Walgreens toys with fresh food idea

DEERFIELD, Ill. Walgreens is looking to make a bigger play in the fresh food market by testing this fall chilled foods at up to a dozen store locations, according to a Dow Jones report.

Walgreens spokeswoman Tiffani Washington told Dow Jones that the test would be limited to 12 locations; however, sources indicated that the test is likely occurring in as many as 50 locations in September in the Chicago area.

Washington did say that the company may sell sandwiches, fresh cut fruit, soups and wraps.

Earlier this year, Walgreens acquired Manhattan-based retailer Duane Reade, which has made headlines with its food initiatives. While Washington told Dow Jones that Walgreens was pondering fresh food before it acquired Duane Reade, there's no doubt that it will take some "learnings" from the regional chain.

In March, Duane Reade opened a new Chelsea store location featuring expanded fresh food and grocery offerings, a move that clearly reflected yet another phase in its transformation. The fresh food and grocery offerings have since been rolled out to other select locations.

Soon after the opening of the Chelsea location, Drug Store News stopped by for a store tour.

Upon entering the two-story Duane Reade location at 16th Street and 8th Avenue, shoppers immediately see a center island packed with prepared soups, microwavable single-serve meals, sushi and fresh sandwiches.

To the right of the island, positioned against the wall, is a vast assortment of baked goods and self-serve Starbucks coffee.

But perhaps the most impressive is the expansive food offering toward the back of the 15,000-square-ft. store. This area is much like entering a grocery store, as there are more than 500 SKUs of frozen convenience items, such as boneless chicken breasts, hamburger patties and frozen vegetables.

There's also an array of organic grocery items and exclusive food and beverage brands under the retailer's exclusive DR Delish banner.

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