A Conversation with Fresh Direct’s Emma Fuerst Frelinghuysen

freshdirect-truckFresh Direct, the online grocer that serves the New York City and Philadelphia metro areas, is launching two new Private Brands The move comes after they announced earlier this year a partnership with Daymon Worldwide to support the retailer’s Private Brand portfolio. While in Chicago for the annual PLMA trade show I had the opportunity to meet Emma Fuerst Frelinghuysen, senior director of Private Brands for Fresh Direct and learn more about the future of Private Brands at Fresh Direct.

Emma Fuerst FrelinghuysenCD. Can you give us some background on FreshDirect?
FreshDirect is a premium online fresh food and grocery retailer. Fresh food is often directly sourced from a range of organic, sustainable, grass-fed, heritage breeds and fair-trade farmers and organizations across the United States that focus on growing the best-tasting, sustainable foods in the world, with many located within a 300-mile radius of the FreshDirect service area.

We offer daily quality ratings to help consumers determine exactly how fresh the items are upon purchase, before they are hand-packed, loaded onto refrigerated trucks and delivered directly to their doorsteps.

After more than a decade of creating brand loyalty and trust with our customers, we’re excited to take our mission to the next level by officially entering the private brand space.

CD. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to the world of Private Brand?
I had been working on the merchandising team at FreshDirect for about five years before starting to develop our private brand. Given my previous roles in merchandising, brand management and marketing it was an exciting next step.

CD. What is the importance of Private Brands to Fresh Direct?
We knew our customers wanted products with our name on it. We had offered FreshDirect branded items in a few categories and saw tremendous demand for those products. Given our expertise in sourcing on the fresh side, we felt that could easily translate into great quality unique products in the packaged goods areas.

CD. How did you develop the strategy for the Private Brand portfolio and its development?
Feedback from our customers was integral in developing our private brands. They told us they were tired of being duped with all of the confusing claims that were in the market and trusted our products. Building on the loyalty we’ve established with our customers by focusing on healthy, fresh, local and sustainable foods, we wanted to deliver a product around transparency and wholesome ingredients. Our two private brands, JUST FreshDirect and Cloud 9, will offer customers high-quality, high-value alternatives to national brands and take the guess-work out of grocery shopping.

CD. How did research and your customer impact brand development?
Our customers have guided us every step of the way. We have used surveys, focus groups and an understanding of our customers’ shopping preferences to inform our strategy and decisions around execution.

Fresh Direct - Cloud nine 2CD. Tell us about Cloud 9
Cloud 9 is about high quality, effective products in the household and cleaning categories that our customers can count on to get the job right. For our Cloud 9 products, we worked to provide value to consumers by offering more product at a lower price, through larger rolls and more units. Our tagline is “Top quality products with prices grounded in reality.” All Cloud 9 products offer the technology and features customers desire, at an approximately 20% lower price than the national equivalent.

JUST FreshDirectCD. Tell us about Just Fresh Direct
EFF. JUST FreshDirect will include food products with a focus on simple, short ingredient statements, wholesome ingredients and transparency when it comes to what’s in each product. One of the key elements to our JUST FreshDirect brand is that we have a list of prohibited ingredients.

CD. How are your customers responding to the new brands?
We are only selling Cloud 9 right now, but the sales are exceeding our expectations.

CD. What does the future look like for Private Brands at Fresh Direct?
At FreshDirect we are always looking to innovate across all categories.  In fact, just this past year we opened our flower market, began selling pet products, and are now entering the private brand space in a major way. We have plans to launch over 150 new private brand products in 2014, so we will be busy. We also have more brands in the works so expect more exciting news over the next year.

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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.