In the shadows of one of the worst economic crises in recent history, a grocery store chain that was founded in the aftermath of the Great Depression is once again proving its longevity with an expansion throughout Southern California. Haggen Food started as a tiny grocery store in Bellingham, Washington in 1933, but has since grown into Pacific region-recognized chain with a specialty in being a one-stop shop for fresh, local and organic foods and brand-name supermarket staples.
This spring, the brand hopes to capitalize on its sterling reputation by expanding from 18 stores in the Pacific Northwest to 164 throughout the West Coast. That expansion will be overseen from a brand new Pacific Southwest division headquarters recently established in Irvine. As a part of the Albertson’s and Safeway merger, many of the locations previously owned and operated as such throughout Orange and San Diego counties are now being converted into Haggen grocers.
Despite Haggen’s unique appeal to Southern California home owners, grocer competition in both counties is already rather steep.
“If we do our jobs right, people will shop here for the same reasons they shopped at Albertsons, but they will find that they have access to more healthy, natural and local foods at reasonable prices,” said Bill Shaner, CEO of the chain’s new Pacific Southwest division, to U-T San Diego. “We’re not trying to be a gourmet market. We’re a traditional supermarket, but with a bias towards fresh, healthy and local foods.”
Executives Remain Confident in Grocers’ Appeal to Home Owners
Despite the uphill battle facing Haggen, may insider officials are confident that their brand of service and products is just what Southern California home owners are looking for. Haggen’s prices are comparable to a Albertson’s, Vons and Ralphs, but grocer is also able to provide higher quality produce, meat and other products that one might find at a specialty or upscale store like Whole Foods.
Unlike other grocers in the area, Haggen faces competition on all levels of the spectrum. It’s high-end, responsibly sustained products pit the brand against Whole Food and Trader Joe’s, while its discounted brand name products put it in contention with Walmart, Grocery Outlet, Bargain Market and Aldi. Burt Flickinger III of Strategic Resource Group in New York predicts that Haggen won’t get lost in the shuffle, but will thrive among “students, young adults and middle- to upper-income families.”
What San Diego home owners can expect out of the new Haggen supermarkets is a well-rounded shopping experience, which may offer some reprieve from going store to store in order to get all of the necessities, and then some. Haggen supermarkets include sections devoted to locally-produced goods, some even emblazoned with photos of the farmers who supplied them. Building off its produce selection, the stores will also feature specialty brands of the organic, natural and gluten-free variety in addition to other household names such as Pepsi, Cheerios and Tide.
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