Familiar Food Brands Hit the Streets in NYC
NYC neighborhoods are currently experiencing a boom of brick-and-mortar restaurants with a twist: they are all brands normally found in the local grocery store. Lately, a trend has developed in which food and drink companies market their products directly to their customers instead of going through grocery stores, creating an innovative way for consumers to sample each brand’s products.
Tea company Pure Leaf opened a cafe in Soho, and Kellogg’s recently opened a cafe in Times Square for customers to try its endless cereal products. This is not the first time the trend of grocery-store brand shops has taken off. A few years ago, brands such as Chobani, Nestlé, and Barilla changed their image by jumping from the grocery store straight to the people. Through establishing restaurants across the country, they changed the way their brands were seen, a method of direct marketing that got customers’ attention. In 2012, Chobani opened its first cafe in Soho with a yogurt-filled menu. Nestle took a more international approach and has opened 145 locations in the U.S., Canada, and the Middle East which all serve smoothies and ice cream in addition to the brand’s world-famous cookies. Grocery store brand Amy’s, which makes vegetarian frozen food, was soon to follow, but their approach was a little more unique. They opened a Drive Thru restaurant in San Francisco, using mostly fresh ingredients to make burritos for customers; Paul Schiefer, Amy’s director of operations, told Eater Magazine that although the Drive Thru “uses some of the same supplies, growers, and chefs that had made our frozen food, the menu is pretty much from scratch”.
And some companies are getting creative by expanding on the products they’re selling, such as Nespresso, a high-end sub-brand of Nestlé, which is not only selling its famous coffee but alcohol and food as well in “boutiques” across the United States. Chobani is also going beyond selling just the products one could find in a grocery store, by putting yogurt bowls on the menu in its Soho cafe (and its more recently opened Tribeca location). Customers can choose from a variety of bowls, such as the Peanut Butter & Jelly (with red grapes and roasted peanuts) and the Cucumber & Olive Oil (which comes with fresh mint and simit chips). Sandwiches and baked goods are included as well, and everything on the menu is incorporated with yogurt in some way.
By creating physical shops these brands are changing the way people view them. Instead of being seen as simply a typical grocery store item, these products are now aesthetically-appealing, fresh-looking, and Instagram-worthy. The Chobani yogurt bowls are served in cute glass bowls with fresh toppings made by the chef, and each cafe’s interior has a trendy look and feel. Nespresso boutiques have a luxurious look, with elegant leather furniture and coffee pod-themed wall art. Changes like these make people see the products in a luxurious light, categorizing them into lifestyle brands rather than just run-of-the-mill items you would see in a shopping cart. The success that has resulted in grocery-store-brand shops leaves people to wonder: is this just a temporary fad, or will the industry continue to grow?