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What does the future hold for Sobeys' South Asian store?

Chalo FreshCo expansion plans to be determined on a market-by-market basis

Sobeys will look at opportunities to introduce its new Chalo FreshCo brand into more communities to take advantage of the fact South Asians represent one of the largest and fastest growing population groups in Canada.

So says Rob Adams, general manager of FreshCo, on the heels of last week’s official opening of its first South Asian-focused Chalo FreshCo discount supermarket in Brampton, Ont.

“Any expansion plans will be determined on a market-by-market basis, to ensure our opportunities align with our commitment to meeting the needs of our customers,” Adams told Canadian Grocer.

However, the current focus is on ensuring the first Chalo FreshCo store succeeds by “providing customers with the right assortment of South Asian products and services at low discount prices and exceptional customer experiences.”

At 50,000 square feet, the new store is FreshCo’s biggest discount grocery store in Ontario, he says.

The store has more than 6,000 international items, Adams says. South Asian brands include India Gate, Lal Quilla, Radikal, Kohinoor, Udupi and Tilda for rice, MDH, National, Laziza, Shan, Mother Recipe and Priyas for spices, Deep, Aman, Desi, Swat and Verka for lentils and Bikano, Bikaji, Deep, Mirch Mas, Yumkeenze and Surati for snacks.

Among its other offerings are fresh produce, full service seafood, halal and non-halal meat counters. Aman Meat Shop, Al Marwa Sunrise Meats and Starfish Market are supplying new store’s full-service seafood, halal meat and non-halal meat counters.

The store also contains the Indian restaurant Amaya, which already sells its branded products in Longo’s, Metro, Loblaws and Whole Foods.

Adams says the decor at Chalo FreshCo is designed to capture the colours and styles of South Asian influence. “Bright colours and impactful signage draw attention to our expanded assortment in rice, lentils, flour and bulk foods,” he says.

The new store has created more than 100 new jobs in the Brampton community.

Advertising for the store includes the phrase "Variety. Value. Vah!" The word vah means wow in many South Asian cultures.

Before opening Chalo FreshCo, Sobeys conducted extensive quantitative and qualitative research among both to better understand the needs of South Asian and non-South Asian consumers and how the grocer could serve them, Adams says. “We also worked with our vendor partners and external experts in the South Asian space to refine our strategy and go-to-market offering.”

Adams says many FreshCo stores already offer ethnic assortments that cater to local communities but that Chalo FreshCo is its first grocery store dedicated to offering the South Asian community with one-stop shopping.

Brampton was chosen for the first Chalo FreshCo ethnic grocery store “as there was a unique opportunity and need in the market,” Adams says. Reasons for opening the new store there included “the high South Asian population in the community, their existing familiarity with the FreshCo brand and our familiarity with catering to this market.”

In a Retail Analysis last week, IGD noted that the ethnic sector offers grocery retailers in Canada a significant growth opportunity, given that about 30% of Canadians are expected to be a member of a visible minority group by 2031, with South Asians expected to be the largest group.

FreshCo, Sobeys’ discount supermarket chain, was established in 2010. There are currently 88 FreshCo stores, all in Ontario.

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