Tesco’s Fresh & Easy was a bold experiment never attempted before in the US. Offering convenient, better-for-you prepared foods, fresh produce and common staples in local neighbourhoods, it was different from existing convenience propositions - and more risky, especially launching as it did just before the recession.
Although Tesco has now announced it is pulling out of the US, this does not mean the whole venture was a failure, however. The retailer has, in fact, achieved a number of notable successes.
For one, it had planned a first-phase roll-out of more than 200 innovative Fresh & Easy markets in California, Arizona, and Nevada over six years, and wasn’t far off with 199. As co-founder of PW, the London-based design agency involved, I’m slightly biased, but in my view it also developed a compelling brand proposition with our help and that of the Deutsch agency in LA.
Fresh & Easy launched with 1,000-plus ‘all-natural’ own-label products. Within four years, that had increased to 3,000-plus. The emphasis on own label meant the strategy for implementation was store-wide. Products ranged from everyday core products to speciality and premium foods.
Strict policies on no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives, as well as no high fructose corn syrup or trans fats in any of its private-label products, were set to revolutionise the US market. Fresh & Easy also introduced innovation after innovation, from an aggressive NPD programme for own label to the intuitive self-checkout stations. Tellingly, both of these are now a big part of competitors’ models.
Customers responded to the offer - and awardwinning packaging designs - with loyalty. Fresh & Easy stores have become a trusted shopping destination.
Revolutionising US retail was no mean ambition, but clearly, the pace was not quick enough for Tesco. The signs were that the brand was growing, just not fast enough, it seems. Whatever the future holds for F&E, we hope the brand and stores can be sold intact, so it can mature to its fullest potential. We are proud to be a part of such a unique experience and hope to continue our work with this innovative brand.
Adrian Whitefoord co-founded P&W Design Consultants in 1987