The Shelby Report’s Southwest VP Jan Meade toured the brand spanking new Market Street in Frisco with Mary Myers, senior communications and community relations manager at United Supermarkets. This is an edited and condensed version of their conversation as they made the rounds, starting in the produce section and continuing through to the grocer’s StreetSide grocery pickup area.
Jan Meade: Tell me about “Enjoy Free Fruit for Kids” in the produce section.
Mary Myers: That is part of our Rewards program. When kids are in the store with their parents, they are welcome to come into the produce section and enjoy a free snack-size apple, orange or banana. Not only does it give a little extra nutrition boost to the kids while they’re with their parents shopping, it also gives them something to do while Mom or Dad is knocking out the grocery list, whether they’re having to stop in after school or after work to grab dinner or whether it’s the big weekly trip on the weekends. It’s a way for kids to really get familiar with fruits. It’s a healthy way for them to stay active while in the store.
Tell me about the Kids Club.
The Kids Club is part of our Rewards program, so once you’re signed up for Rewards, you can opt in for free to our Kids Club, Baby Club, Pet Club, and Craft Beer and Wine Club, so a little bit of something for everybody. I’m a pet mom, so I’m in the Pet Club.
What’s new in produce?
We’ve been asked for a taste policy. We don’t want anybody to leave produce wondering what that was or what that tastes like, so our produce team carries the utility knife in their uniform and they are the go-to person to cut open a piece of fruit and let you sample it. You can get familiar with dragon fruit or monk fruit or some of these things that you may not know.
What about local offerings?
We’re focused on local. We work with a lot of local produce partners but also local partners all throughout the store, like Texas craft beer. We’ve developed great relationships with breweries in and around Texas. We love that we were able to design this Frisco space to showcase Texas craft beer. There is, of course, a lot of Texas pride around here. And certainly, craft beer is such a huge trend. We’re seeing a lot of entrepreneurial spirit behind the breweries that are our partners, but we also see that from the guests that love to try and sample these new things. A lot of these same Texas craft beers are being poured on tap, in tap houses, so we’re really proud of that.
What is unique about the wine selection in Market Street?
You see a huge wine selection in this store, and we’re really proud of that, too. The wine selection in Market Street is curated by an expert. We have a wine steward on staff who is available not just to build the department but also to make recommendations to guests. If you’re planning a dinner party or a special celebration and need pairing suggestions, that’s your guy. They also do special orders. A lot of people don’t realize that Market Street can do special events—and big, large-scale special events, like weddings. We’ve got a custom bakery, we do wedding cakes; we do special event floral, not just delivery bouquets. We do centerpieces and big floral designs, plus specialty wine and champagne. We do full catering and have a concierge on site who is an event planner on standby to help coordinate events of any size.
We pride ourselves on a wide variety of fresh and the highest quality meats. You’ll see the tagline that’s kind of funny, “We Do Beef the Best.” Because we do. Our offering is USDA choice and all the way up to dry-aged beef. The market team has certified butchers on site to make recommendations or special cuts, anything that you need. In the seafood category, we steam or season while our guests are shopping. They expanded that as well. They’ve got seasoned beef, seasoned chicken, pork tenderloin that I die over, and every single one of these comes with recommendations from experts from behind the counter that can tell you how to cook it, what to serve with it, feedback that they’ve gotten from other guests. There’s none of that intimidation factor about going to the meat counter and having to admit that you don’t know what you’re doing. You’ll also see cold cut lunch meat behind glass.
There are a lot of benefits to doing that in terms of freshness and cleanliness. It makes it really easy to maintain the temperature. In our new stores, you’ll see a lot more glass than you did in the old format.
People don’t like to shop if it’s too cold.
That’s right. There’s such a huge selection and we don’t want people to feel rushed. We don’t want them to feel uncomfortable because they’re cold. Here you’ve got a selection of organic dairy; we’re seeing a lot of movement in that category.
Are you seeing shoppers from Millennials all the way up transitioning to organic?
It transcends generations. It’s not a fringe niche. A lot of people are integrating organic and natural into their lifestyle. It’s not so much out with the old and adopt a whole new lifestyle; it’s more we see them blending it into their lifestyle. Yogurt is a great example of this. This category is blowing up. We know that our guests want it, so we have been investing in expanding the yogurt offering. Now, there are several styles. What I’m seeing around Greek yogurt is people doing different things with it. We’re starting to see it in desserts.
What about yogurt drinks? It’s one thing to have a spoon when you’re on the go and you want a yogurt.
Same thing in that category. We also see a lot of movement in yogurt drinks for kids. That’s a big mover. Moms feel really good about being able to do that in the car. It’s not a soda pop or sugar-heavy fruit juice. So that’s been a big one for us to invest in. That’s a lot of shelf space. There’s room for sampling, for trying something new inside of the yogurt category. There are hundreds of options.
Do you do a lot of sampling?
