Industry observers are keeping an eye on several retailers: many are regional and rapidly expanding, while others are gaining momentum and have proven themselves exceptionally well positioned for growth.
In this Produce Blueprints series, we delve into eight grocery operators experts say are worth watching.
A small but increasingly mighty retailer to watch is Erewhon Market BB #:202353, which got its start in 1966 when founders Michio and Aveline Kushi, followers of a macrobiotic diet, opened a Boston food stall, then traveled to California.
Specializing in macrobiotic and organic foods, Erewhon is one of the earliest natural food shops. The company added a second location in 1969, Erewhon West in Los Angeles, not far from where its Beverly Hills location stands today.
Its current expansion mode began a decade ago, after Tony and Josephine Antoci purchased the brand in 2011. A Calabasas location joined the Los Angeles store in 2014, followed by openings in Venice, Silver Lake, Pacific Palisades, and Santa Monica.
A seventh location opened in Studio City in 2021 and an eighth in Beverly Hills in 2022. The company has aggressive plans for continued expansion in Southern California, according to Phil Lempert, founder of the Supermarket Guru in Santa Monica, CA.
Erewhon’s emphasis is on nutritious, sustainable, and organic products to create healthier communities. The chain became a Certified Organic Retailer in 2022 after being certified as a B Corporation in 2021.
The product array in the very small, high-end format includes plenty of vegan and kosher choices, a curated selection of organic produce, and a hot bar; the chain is further recognized for its prepared to-go options. It is also well known for its luxe approach to groceries.
“Erewhon makes Whole Foods’ prices look like a dollar store,” says Lempert, but this is balanced by the positives. “It has a limited supply of produce, but it’s picture perfect.”
Stores have a $200 membership option, branded merchandise such as $185 hoodies, and valet parking at some locations. The company often appears in the gossip columns for the celebrities spotted shopping there, which has led it to become a tourist destination.
As such, Erewhon takes advantage of its notoriety outside the Los Angeles area by attracting a nationwide audience to its ecommerce site.
Erewhon’s small beauty department has been especially popular with influencers, leading to the launch of branded smoothies in partnership with celebrities and entrepreneurs such as Marianna Hewitt and Christina Najjar (Tinx), model-influencers Hailey Bieber and Bella Hadid, and Kourtney Kardashian’s Poosh lifestyle brand.
The smoothies, with their distinctive look and unusual ingredients, have caught fire on Instagram, and Bieber’s iteration alone sold 36,000 units in its first month of availability. Despite its internet fame, Erewhon’s focus is on creating local community ties.
“It’s a community-driven store,” Lempert says. Narrow aisles bring people together, while goods placed high on shelves require shoppers to talk to the store associates—all of whom are full-time. “They take good care of their employees and their customers,” he adds.
This is an excerpt from the cover story in the March/April 2023 issue of Produce Blueprints Magazine. Click here to read the whole issue.