Snack Feature: Kings Food Markets, Food Fit For Kings
In the latest edition of AndNowUKnow’s print publication, The Snack Magazine, we explored Kings Food Markets’ new ideas, store concepts, and much more.
Check out The Snack article by clicking here, or read the full article below:
Kings Food Markets: Food Fit For Kings
Where inspiration strikes… this is Kings Food Markets’ newly evolved message as the New Jersey based-retailer takes on its most recent initiative to redefine the company’s fresh concept and philosophy. Kings’ founders began by selling what they treasured the most—fresh produce, and now the concept is being revitalized as the retailer moves into the latest phase of rebranding - a mission to enhance the neo-traditional supermarket space.
In the beginning, the founders went straight to the local markets and worked at developing strong bonds with the most dedicated farmers. That tradition is holding true today as Kings continues to source from local farmers first, as well as elite producers from around the world.
“We’re taking produce to the next level while remaining true to our roots. It’s our twist on ‘going back to the basics,’” Paul Kneeland, Vice President of Produce, Floral, Seafood, and Meat, tells me. “Produce inspires everything the company strives for, from presenting the freshest and highest quality produce, meats, and seafood, to offering a vast assortment of organic and gluten-free options. The individual needs of the customer always come first.” And they come with the opportunity to experience the sights, sounds, and aromas of something truly special.
One of the unique aspects of Kings is the care and consideration that they put into visually stimulating and pleasing the new wave of health-conscious consumers. Convenience is key, and grasping the consumer’s attention at the entry point is ideal for drawing in the on-the-go shopper.
Currently, this retailer is looking to innovate its new concept through presentation and offerings. With 14 of its 25 stores already converted to its new format and 9 more planned by April, Kings is bringing store design to a whole new level.
About 15 years ago, the company began looking at redeveloping its strategic plan. In the past 5 years, Kings has been strategically focusing on honing in on how the consumer experiences food and the supermarket environment. “We’ve looked at center store and realized that with the recent trends in fresh foods, we needed to create a more dominant perishables platform,” Paul tells me.
So, what groundwork is Kings laying for these current rebranding efforts? At the core, it will always be about providing a variety of grocery offerings with the best quality and consistency, but now Kings is shifting the traditional “Center Store” to the periphery.
The company’s redesign reflects a more fresh-forward program, with perishables now accounting for 50% of Kings’ inventory. Generally, supermarkets are about 65% center store, Paul notes. “That is changing for us. Nearly 90% of all perishables are on one side of the store, beginning at the entrance. Center store has turned to ‘left store,’” he laughs. “We are going for a European style market.”
It’s easy to see that Kings is far from portraying themselves as a retailer with a cattle-chute layout. “We are going for an amphitheater effect,” Paul tells me. And why shouldn’t fresh produce entertain and entice?
With a stage of fresh produce in mind, the retailer has created an L-shaped amphitheater on which to present its latest, fresh-from-the-fields assortment of produce.
“Imagine the customer’s line of sight. We are designing an experience that captures the senses right when you walk through the door. The more colors and layers you see, the more variety and possibility you can communicate,” Paul smiles.
Kings keeps most fixtures at a lower level and typically at the eye line of the consumer. Where large walls of produce can scream fresh-focused, Kings is taking an equally impressive and also strategic approach, creating a visceral landscape where you can take in nearly all produce items from the front of the store, all the way to the back. Kings has something for everyone, from stainless steel casings or cherrywood fixtures with their artisan-forward feel to cheese cases, and an open air bakery with brickwork. Not to mention the fresh seafood department that transports you to the country’s best fish markets.
Kings is also extremely passionate about the Jersey Fresh program. After all, New Jersey is where Kings began and where the company calls home. The retailer has served 23 New Jersey communities for almost 80 years and is proud supporters of New Jersey farmers. Kings has helped pioneer the state’s "Jersey Fresh" campaign to highlight all the great foods from the Garden State.
Hand-in-hand with the produce landscape, the prepared foods department has also become a focus for refreshing the format with even more convenience. Kings is exploring new concepts on the foodservice side as well, deconstructing menu ingredients for those shoppers that are looking for certain individual elements to an overall recipe.
“We always focus on variety and convenience, but it is important to note that as much as the company enjoys a diverse product program, we are highly focused on flavor. It’s what really ups the ante,” Paul tells me.
“Our hope is to inspire shoppers just by walking into our stores. We set the stage for everything artisan, fresh, and trending, to make its way to the consumers shopping basket,” Paul says.
I can see from the store format and from speaking with Paul that Kings focuses on the “why.” Why do people come in? Why should they come in? Why does fresh matter and why should they care? That’s enough to keep anyone up at night. Kings is constantly working to surprise and educate consumers on the range of flavors, eating experiences, and new items on the shelf. When a consumer asks ‘why’, Kings has the answer.
What’s in store for Kings as we look to the horizon? “I see us becoming increasingly organic. For our demographics, we are finding that consumers want more organic options and more education,” Paul notes. Currently, Kings is about 19% organic in its produce department. “That might not seem like much,” Paul relays, “but the average supermarket is around 3-5% for produce.”
Additionally, Kings is hoping to expand in the near future to markets that are similar to those where it currently resides, as well as surrounding areas. “We would like to double the size of the company in the next five years. While we are thriving within our present footprint, we know there is a demand for our brand of retail and our concept in equally profitable and ideal areas.”
Paul is also a huge advocate of programs like PMA’s Sesame Street partnerships and initiatives and Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools, which are playing a huge role in produce consumption.
“5 or 10 years down the road when kids become the consumers, it will be a boom for the produce industry. So we are preparing now, staying ahead of the game for the increase in consumer demands for variety and availability. When kids go home after eating at school salad bars, they are asking their parents for broccoli and cauliflower. It’s a matter of paying attention to who is dictating the shopping list,” Paul mentions.
“Our format aligns with these new initiatives and help to inspire kids to eat produce. We see it as our role to communicate the possibilities of fresh produce to kids with a real foodie feel. We have kids tastings, cooking classes, lectures on produce… it’s all about engaging the next generation,” Paul says. “Our passion for food hasn't stopped for nearly 80 years and we continue to bring our message to the new wave of little shoppers.”
And it’s true, Kings hasn’t stopped their passionate journey towards perfection since the company opened in 1936. The founders began with the humble purpose of finding the freshest produce around and have evolved into a family of 25 locations, each one seamlessly integrated into the community it serves.
“What it really comes down to is creating that genuine shopping experience which also tells a story. In this case, our story,” Paul tells me. And it seems like the future holds no end in sight for this retailer. With its foot steady on the pedal, Kings is continuing to drive its success forward with an eye for innovation and a love for fresh produce.