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Food Industry Hall of Fame Retailer of the Year Southeast Woman Executive of the Year

Harris Teeter’s Offerings Keep It At Forefront Of Fresh, Innovation

Harris Teeter

Matthews, North Carolina-based Harris Teeter is The Shelby Report of the Southeast’s Retailer of the Year. 

From its founding 62 years ago, the company has grown to become a premier regional grocery store brand in the Southeast. It boasts 258 stores and 70 fuel centers and two distribution centers in seven states. 

The company has been on a path of expansion since 1997. Previous President Fred Morganthall II oversaw that growth as Harris Teeter moved into Georgia, Florida and Tennessee and later spearheaded growth into Virginia, Delaware, Maryland and Washington, D.C. 

Craig McKenzie, SVP of operations, is a 40-year Harris Teeter veteran. 

“The grocery business is extremely competitive,” McKenzie said. “Our Harris Teeter Team, which is made up of our store associates, our corporate associates and our warehouse associates press us to be better. In the end, the push ultimately pushes Harris Teeter into the future.”

The present-day Harris Teeter is headquartered in Matthews, North Carolina and employs approximately 35,000 associates. 

The company continues to focus on expansions – adding stores, new innovation in merchandising, own brands and in-store offerings. 

Butchers Market

The meat department, known as the Butchers Market, includes its own beef products under the Rancher Beef, Harris Teeter Reserve Angus Beef and Harris Teeter Naturals Beef brands. 

According to a publication written and distributed by the company, titled “Harris Teeter Legacy – 50 Years,” this practice began as products were cut to order or sold under service case glass.

“Our butchers purchased sides of beef and proceeded to cut the beef in-store directly off the rail; customers did not have the wide variety of options to buy that which they are accustomed to purchasing today,” the publication reads.

In 2006, the grocer launched its Harris Teeter Fresh Market Expert program, which provides its stores with a certified butcher who offers custom cuts, recipes and knowledge about the products, according to the publication. 

The meat program has been hailed by national beef and poultry associations, including recognitions in 2008 and 2010 during the Cattle Industry Annual Convention and the 2009 Beef Industry Visionary Awards. And in 2010, it became part of the USDA program, Certified Very Tender beef. 

Harris Teeter remains among a small group of retailers nationwide to take part in the program, which highlights strict protocols for steak cuts and requires that beef must be aged at least 21 days. 

The beef and poultry grab the limelight in the cases, but Harris Teeter takes care to keep current on trends and meet customers where they are. Formerly placed behind center-store freezer doors, plant-based meat alternatives have risen in popularity and the grocer does not shy from sharing its meat cases with the newcomers.

“When we talk to our customers, they are looking for variety and the best cuts of meat,” said Shawn Cram, VP of fresh merchandising.

“To meet these needs, we focus on premiumization, we have Wagyu, Prime, Natural, Angus and Ranchers. And if you go into one of our stores and you are not sure which cut of meat you want, we have full-service meat cases with experienced butchers who can custom cut your selection.”

Fishermans Market

Harris Teeter’s Fishermans Market is another staple of its fresh merchandising. The market has advocated a buy-local philosophy, according to Cram. 

All Harris Teeter locations offer a local fresh catch program. Much like its Butchers Market, the Fishermans Market keeps pace with customer trends and demand. 

“Value added” seafood has become prevalent, made in store by Harris Teeter associates with fresh ingredients. These items include salmon stuffed with crab meat and premade seafood items such as marinated Mahi Mahi and crab cakes.

Chief Financial Officer Scott Nations noted that this – along with the other prepared foods in front of the meat counters – provide customers with extensive options. 

“The feedback we get from our customers is that they appreciate variety,” he said. “The freshness and variety of the product offering, as well as the cleanliness of the store, all of that together excites our customers when they shop in our stores. They know that rather than going out for a meal, they can come to Harris Teeter and either pick up all the ingredients to prepare a meal at home or purchase a high-quality prepared offering.” 

Nations added that Harris Teeter customers enjoy a personal connection with associates and value the opinions they provide for meal options and product information.

“They want to know that that high-end steak in the meat case can be cut to their specifications. That’s across the board. Regardless of what they are buying, they’re going to have a great experience from our associates who care.”

Pairing that meat with a reasonable side is easy thanks to Harris Teeter’s Farmers Market. Back in 1936, when co-founder W.T. Harris, a farm boy from Georgia, opened his first Harris Super Market, he prided himself on providing the freshest, highest quality produce to customers, according to the company’s publication. 

