Stop & Shop parent company Royal Ahold NV has long let that chain serve as its regional representation in New England. But by debuting a new brand in Allston this month, called bfresh, Ahold is putting a different foot forward in Boston.
bfresh spokeswoman Suzi Robinson said the new store’s mission is defined in its name.
“There’s definitely a big market for an emphasis on fresh,’’ she said.
The 10,000-square-foot store is located in the heart of Allston and just shy of the Brookline boundary, in a space occupied by Staples until a May closure. It opened quietly in early September, and is holding a grand opening ceremony Friday.
Robinson said freshness has grown increasingly important to consumers in recent years.
“The company has recognized consumers have for some time been very conscious about the food they’re eating,’’ she said.
The new store touts a wide produce selection, as well as a prepared foods section that focuses on made-to-order sandwiches, stir fry, pizza, and more. Organic food is also a priority, Robinson said, and bfresh also intends to source as locally from New England as possible. The store also aims to be a full-service grocer, however, and sells everything from soda to Goldfish to magazines.
bfresh is owned by Fresh Formats, a new subsidiary of Ahold, which is based in the Netherlands. bfresh is operated completely independently of Stop & Shop, said Robinson, who previously worked for Stop & Shop.
Kevin Griffin, the publisher of The Griffin Report on Food Marketing, said launching a new chain is the best bet for Ahold to really experiment with the fresh market format in the U.S.
“They didn’t call it Stop & Shop Fresh. … It’s an opportunity to try and reinvent themselves and establish a new brand,’’ Griffin said. “The way consumers are shopping nowadays has changed dramatically since Stop & Shop came up over the years.’’
Griffin said Stop & Shop’s format—a full-scale supermarket with mid-range prices—leaves it “kind of stuck in the middle of the spectrum’’ as upscale stores like Whole Foods, discount stores, and specialty stores grow in prominence. The same could be said of Hannaford, the northern New England supermarket chain owned by Delhaize Group, which Ahold is merging with.
bfresh, however, gives Ahold a chance to present a new look to New England while capitalizing on several trending focues in the supermarket industry: smaller urban locations, fresh foods, and prepared foods.
“They’re a company that’s well-established and [Stop & Shop] is a great brand, but they’re known as a traditional grocery store,’’ Griffin said.
Other groecers in Allston include Star Market, Super 88 Market, and a number of ethnic markets. A bfresh cousin—a large-scale Super Stop & Shop—is also within walking distance, and the Brighton Whole Foods isn’t much further. Robinson declined to discuss the competitive landscape, but said bfresh intends to offer “surprisingly affordable prices,’’ which may signal a contrast bfresh hopes to make with Whole Foods.
A second bfresh store is planned for Fairfield, Connecticut before the end of the year. There are no current plans for further expansion, Robinson said.
Meanwhile, downtown, Boston Public Market opened this summer: