Shopping Discussion

Does Anyone See The Point of FreshCo?

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  • Jan 23rd, 2022 4:13 am
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[OP]
Sr. Member
Jul 7, 2019
653 posts
833 upvotes
Oilers Country

Does Anyone See The Point of FreshCo?

Sobeys is busily converting full-service Safeway (and to a lesser extent, Sobeys) supermarkets in Western Canada to its FreshCo brand. The problem is that when they convert the store, they are removing the main reasons that consumers choose one of the Sobeys group supermarkets over a competitor: the full-service departments and Air Miles. I've always liked Safeway's bakery: that's gone when FreshCo takes over a Safeway. Our family avidly collects Air Miles: FreshCo doesn't participate.

What I fail to understand is what is supposed to bring me to FreshCo? What am I getting there that I can't get anywhere else? No Frills is the dominant retailer in the hard discount format. If I'm already shopping at No Frills (which already covers Western Canada pretty well) why would I switch? And if I'm a Safeway shopper at a store that is becoming FreshCo, why would I stay a customer of that location when all the reasons I shopped there are now removed?

What I really don't understand is FreshCo's refusal to participate in Air Miles. I understand it in terms of cost to the retailer, but in the absence of being able to earn or redeem AM at FreshCo, why would I go there as a shopper? I can earn PC Optimum points at No Frills (on featured products) as well as redeem them, so that's a factor in helping me to choose that store. So why would anyone choose FreshCo?

I'm also puzzled by the corporate strategy: many of the Safeways being converted are near Save-on-Foods. This means that anyone who still wants a store with an on-site bakery, deli, etc. is simply going to go down the street to Save-on when FreshCo takes over.
75 replies
Deal Expert
Jan 7, 2002
26194 posts
23229 upvotes
Waterloo, ON
Does Anyone See The Point of FreshCo?
I appreciate this isn't the answer you want, but FreshCo serves a very useful purpose for me: They're a low cost store, like No Frills and Food Basics, whose prices can easily be PMed at Superstore (where I actually shop and get PCO points.)

I haven't actually set foot in a FreshCo store since long before the pandemic but I remain a steadfastly loyal user who would miss them if they where to shut down :twisted:
veni, vidi, Visa
Deal Fanatic
Nov 22, 2015
6675 posts
6652 upvotes
Cuz ppl are lazy and will just keep going to the same store rather than drive down the street.

Also I'm guessing the new FreshCos are typically in lower income neighbourhoods where many residents don't drive and have to walk/bus to the grocery store
Deal Addict
Dec 17, 2001
2493 posts
383 upvotes
Ajax
One of my beefs (pun intended) with Frescho is their move to selling meat "by the tray".
Instead of it being x dollars per kilogram, they prepackage meat in varying weights and mark the tray at a fixed price.
So every tray in the display will be $6. One tray I checked of ground hamburger was 380 grams at $6
I am seeing a lot of retailers moving to this model.
Deal Expert
Jan 7, 2002
26194 posts
23229 upvotes
Waterloo, ON
Kuurgen wrote: I am seeing a lot of retailers moving to this model.
Yup. And it's not just beef. Other meat department item too.
One tray I checked of ground hamburger was 380 grams at $6
Sometimes they don't even indicate the weight or if they do they make it hard to find.

Every time I've "done the math" the price per pound worked out to at least as much as conventionally-priced meat. IOW this practice is a scam to charge higher prices.
veni, vidi, Visa
Deal Addict
Nov 12, 2006
2662 posts
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London
TravellingChris wrote: No Frills is the dominant retailer in the hard discount format. If I'm already shopping at No Frills (which already covers Western Canada pretty well) why would I switch?
I'm guessing they want some of the market that No Frills currently has.
Your shopping habits likely don't represent enough people and they have determined this change is warranted.

Myself, I find Sobeys expensive, even compared to other non-discount brands.
I rarely shop there.
I do occasionally shop at Freshco though.
Therefore, for a shopper like me, they would see a gain.
Deal Expert
Feb 7, 2017
22788 posts
21630 upvotes
Eastern Ontario
It’s not just in the West …
Sobey’s Group is restructuring throughout Ontario too

Here they are closing many of their Sobeys chains to convert them to either FreshCos or Farm Boys

Both of these chains are “niche markets” one on the lower end … and one on the higher end

I think it personally ridiculous that this is their strategy vs offering a full service middle of the road store … which Sobeys was … to go head to head with other full service stores in the market (here they would be the likes of Loblaws, Your Independent, Metro )

I have been a long time fan of Farm Boy … they started here in Eastern Ontario in Cornwall … so been shopping with them for decades

But they are a niche … mostly fresh foods. So as such I cannot do all my shopping there. I still need all the middle aisles that a conventional grocery store offers.