Yes. We do a lot of demos. We also do some special events that we call Expos, which are weekend events designed to showcase different pieces and parts of the store that are on trend for our guests. In January, we do a Healthy Living Expo. In the spring, we do a Wedding Expo, and that’s where you’ll see custom bakery wedding cakes, floral, catering, all out here being showcased. In May, we do a Gluten-Free Expo, which may actually be expanding into more than just gluten free. That is in development right now. It might expand into more natural, organic and gluten free and low sodium, and sugar free, different lifestyle products. To that point, one of the things that we have throughout the store is the shelf tag system. This is throughout the entire store, not just in the center store. You don’t have to go look for a gluten-free section.
So, you don’t have to pull the product out and look on the back of it.
If you’re trying to shop for a specific lifestyle, you know quickly that you can start here and consider this product—gluten free, whole grain, sugar free, 100 percent juice, which means no sugar (added). That system throughout the store is designed to support families that are trying to stay within some lifestyle efforts. And as much as we talk about labeling and overhauling that, what the requirements are, reading labels is complicated and it’s hard to know which preservative is what—half the time you can’t pronounce it. Organic used to be its own section. No longer do you have to go find the organic section. Now truly throughout every category there are organic and natural offerings, and they’re called out to make it easy.
Tell us about the Dietitians Top Pick.
So, to complement the shelf tag system, the Dietitian’s Top Pick is a program run by our health and wellness team. They review and make recommendations in categories throughout the store on the things that they would feed their own family. It’s a way to narrow down the category. If you’re trying to make a smart choice, what would the registered dietitians do? What would be a good place to start? That’s another category that used to be kind of a trend and it’s not anymore. Health and wellness is a retail driver. That theme throughout the whole store is why they come here.
Do you have dietitians in every store?
Not in every store. We have three registered dietitians on staff for the division and we work with contract dietitians to do store tours in all of the Market Streets. You can sign up online and they do different lifestyle tours. They’ll do healthy shopping 101 or a heart-healthy tour. They do a gluten-free tour.
What other categories are growing?
Bulk is another category where we’re seeing a lot of growth. Bulk seeds, nuts, candy—chocolate-covered almonds and that kind of thing—and also grains and dried fruits. With the natural nut butters, you can grind your own with no added sugar or salt.
Green bean chips?
This is an area where we see a lot of experimentation. We see people trying things like green bean chips or dried okra, where you wouldn’t necessarily know if that is something you’d like. Here they can try it without committing to a 5-lb. bag of anything. The same thing with bulk coffee. And this is tea and we love this. This is new to Market Street within the last couple of years.
I’m not a big tea drinker, but when I see this, it brings more fun into drinking tea.
It has that same experimentation kind of vibe. And then bulk coffee, too. We see a lot of coffee beans, coffee grinding, which we love. It makes the store smell great.
Tell us what else makes Market Street special.
You know, we always talk about the people that make Market Street so special. It’s true and it’s top down. From Robert Taylor, the president, all the way down, everyone is just so nice. The other thing that makes a Market Street special is foodservice. We essentially operate like a high-quality restaurant. At any given time, there are breakfast, lunch or dinner options already prepared or there are take-it-home and heat-it-up options.
I like that it is at the front of the store. They’re on their way home, they grab it and they go.
Again, it’s convenience. There’s a lot invested in making it fun and easy.
You know, the only thing you don’t have in this store is a cot.
Yes, I know. And a blanket.
You can eat here. You can drink here. You can shop here.
And we have sushi in all of them, but this is the only location that has the showcase—Pho, Vietnamese, Asian. We’ve got several stir-fry options, poke bowls, stir-fry bowls and Pho, and it is so good. We’re really proud of that and excited to see how it goes. I think the guests in this area are really going to embrace that.
I love the tagline, “Food Tastes Better With Friends.”
The cheese case is curated, again, by an expert like in the wine area, so we’ve got cheese specialists who know how to offer a really well-balanced cheese offering—soft and hard, imported, domestic, you name it. The tasting program is here, too. The same way you can taste fruits or vegetables in produce, you can taste cheese.
The floral department is one of my favorites. I get fresh flowers every week.
We’ve got a product that we call a Market Bunch, which is different kinds of flowers in $5 bunches so you can enjoy fresh flowers in your own home. Dish (gifts, dinnerware, etc.) is the last thing I’ll point out.
That’s my weakness and you know I can disguise it in my grocery bill.
The thing about Dish is it’s curated by different people throughout the whole company, so no two Dish departments are the same, which makes it fun. It makes it hard to market, hard to advertise Dish because the products are different in every location, but it makes it fun to stop into every store because you never know what you’re going to find.
I did not know they were different.
Our buyer will make recommendations and buy for multiple stores so you will see crossover, but you’ll also see things in one that you’ve never seen before.
The other thing that is fairly new to the division is StreetSide, which is our e-commerce solution. It is owned and operated by the United Division, so the team members work for us. It’s online ordering and easy pickup. You can do same-day pickup. The other Frisco store is the delivery hub for Frisco, but now that this store is open, the delivery area is expanded. The StreetSide service launched in 2017 and has been rolling out to different regions of the division.
Are any two Market Street stores alike?
Myers: This is No. 94. None of them are the same.