- Schnucks is launching a new natural food store format called EatWell, according to a company press release. The grocer said it plans to open the first store based on the concept in Columbia, Missouri, this summer, but did not indicate if it is planning additional locations.
- The new store will include natural food items, organic and locally sourced products, and a natural living department.
- The supermarket will replace a former Lucky’s Market that Schnucks purchased at a bankruptcy auction in March. Remodeling for the first EatWell store, which will be 42,000 square feet, is currently underway.
Schnucks said it chose Columbia, Missouri, for its first EatWell store because the grocer has a 50-year history in the city and a well-established customer base there.
"Their loyalty over these last five decades makes this a perfect place for Schnucks to try something new with our EatWell store," Schnucks Chairman and CEO Todd Schnuck said in a statement.
Shoppers in the area may still feel the absence of Lucky's Market, a store that primarily focused on organic food, and EatWell may fill that gap.
EatWell will not be the first or only health food store in the Columbia area, though. Natural Grocers also operates a store there, and a local banner called Clovers Natural Market, which has two stores, has been in Columbia since 1965. Both competitors offer a wide range of organic produce, specialty and gourmet foods, vitamins, supplements and locally sourced products.
Consumers have been trending toward cleaner, healthier and organic products for a while now, but those products are getting an extra boost due to the COVID-19 pandemic because people have been willing to pay a premium to fill their baskets.
Organic fresh produce sales were up 22% in March, while total organic dollar sales rose about 22% year-over-year, according to Q1 research from the Organic Produce Network. These organic and natural products often come from local producers who aren't feeling the same supply chain strain as producers for major retail chains, helping them to keep grocers stocked.
Other grocers have taken the chance to open new stores during the pandemic. Raley’s opened a new flagship location in Sacramento, California, in April and another store under its Bel Air banner in a nearby suburb earlier this week. Rivals Lidl and Aldi have also opened stores, both in the metro area of Raleigh, North Carolina, and Baron's Market opened its ninth store today in Chula Vista, California.
For Schnucks, opening during the crisis could help drive more traffic than if it had waited. Opening with a fully-stocked store will attract shoppers who are struggling to fill their grocery baskets and could potentially turn them into loyal customers post-pandemic.