Community Natural Foods has re-opened its doors in downtown Calgary after undergoing a major renovation. The revamp of the flagship store, located in the Beltline area, is part of a five-year strategy that was developed when Calgary Co-op acquired Community Natural Foods in 2019.
“One of the things we talked about was it’s great that we have a rich, 40-year history, but we wanted to make sure we had a health food store that fit the 21st century,” says Adam Martin, general manager of Community Natural Foods, which has two other locations in Calgary. “Especially as a flagship store, we wanted to portray to the public, ‘here’s where our company is going… and here’s what health food can look like as we continue to move forward.’”
One of the main aspects of the renovation was to create a “vibrant, alive” customer experience, says Martin.
To start, the 100% organic produce section was moved to the front of the store, in a space formerly occupied by Community Café. “Like a lot of other stores, we wanted a beautiful lead-in with produce,” says Martin. He adds that Community Natural Foods buys as much as it can directly from farmers and has a long history building relationships with farmers. “We wanted the story of family farms and how we procure to be [front and centre] as customers walk in the store.”
The café has been moved back slightly and features a new menu, including fresh juices and smoothies, burgers, pizzas, burritos, soups, salads and power bowls. There are options for a range of dietary preferences including gluten free, low sugar, paleo, keto and vegan. There’s also a new self-serve kiosk for contactless ordering.
“Community Café was a very traditional buffet-based café, and so we had to rethink our entire menu and make sure it was going to be appropriate and meet our customers’ needs in a post-pandemic world,” says Martin.
However, the grocer is sticking to its roots in bulk, a category that also had a questionable future during the pandemic. Martin notes that when Community Natural Foods opened 40 years ago, it was primarily a bulk store. “Even with everything that has happened in the pandemic, we really believe in the importance of bulk and the importance of waste free,” he says. “In general during the pandemic, people moved away from some of the waste-free trends that were happening. We want to pick up that torch and lead the way with a lot of that as quickly as possible.”
Community Natural Foods has expanded its bulk offering to include more baking essentials, herbs, snacks and cereals, cooking sauces, personal care items, cleaning products, and more. All products were transitioned to gravity bins, which means customers don’t have to scoop the items.
The health and wellness section was expanded by converting 1,500 sq. ft. of back-of-house space into selling space. Seven-foot shelves were replaced with four-foot shelves to improve sightlines in the section, which is staffed with wellness experts. “The interaction that staff have with customers is critical, and so being able to know where the customers are and know when they might have questions [provides customers] with a high level of engagement that we’re known for.”
As for the other locations potentially getting a facelift, Martin says, “I would be very comfortable in saying there is a desire to continue to be a leader in the city of Calgary. That means having modernized stores and having a solid footprint across the breadth of the entire city. And so, I think there will be some exciting news coming our customers’ way in the coming months.”