FreshCo isn’t for me either. I am not a big fan of Discount Grocers … cuz I value my fresh goods … like an instore Bakery, Deli etc. We are not folks who buy prepackaged white bread … or deli meats. We just don’t like them. We much prefer fresh.

So I visited FreshCo once … it just wasn’t for me.

Lol, what closing out Sobeys has actually done for me … is see me spend more of my grocery dollars at both Loblaws Group & Metro Inc stores … which has actually worked out well. In that I am earning way more points / miles than ever before (Metro even gives base miles on beer & wine purchases) … and I think Metro which has always been # 3 in Canada has figured this out … cuz they seem to have really upped their game in their mainstream stores of late … with more choices, better sales, more AMs promos etc. I would say they are STEALING MARKET SHARE from Sobeys !!!

We’ve always been strategic shoppers … but we appreciate a one stop shop mainstream store. So this week I figure the best deals for us are at Metro that’s where I am heading. Next week it could be Loblaws, Sobeys, Independent, or IGA Quebec if I also happen to be in the Neighbourhood. We aren’t brand loyal.

Now if the likes of Farm Boy offered AirMiles … I would be all over that. I could easily plan my groceries around one week fresh, and next week dry goods.

But no news of that ever happening … anymore than the PCO Lovers in the big cities seeing T&T coming onboard that program which so many PCOers wish for.

My sister lives out west. She loves Safeway. The gutting of Safeway is sad. I think you Westerners have it far worse than us Easterners as Sobeys is making so many of the stores into FreshCos … when the quality / similarities are definitely gone.

That’s one thing I think is pretty awful out west that I saw … outside of the bigger cities (even in suburbia) choice is far more limited than it is here in the east for mainstream grocery stores.

Whole lot of Discount Grocers, fewer mainstreams, and a sprinkling of RCSS (few & far between) in the mix. I think I would hate grocery shopping if I lived west of Ontario. At least down east … Sobeys Group still has a good number of Sobeys stores (Sobeys HQ being in Atlantic Canada)

Don’t know the answer …

But the west is IMO being robbed of choice.

Question … Are Sobeys even building mainstream grocery stores out west these days ?
I know they seem to have stopped doing so in Ontario
Their new focus now is these conversions … or building more Farm Boys mostly
Deal Fanatic
Jan 21, 2018
7531 posts
8096 upvotes
Vancouver
Only a limited number of people care about Air Miles. A lot more people care that Freshco is cheap, competitive with Superstore and Walmart, while most other local neighbourhood grocery stores are 10-15% more expensive on average. Some people also appreciate not having to deal with the extra hassle of complicated loyalty card schemes and sharing personal information just to buy groceries.

The downside is that Sobeys used the conversion to Freshco to screw over their employees, letting all the cashiers and stocking staff go and then re-hiring them at a lower salary for Freshco. Would it be any wonder if they were a little more sullen and unhelpful?
Deal Addict
Aug 30, 2011
2088 posts
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Edmonton
I live 10 minutes away from a FreshCo in Edmonton... Went there shopping once out of curiosity, and my mom (who's the main grocery shopper in the household) wasn't impressed. It's a tiny store. The produce and meat weren't fresh, and the selection is abysmal due to the tiny store size. None of the hot deals that e.g. No Frills would have, but seemed in line with regular prices at Superstore and Walmart. Back then I was a Sobeys Inc employee, so I tried to use the Sobeys Inc 10% grocery discount at FreshCo. Cashiers or self checkout attendants would always be like "we don't take Air Miles" even though the Air Miles card is how the employee discount is applied. Or they would say that they're still a new store so it would take 3 months from opening to give employee discounts. Needless to say I found no reason to shop at FreshCo.

One of the biggest pet peeves with Sobeys Inc stores is they often have a lot of expired or close to expiring perishable products if you don't look closely. Bought a tub of Danone Oikos only to realize it already expired by a few days the day we shopped there... yikes! It must've been on sale because it expired. Over the years I've noticed this problem a lot with Sobeys Inc stores, while Superstore or Walmart wouldn't have expired products that often. AFAIK, at Walmart they put clearance stickers on close to expiring perishable products such as dairy.

As far as mainstream grocery stores go, Superstore (5min drive) and No Frills (15 min drive) are still hard to beat in our experience... Fresh produce, one of the hottest flyer deals around, good selection, etc... Even Walmart seems like they've become more expensive for groceries ever since they stopped ad matching. And Walmart doesn't have excellent produce anyway.

We're definitely not brand loyal, and we shop at many different grocery stores albeit with smaller item counts each.

