Previewing San Francisco's New Fresh & Easy Markets
|Fresh & Easy's prepared salads are attractively packaged.|
Owned by Tesco, Fresh & Easy opened 160 stores in Southern California, Arizona, and Nevada in the space of five years, and has now headed north, reportedly opening 13 stores in the Bay Area. The Richmond store (375 32nd Ave. at Clement) is San Francisco's first; a second location at Third and Carroll is scheduled to launch August 24, and a third at Silver and Goettingen should follow at a later date. A F&E representative just confirmed to SFoodie that the company is planning to move into the former DeLano's on South Van Ness and 23rd St., but can't estimate an opening date.
So what is the store going to be like? SFoodie drove to Pacifica last week to check out Fresh & Easy.
|The Pacifica Fresh & Easy store's exterior.|
|Fresh & Easy's microwaveable "steamer" meals, most under $5.|
"All Fresh & Easy products contain no artificial colors, no artificial flavors, no added trans fats, no high-fructose corn syrup," trumpet signs around the store, and the meals are refrigerated -- not frozen -- with expiration dates set within a day or two. SFoodie can't say that the salmon with honey-mustard sauce, baby spinach, and roasted potatoes that we tried was to our taste, but we're DIY cooks -- it was better than half of the frozen meals we've tried.
The rest of the shelves are stocked with a mix of mainstream and proprietary brands -- we'd estimate 40 percent of the merchandise is Fresh & Easy -- and while there's a small produce section (again, think Trader Joe's), all of it is prepackaged and much of it is cut up for steaming, roasting, or sauteing.
The strangest thing is that SFoodie had a hard time identifying the store's intended market. The flavors and labels in the dishes aren't terribly aspirational, as at Whole Foods (think organic lemongrass-spiked coconut water), and there was no talk of sourcing and very little certified organic food. But the products also weren't salted and sugared up. According to the Economist piece, Fresh & Easy likes to simultaneously open in both lower-income urban areas like Bayview and higher-income suburban areas such as Pacifica and Danville, confounding expectations and appealing, therefore, to more of us. SFoodie is curious, even a little eager, to see how it does here.