The Future Of Fresh & Easy

FRESH & EASY STOREThis guest post comes from Adrian Whitefoord director and co founder of the design consultancy Pemberton & Whitefoord (P&W) a longstanding branding partner of Fresh & Easy and Tesco.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAP&W Weighs In On The Future Of Fresh & Easy
Close watchers of the grocery industry may have learned that Tesco is undertaking a strategic review of Fresh & Easy to assess its future under Tesco’s stewardship. It was a bold brand experiment never attempted before—on many levels. U.K.-based grocery giant Tesco came to America with a concept ahead of its time.

The concept was a new brand for this retailer offering convenient, better-for-you prepared foods, fresh produce and common staples brought to local neighborhoods. Tesco planned a first-phase rollout of over 200 innovative Fresh & Easy markets in California, Arizona, and Nevada over six years. They invested in an aggressive private label strategy with sophisticated branding and package design. They enlisted London-based design agency P&W to create a solid, flexible brand foundation that could expand into dozens of category-specific directions. Working in collaboration with the Deutsch advertising agency in L.A., the new brand was born.

The best faces forward
Fresh & Easy launched with 1000+ “all-natural” private brand; within four years, that increased to 3000+. The heavy emphasis on private brand meant the strategy for implementation was storewide. Products ranged from everyday core products to specialty kids foods to premium adult indulgence.

All Fresh & Easy products adhered to comprehensive food safety regulations. Beyond that, strict food policies of no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives—as well as no high fructose corn syrup or trans fats in any of their products—were set to revolutionize the U.S. market.

Focusing on values of honesty, good quality, simplicity, and health-consciousness, P&W created a fresh, uncluttered consumer experience that would engender loyalty to Fresh & Easy Private Brand products.

The philosophies that guided the extensive Fresh & Easy design work were attended to with great thoughtfulness. P&W’s loving dedication as brand guardians, and the ability to remain creatively agile, made for a fruitful client/agency relationship.

FRESH & EASY CEREALBrand value = business value
Fresh & Easy’s brand promise goes beyond consistent quality to continual improvement. Recipes are reviewed and refined, healthier ingredients are sourced, and salt content is reduced whenever possible.

Fresh & Easy is innovative in a number of ways. From a product development standpoint, the brand introduced the U.S. to “facts up front,” a nutrition labeling system that brings key aspects of the nutrition panel from the back of package to the front. At the time it was implemented on Fresh & Easy products, similar systems were in place in the U.K. A voluntary labeling system is now gaining substantial momentum in the U.S.

Fresh & Easy skillfully managed to introduce innovation after innovation, from the aggressive new product development (NPD) program for private label to the intuitive self-checkout stations. Both of these are now a big part of competitors’ models.

Even though the package designs have been recognized dozens of times in graphic design awards programs, as well as by the British DBA Design Effectiveness Awards program, the most important measure of the designs’ success has been customers’ positive reactions—and loyalty

The Fresh & Easy stores have become a trusted shopping destination that loyal shoppers plan their day around.

“I like the concept. Fresh, healthful foods that have less additives via their own label.”
2012, May T., San Francisco, CA

“The main reason I love this place: their self-name brand prepared food.”
2012, Mon S., Concord, CA

F&E - FRESH ICED TEAS-smallPrivate brand revolution
Over the last 10 years, private brand in the U.S. has ushered in a new way to think about store brands. Private label brands are now managed in a similar way to long-dominant national brands.

The success of private brand campaigns relies on consistent quality. The parent (retail) brand contains the brand promise. Fresh & Easy starts with its name as a brand promise. The “Fresh” part is self-explanatory. The “Easy” part can be interpreted several ways, including “convenient” and “time-saving.” These elements co-exist in the logo’s clock-apple device affectionately known as the “clapple.”

Other retailers have taken note of these changes in consumer habits and invested heavily in their own programs in recent years. They do say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!

“We’re seeing significant momentum in our private brands,” said President and CEO Gregory Wasson. “We’ve invested heavily in our own brands, including Walgreens, Delish, Nice! and many more, and year-over-year private brand penetration in our front-end sales improved 200 basis points to 22 percent.”

Walgreen First Quarter 2013 Earnings Conference Call.

Revolutionizing the U.S. retail world was no mean ambition, but perhaps the slow burn of it was not quick enough for this fast-paced retailer. Many signs indicate that the brand is living and growing. Just not fast enough, it seems.

Whatever the future holds for F&E, we hope that the brand and stores can be sold intact, so that the Fresh & Easy can mature to its fullest potential. We are proud to be a part of such a unique experience with a revolutionary company and hope to continue our work with this innovative brand.