Farmers Market

Much like the previous two markets, customers can find associates in the Farmers Market who are trained and educated on its offerings. Since 2003, Harris Teeter has been training them through its Green Thumb Experts program, which requires associates to complete a rigorous certification program.

They are, according to the company’s publication, “experts in their fields who are able to answer any questions a shopper may ask, including how to best store or prepare a particular item in the Farmers Market.”

While Harris Teeter has a long history of successful vendor partnerships, Green Thumb Experts associates inspect every produce item several times before it is allowed onto the floor. This is a last line of defense for the Farmers Market, as quality assurance checks take place at the distribution center. If an item has blemishes or flaws, it will not be sold.

While not all produce is sourced from local farms, Harris Teeter encourages support of local produce in its communities. Regional store teams have great autonomy on where they source their products, and stores that share a market area sometimes won’t receive the same produce from the same farms.

Most recently, Harris Teeter has developed fresh merchandising programs that have been introduced in the Farmers Market. The program uses mobile merchandising displays that showcase the grocer’s in-store made fresh products, including fruit bowls, veggies bowls and seven-layer dips. 

The program has had remarkable success and there are plans to add these display cases to additional Harris Teeter locations, according to Cram.

As a bonus to the Farmers Market, some Harris Teeter locations feature an adjoining juice bar.

Fresh Food Market

The last – but certainly not least – of Harris Teeter’s in-store branded departments is its Fresh Food Market, which is much more than a deli or bakery. 

The market includes standard deli meat counters, with ready-to-eat options, but also a variety of prepared foods. Chef-made prepared meals include an entree and side, ready to serve along with a variety of à la carte options.

At the company’s super flagship stores, Harris Teeter offers a variety of bars that offer rotating meal options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

Customers also will find a salad and olive bar; in-house pizza station, where customers can watch the pizza being made; a Murray’s cheese monger station with a variety of cheeses from around the globe; and a prepared meal event station at select stores. 

Harris Teeter also offers an extensive fresh bakery selection, including dessert items and signature cakes.

The Fresh Food Market has a strong partnership with Boar’s Head that dates back 11 years. Since that time, associates working the deli counter have been required to take part in the Boar’s Head Premium Deli Professional Workshop. Much like Harris Teeter’s own programs, they gain knowledge on the products and learn customer service traits specific to the Boar’s Head company, according to the publication. 

The grocer estimates it sells about 4 million made-to-order subs a year at its deli counters, while it averages one million cakes sold in that same span.

The bakery has a wide assortment of specialty dessert items, cakes, cookies and – depending on the area – cultural-inspired desserts. The bakers bake over two dozen kinds of artisanal breads per day. Ranging from baguettes to ciabatta, they make up a third of bakery sales. 

And just like the other markets within its stores, Harris Teeter has pre-packaged and in-store made bakery items.

“What really sets all that apart from everything else is the way that people can come in and get absolutely everything they could need or want,” said Matt Martin, VP of marketing. “It’s about meeting the customers where they are, and we aim to do that in every part of our store. 

“There is intention behind every decision. We get the customers’ and associates’ feedback. We can see, we can measure what is working and what isn’t. We are dedicated to a wide variety of quality fresh products and exceptional customer service.”

In order to create the prepackaged products for all of the departments, Harris Teeter devised its own chef program. It was put together in the 1990s by certified chef Gianfranco DiCarlo, an Italian cuisine expert.

Our Brands

Another area of emphasis for the company is private brands. While it has evolved over the years, the aspect that has not changed is quality. Much of Harris Teeter’s brands are supplied by the same national suppliers of the name brand. 

“The quality of our own brands is equivalent to the national brand or better,” said Chuck Munn, VP of non-perishable merchandising. “We have a tremendous Own Brands program here at Harris Teeter for every customer, including entry level own brands to a more premium level product.”

The Harris Teeter private label can be found under many names – Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organic, H.T. Traders, Harris Teeter brand and Private Selection. 

No matter which of the private label brands customers choose, there is a money-back guarantee if they’re not satisfied. 

As of 2014, Harris Teeter is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kroger. The merger with Kroger created synergy between the two companies that allowed Harris Teeter to enhance and expand its Own Brand selections, including adding Kroger’s Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organic brand.

Simple Truth is a natural and organic food product that is free from artificial preservatives, GMO’s and free from 101 artificial ingredients.

Officials said the transition made sense for Harris Teeter as the Simple Truth brands continue to resonate with shoppers. As of 2021, Harris Teeter stocked more than 700 Simple Truth items, with that expected to top 1,000 in early 2023.

For more information, visit harristeeter.com.

To read the full Retailer of the Year section on Harris Teeter by The Shelby Report, click here.

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