How FreshCo is connecting with South Asian shoppers

The grocer is stocking up in hopes of becoming a one-stop shop

“Vah!” exclaims the pink and orange banner at the new Chalo FreshCo store in Brampton, Ont. Roughly translated as “Wow” in Hindi, the word is a call to the South Asian community, which represents 65% of the local population.

Chalo—meaning “Let’s go”—is a first for FreshCo, the discount arm of Sobeys, but emblematic of grocers’ efforts to appeal to an increasingly diverse customer base. To serve Middle Eastern shoppers, Loblaw bought Arz Fine Foods, while Metro teamed with Marche Adonis. Loblaw also owns T&T, which targets Asian consumers. Yet two-thirds of ethnic shoppers say they still visit three or more stores to buy everything they need. “What Chalo FreshCo is all about is trying to fix that problem for South Asians and get it all under one roof,” says FreshCo general manager Rob Adams.

Here’s what the grocer added.



Chalo FreshCo boasts the largest produce department of any FreshCo store, because 30% of South Asian consumers in Brampton are vegetarian. The section features four produce carts with bicycle wheels, designed to imitate carts that Adams and his team saw during trips to India. “They’ve been a real hit for us,” he says.


At the front of the store is an outlet of Amaya, a popular Indian takeout chain. “It really helps to distinguish the store and its focus,” says Adams. “We’re trying to make it cater authentically to the South Asian palate.”


There are more than 100 varieties of rice available, filling a 20-metre long aisle. (A large standard FreshCo would have roughly 20 kinds.) Not only does the wide assortment spare customers from driving around for speciality products, it sends a clear message. “It makes customers say, ‘Wow, you really care about us. You found everything we could want in that category,’” says Adams.


The tailored offerings extend beyond the food section. The store stocks hair and skin-care brands from India, along with products like henna, not available at most stores.


The types of fish available at the seafood counter reflect South Asian preferences. So too does the large selection of marinated seafood products.


The store offers two separate meat counters—one for halal meats and another for non-halal products. To respect the religious beliefs of Hindu consumers, the non-halal counter doesn’t stock beef or pork but does have mutton, goat, lamb and chicken. Marinated meats are showcased, while the halal counter is “mostly a fresh meat, traditional butcher counter,” says Adams.


A 12-metre section of the store is dedicated to cooking implements and small appliances imported from India, including pressure cookers and rice cookers made by familiar brands such as Futura, and the unique, flat skillets used for cooking dosas. Adams says they’ve been impressed by how well they’ve sold.


While rice anchors one side of the South Asian section, the other side is dominated by staples like lentils, beans, flour and sugar. The store also offers all the products available at a normal FreshCo, split into their own sections. “If you’re a non-South Asian, and you want to explore some neat and interesting foods, it’s pretty easy to do,” says Adams. “But if you’re in a hurry, it’s easy to skip.”

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of Canadian Business.

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