Fresh is on tap at Calgary Co-op, which has spent more than $25 million to renovate almost half of its 24 food stores and to increase its fresh food offerings.
By 2016, Co-op will have invested about $60 million renovating or redeveloping all its stores.
It’s all aimed at attracting a younger demographic among Co-op’s 440,000 members, says interim CEO Ken Woo. “We have older facilities that we want to rejuvenate to offer a better, fresh experience in all of our stores.”
The renovations have led to expanded fresh departments with an emphasis on local and organic fare. Baked goods, cheese, deli and meat offerings have been improved and soup, salad and curry bars have been developed.
The curry bars were added because the South-Asian population is growing rapidly and curry is becoming more popular as a mainstream item, Woo says. “We put it in one store as a trial. It took off incredibly. So we decided to roll it out to all of the stores and it’s probably one of the best things we’ve done as far as differentiating ourselves.”
As well, four of the renovated stores have Fresh to Go sections where shoppers can buy ready-to-eat meals prepared by Red Seal chefs. There is a $10 daily dinner special, the most popular of which is Wednesday’s seven ounce prime rib cut with two sides.
Woo says the renovations are “quite a large initiative for a small company like ours” but are necessary because Co-op has “probably been lagging for the last five or 10 years with very little capital investment."
The focus on fresh has paid off in the renovated stores with a noticeably younger demographic and au shift in buying patterns, he says.
A multimedia campaign is highlighting the “concept of investing in fresh as an ongoing commitment,” says Tara Kayler, marketing manager of Calgary Co-op.
With the taglines “We’re investing in fresh” and “Best fresh,” it includes a TV spot that started in August and runs until November. The ad shows a woman smelling a store’s fresh offerings – including an employee’s new uniform.
The campaign also includes radio, print, out-of-home, direct mail and digital.