Walgreens eyes expansion into food arena
by Tim Linden | June 06, 2010
It is a foregone conclusion that Walgreens will increase its food offerings,
including some fresh produce, but when and where hasn't been determined
yet, according to company spokesperson Tiffani Washington.
Ms. Washington said that Director of Fresh Foods Jim Jensen and Vice
President of Merchandising Bryan Pugh, both of whom are stationed in the
large retailer’s Deerfield, IL, headquarters, are in charge of the project.
"They are currently looking at several different options and eventually we will
be testing a number of options in different markets," Ms. Washington
Walgreens, which has 7,500 stores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia
and Puerto Rico, wants to capitalize on its locations in the nation’s urban
centers, said Ms. Washington, adding that it sees itself as a convenient outlet
that could fill a need in the “grab and go” arena.
For breakfast, lunch and even dinner, Ms. Washington said that consumers
are making decisions on the run and Walgreens would like to capture some of
that business. This option includes ready-to-eat products such as salads,
fresh fruit and fresh-cut fruit.
Ms. Washington said that another option would be designed to capitalize on
the lack of planning that research shows occurs for the dinner meal every
“I have heard Bryan Pugh (the chain’s vice president of merchandising) say
many times that 75 percent of U.S. households do not know what they are
having for dinner by 4 p.m. each day,” said Ms. Washington.
Because of the traffic it generates and its location, Walgreens believes it is
well situated to cater to these late-deciding consumers. She said that
offerings to this segment might include items such as a pasta bar, entrée-
type salads and even a small section of produce.
While Walgreens is well known as the nation’s largest drugstore chain, Ms.
Washington said that the company does have limited food offerings in its
stores, and it has already experimented in two locations in Chicago with an
expanded food section.
Noting the criticism that urban areas are often referred to as “food deserts”
because of their lack of retail food outlets, the Walgreens spokesperson said
that the retailer appears to be in the perfect position to address that need.
With its many locations in downtown, she said it can offer more retail food to
that underserved urban population.
The Chicago experiment will be expanded to an additional eight stores later
this year. She said the expanded food sections specifically include more fresh
food, such as fresh produce, and the items are designed to appeal to
shoppers looking for something fast, convenient and that they can eat on the
go. She added that many produce items fit that description.
Ms. Washington did speak specifically to the inevitability of this effort, but
she said that Walgreens has already determined that it does want to expand
its food offerings. The question is not “If?”, but “When and where?”
Walgreens’ entry into the fresh food arena follows a growing trend by other
large retailers in the recent past.
Of course, Wal-Mart has transitioned into the nation’s largest food retailer
from its earlier perch atop the list of general merchandise providers. That
two-decades-old effort is currently being imitated by Target, another general
merchandise retailer that is currently implementing plans to become a major