foot unit now features a made-to-order Caesar salad station, hot pizza, chicken and a cappuccino bar, all at the front of the store. Previously, the only prepared foods that were offered -- fried and roasted chicken -- were merchandised near the deli, which is in the back of the store. There is no food court seating.
Fred W. Albrecht officials declined to elaborate on the Fresh Market format and the Cuyahoga Falls preview version.
However, a local news report said the Fresh Market format will feature an "Italian market look," with low ceilings, direct lighting fixtures and moveable display cases constructed from wood.
According to the news report, Sam Stites, Albrecht's senior vice president, emphasized that aroma will be a draw into the fresh foods area.
"We want them [customers] to get hungry. We want them to feel like they just walked into their kitchen," Stites was quoted as saying.
Stites also indicated that the chain's long history in northern Ohio gives it a good handle on how to vary product mix to address customers' needs at a particular location.