However, to answer OP's question... Sobeys Inc is converting Sobeys and Safeway stores that already aren't performing to their expectations. So they're hoping the new low-cost format would bring in more customers.
Deal Expert
Jan 7, 2002
26194 posts
23229 upvotes
Waterloo, ON
PointsHubby wrote: Here they are closing many of their Sobeys chains to convert them to either FreshCos or Farm Boys
I'd love to see either of my local Sobeys turn into Farm Boys.
FreshCo isn’t for me either. I am not a big fan of Discount Grocers … cuz I value my fresh goods
One more advantage of PMing at Superstore is that their produce tends to be fresher and larger than at FreshCo and Food Basics. For example a $1.99 cauliflower at FreshCo will be some tiny, brownish relic while the $4.99$1.99 version at Superstore will be larger and fresher for the same price [after PM :twisted:] plus of course with all the convenience of one-stop shopping.
veni, vidi, Visa
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Mar 18, 2011
1970 posts
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Pickering
The point of FreshCo, at least to me, is the low cost, price matching, convenience, and 4% cashback with my Visa Infinite card.



I guess I'm a little more privileged in the sense that I have all these grocery stores nearby that I can choose from that most people wouldn't have the opportunity to. We also have a meat-shop under 5 minutes away.
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Sr. Member
May 18, 2018
727 posts
743 upvotes
Freshco, they don't participate in Air Miles program, but they save you around $20 on every grocery trip. You do the math which is worth more. I use Freshco for most of my groceries because I live close to one, but when I need a decent bread or some nice cheese, deli or fresh meat, I'll go over to Sobey's or Zehrs.
Deal Addict
Mar 26, 2005
2542 posts
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St Clements, MB
The purpose of Safeway to Freshco conversions in Western Canada is to weaken the union and their legacy Collective Bargaining Agreement by shirking their membership.
Deal Fanatic
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Sep 19, 2002
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Vancouver
That's like saying, Real Canadian Superstore already exists, why is Walmart coming in?

No Frills already exists, why is FreshCo coming in?

See how silly that is?
Deal Expert
Feb 7, 2017
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Eastern Ontario
cslusarc wrote: The purpose of Safeway to Freshco conversions in Western Canada is to weaken the union and their legacy Collective Bargaining Agreement by shirking their membership.
Interesting
Deal Fanatic
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Sep 19, 2002
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Vancouver
In terms of "full-service" departments and Air Miles, everything is changing to self-serve and lower costs. Retailers are implementing self-serve checkouts, curbside pickup, and home delivery programs. Safeway is a dinosaur and tends to target non-tech savvy seniors.

Canadian demographics have changed and the in-store bakery is a liability. Asians don't buy the bread or donuts or bagels sold at Safeway because there are so many dedicated bakeries to serve these customers.
Deal Addict
May 2, 2013
1959 posts
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Bloor-Yonge
i love that the freshco on leslie/lakeshore price match walmart and the RCSS. i also like the european brand food that the store sells, such as milka, riga, e. wedel chocolate and netherlands speculaas cookies, profi pate spread, marco polo wafers. and a lot of dates exported from various countries (saudi arabia, turkey)
Deal Expert
Mar 23, 2004
33218 posts
15035 upvotes
I don't get how Sobey's gets away with having no Air Miles at Freshco anyway.

When Weston/Loblaw didn't offer PC points at No Frills, everyone complained and got all up in arms about it. Eventually Loblaw started doing PC points there too.

Why doesn't everyone spam Sobey's with the same hate mail for the Freshco no-Air Miles shenanigans?
Deal Addict
Jun 8, 2004
2022 posts
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Oakville
ES_Revenge wrote: I don't get how Sobey's gets away with having no Air Miles at Freshco anyway.

When Weston/Loblaw didn't offer PC points at No Frills, everyone complained and got all up in arms about it. Eventually Loblaw started doing PC points there too.

Why doesn't everyone spam Sobey's with the same hate mail for the Freshco no-Air Miles shenanigans?
Same can be said with Metro not allowing Air Miles at Food Basic.
Same for not being able to redeem AM Cash at FreshCo (for Sobeys) and Food Basic (for Metro).
In both cases, it is to force the shopper to the more expensive Sobeys/Metro store.

Loblaws is the only one of the three groups that allows PCO to be earned and redeemed at their discount grocery chain.

FreshCo, Food Basics, No Frills --> Discount chain
Sobeys, Metro, Loblaws --> Mainstream chain
[OP]
Sr. Member
Jul 7, 2019
653 posts
833 upvotes
Oilers Country
Spinner wrote: That's like saying, Real Canadian Superstore already exists, why is Walmart coming in?

No Frills already exists, why is FreshCo coming in?

See how silly that is?
Um, no. Usually the johnny-come-lately in a market ends up failing. Target Canada couldn't displace Walmart Canada--or even compete. Linens N Things failed, Bed Bath & Beyond survived. Sam's Club failed in Canada, Costco Canada owns the market.
Understand now?

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