Tapping food veteran to head effort, Walgreens moves into fresh food arena

DEERFIELD, Ill. Moving quickly on its plan to expand food offerings and build per-customer transaction rates in its stores, Walgreens confirmed it has hired veteran food merchant Jim Jensen to fill a new post as divisional merchandise manager in charge of fresh foods.

Jensen last served as director of fresh foods for Fresh and Easy Markets, the U.S subsidiary of fast-growing U.K. retailer Tesco. At Walgreens, he’ll head up the chain’s rapid expansion into prepared and fresh foods as an additional convenience offering for time-strapped customers.

“We already have some fresh foods, like milk and eggs, but we’re looking for an opportunity to put more of these types of things into our stores,” explained company spokesperson Tiffani Washington. “We’re looking to capture that on-the-go consumer looking for a quick, convenient lunch…and we’re also responding to the fact that 80% of Americans don’t know what they’re going to have for dinner at 4 p.m.”

Among the food items Walgreens will offer in many of its stores, said a company source, are “grab-and-go meals, salads, sandwiches and the like.” Jensen will also head up a probable move by the company into its own private-label brand of food items, including what Washington calls “meal components.”

Walgreens has already been in negotiations with major food suppliers like Nestle SA, Sara Lee Corp. and Unilever, to extend its front-end offerings.

“We look at this as another way to leverage our convenient, corner locations,” Washington told Drug Store News.

Jensen will report to Walgreens’ GMM for consumables Steve Broughton. He joins the 7,149-store chain with more than 17 years of fresh food experience, including a 14-year stint with 7-Eleven Inc.’s Fresh Foods Division.

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