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Fresh Thyme Looks Back At 2017, More Growth Planned For 2018

Fresh Thyme local food banks

Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, a full-service specialty grocer focused on fresh, healthy and organic offerings, grew by 20 stores and more than 2,000 new hires in 2017, bringing its total footprint to 66 stores across the Midwest.

Since opening its first store in 2014, Fresh Thyme has expanded across nine states, including Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Ohio. The company says its expansion will continue in 2018 with 10 scheduled openings—including the brand’s first stores in Pennsylvania—and 1,100 additional jobs.

“From acquisitions and mergers to shifting consumer habits, 2017 was marked by significant changes, and the grocery and food retail industries continue to be ever-evolving,” said Chris Sherrell, CEO of Fresh Thyme. “We enjoy the challenge this brings and work hard to continuously improve our shopping experience. As a three-years-young company, we’re extremely proud of our 5,000 employees and the communities we serve throughout the Midwest. Over the past year, we’ve made significant hires at the executive level, further developed our private label offerings, and continued to support the organizations that matter most to our communities. We’re excited for 2018 and all that is in store.”

Crave Magazine

In May 2017, Fresh Thyme launched its new in-store magazine, Crave. As a free magazine, Crave features recipes from Fresh Thyme’s in-house dietitians, product spotlights and tips and insights for a “healthier and happier lifestyle for the entire family.” The magazine is published bi-monthly, and reinforces the brand’s commitment to its values and making healthy living attainable for all, the company says.

Private label

Since introducing its private label in 2015, Fresh Thyme has introduced more than 1,000 SKUs (up from 400 in 2016), which make nutritious foods more affordable, and allow the brand to control both the quality and price of its offerings. Fresh Thyme continues to unveil new products each season, and upcoming releases include a line of Greek yogurt, kombucha, soups, mashed cauliflower and, as always, a continuing line of organic items. The company also will unveil a line of natural cleaners.

Executive team

In 2017, Fresh Thyme made significant hires to expand its leadership team based in Downers Grove, Illinois, and support its continued growth. In March, Carol Okamoto joined as CFO and, in May, Mark Doiron was brought on as chief merchandising officer. Both bring more than 30 years of experience in the industry to their roles. In November, Fresh Thyme also welcomed Dean Little as COO. He brings more than 40 years of industry experience to his role, where he will oversee what makes Fresh Thyme Farmers Market a “market.” In addition, Fresh Thyme also made key hires in its marketing department, including Amy Parker as VP and Art Scott as senior director.

Lastly, Fresh Thyme says the addition of Kerry Clifford (MS, RD, LDN) and Meghan Sedivy (MS, RD) as their in-house registered dietitians helped to increase awareness of the brand in key markets as the two developed ongoing programming to educate and bring the healthy lifestyle that Fresh Thyme stands for to their customers.

Community initiatives and corporate fundraising

From stocking local products and produce to hiring local residents, Fresh Thyme says it is passionate about connecting with the local community. As part of its ongoing Cultivate Community initiative, Fresh Thyme continued to partner with a local nonprofits for each grand opening and support them through donations and fundraising events.

In addition, for the third year in a row, Fresh Thyme hosted its annual golf classic to fund the Fresh Thyme Giving Tree Foundation. This year, the foundation honored Mission 22, a veteran’s support project, and Warriors Heart Foundation, the first private treatment center in the U.S. providing detox, inpatient, outpatient and long-term sober living treatment solely for first responders, active duty military and veterans, who put their lives on the line for our safety. Between the golf classic and an in-store “Round Up at the Register” initiative, Fresh Thyme raised $500,000 in support of these organizations.

Looking ahead

Sherrell anticipates that consumer habits will continue to change as they want to know more about the food they are putting on the table for their family, and Fresh Thyme says it continues to adapt to meet its customers’ wants and needs. In 2018, shoppers can expect even more organic options and transparency about how their food is grown.

Fresh Thyme’s expansion this past year led increased sales growth overall. With 10 projected openings in 2018 including new locations in Evansville, Indiana; Ames, Iowa; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Fresh Thyme anticipates “continued growth and success by providing high quality, value-priced, healthy offerings.”

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