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Wegmans And The Attack Of The Pods

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, September 26, 2006

Here is an interesting piece of video from a local Rochester TV station in which they explore the new Wegmans concept being experimented with in the flagship Pittsford store. As Wegmans’ Executive Chef Eric Wendorff describes them:

“What we have here is a concept…we’re calling them pods. They’re really bars that are quick meal solutions.”

Right now they have a vegetarian pod that has salads, vegetable tapas and smoothies. They also have a chef preparing dishes at a Seafood pod. They are also planning an Italian Pod and a meat station. Everything can be eaten in store or taken home.

If it works, it might not only be rolled out to other Wegmans’ stores but could be a focus that enables Wegmans to open more foodservice, fresh-food-oriented stores in smaller, more urban locations.

Sounds almost like the Tesco Fresh and Easy format that is being introduced to the West Coast. Except more urban. We covered that concept here and here.

Wegmans seems to not want to build more stores with its current format. Without a doubt, part of that is that such a market innovator as Wegmans wants to do new and interesting things.

Still, there are a lot of what, to an outsider, look like really great concepts that expand very slowly, if at all. For example, H E. Butt’s Central Market concept.

Some of this is the difficulty of finding the right demographics to make a concept work, but it is also true that a lot of appealing stores don’t earn an attractive return on capital.

Smaller, more urban stores, heavy to perishables and prepared foods, are less competitive with warehouse clubs, supercenters, dollar stores, etc., and attract less price-sensitive clientele, which might give an opportunity to earn the margins needed to justify the investment in new stores.

Readers of the Perishable Pundit should take particular note that this Wegmans initiative focuses on perishables as a food, not an ingredient, and avoids all the artificial separations of departmental walls.

PUNDIT BONUS: There is another interesting video on the same news program showing how the consumer media is portraying the entry of spinach back into the market.

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