Extreme Transparency – Artisan Private Brand At Local San Francisco Grocer

San Francisco based premium specialty  grocery Bi-Rite Market was featured this past week  in an article in the San Francisco daily newspaper the San Francisco Chronicle. Bi-Rite Market has a new line of prepared products called Public Label, including jams and pickles made with produce from local farms. With recipes created in the market’s kitchen, some products are made in-house while others are produced in partnership with Happy Girl Kitchen and Community Action Marin Foodworks.

Bi-Rite/Marquita Farms Pickled Green Garlic (left) and Kohirabi Kraut as seen in San Francisco, California on Wednesday, August 22, 2012. Photo: Craig Lee, Special To The Chronicle / SF

Bi-Rite already has house-made deli and baked goods, and a line of “curated” Private Brand products like olive oil and wine, but with the new brand it wants to “turn the private label on its head by sharing where the ingredients are from,” said Kirsten Bourne, the company’s marketing director.

In some cases, Bi-Rite uses gleaned fruits and vegetables – produce that might otherwise be left in the fields because the cost of harvest is too high – purchased from farms like Mariquita near Watsonville. This is an unparalleled level of transparency that should put the “mega marts” and “super grocers” on notice

For those of you unfamiliar with the Bi-Rite Market the Bi-Rite Family of businesses includes Bi-Rite Creamery & BakeshopBi-Rite Farms,  Bi-Rite Catering and a community education center, 18 Reasons, whose motto “Learn. Think. Do.”  Is designed to bring people together to deepen their relationship to food and each other. Their website includes this great history.

From the time it opened in 1940, Bi-Rite Market has been a Mission District institution.

The Mogannam family has owned the market since 1964, with brothers Ned and Jack operating it for the first 26 years. Back then it was the sort of market where neighborhood housewives could do all their daily shopping and police officers stopped by on their daily beats. Ned’s sons Sam and Raph spent their childhood stocking the grocery shelves after school and on weekends, never dreaming of owning the store one day.

Sam and Raph took over the store from their father and uncle in 1997, maintaining the classic art deco façade and the original neon sign celebrated in Michael F. Crowe’s book ‘Deco by the Bay’. Formerly the chef/owner of his own restaurant in downtown San Francisco, Sam brought a restaurant perspective to the grocery store, focusing on genuine service above all else: when a customer walked through the door of Bi-Rite, they would be treated like a guest in our own home. As a chef, Sam insisted on stocking cooking ingredients of the highest quality, taste, and freshness. Sam renovated the space, installing a full kitchen; for the first time in the city, restaurant-quality food was available for take-out.

Bi-Rite continues to be a family affair. Sam is the owner, Raph is the head grocery buyer, Mom and Dad Mogannam still help out at the market, and several staff members have been part of the family for years, going back to the days of Sam’s restaurant. Bi-Rite Market evolves along with 18th Street and Dolores Park; as a hub of relaxation, activism, and good eats, our block has become a beating heart of San Francisco!

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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.