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Brand in Peril: Tesco’s Fresh & Easy
By: Ron Romanik
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If you don’t live on the West Coast of the U.S., you may have missed one of the great brand experiments of the last decade. U.K.-based grocery giant Tesco developed the Fresh & Easy brand and store concept from scratch six years ago, and planned an aggressive rollout of 200 stores in the Southwest.

Tesco had it all figured out, they thought. The grocery and retail giant targeted a sweet spot at the intersection between worldwide supermarket trends, U.S. consumer habits, and an unmet desire for high-quality fresh food in "mini-supermarkets" at convenient locations. Tesco is currently experiencing a number of fiscal issues, and the reasons for Fresh & Easy’s struggles are many and varied — but not insurmountable, according to the Los Angeles Times.

From the beginning, the brand position was strong, succinct, and transparent. Fresh & Easy hit the nail on the head with a brand name and logo that fully expressed the brand promise. The green logo is friendly, accessible, and features a clock/apple icon that indicates fresh produce and time-saving convenience. The chain also has Code of Business Conduct and a Code of Ethical Trading to live by.

The strategic plan turned on giving private label products the lead in promoting the brand, much as Tesco has done in the U.K. and Europe. But Fresh & Easy took it to another level with many prepared food items and pre-made meals — and a number of different own-brand products delivered in retail product lines with distinct design personalities (PDF with samples). Many of these vibrant package designs won design awards both in the U.S. and abroad.

Whether the Fresh & Easy brand will live on in is still in question, but Tesco is hopeful that the chain can be transferred to a new owner intact. The design firm that developed the many facets and personalities of the brand, P&W Design Consultants in Los Angeles, explains how the brand value has grown and spread.

And there are compelling reasons a potential buyer would be find the investment appealing. First, the brand is still growing and evolving. Six years is a little early to bail on an aggressive strategy. Second, the stores haven’t had a chance to respond to the all the environments they entered and customize their approach. Third, Fresh & Easy’s regular customers seem to be a loyal bunch. In an online poll, the Los Angeles Times found that 63% said they would miss the Fresh & Easy stores if they went away. That may be a brand foundation worth building on.

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About the Author
Ron Romanik is principal of Romanik Communications, a brand consultancy outside Philadelphia founded with a mantra of “Authentic Stories. Resonant Tones. Sustainable Brands.”
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