Report: Walgreens to develop prepared meals for customers on the go

DEERFIELD, Ill. Walgreens is gearing up to begin selling prepared meals and more fresh foods in some of its 7,149 stores, according to published reports.

The chain is reportedly negotiating with several major food suppliers, including Nestle SA, Sara Lee Corp. and Unilever, in a bid to begin offering its own private-label line of food products. The company is also set to hire a merchandise manager in charge of fresh foods in the coming weeks, according to Bloomberg News Service and The Nashville Tennessean.

Walgreens has already begun the limited sale of prepared foods like wrapped sandwiches, frozen pizzas and a small selection of produce in some urban stores in neighborhoods that are underserved by local supermarkets or other food stores. But its plans to add a director of fresh foods to its management staff – and to begin selling prepared meals and fresh foods in many of its stores – marks a major step forward in its commitment to the food category.

If successful, the effort also could help in the company’s major campaign to boost front-end sales and per-customer sales chainwide. Through its Customer Centric Retailing and "More from the Core" strategies, Walgreens has launched an aggressive drive to encourage its customers to add at least one more item to their shopping baskets per trip. If successful, the effort would add billions of dollars to the company’s revenues.

Sources at Walgreens could not immediately be reached for comment.

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