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Nov 8, 2007 04:12 PM

TESCO Fresh and Easy

The grand opening of their "#1" US store (Glassell Park/Eagle Rock) was today. I went earlier and can't say I'm too impressed. It's like a normal supermarket but with their own "fresh and easy" brand products, like "fresh and easy" tater tots, ice cream, and cheese nips.

Their specialty is in "prepared-but-not-frozen foods", so think refrigerated sandwiches, refrigerated cooked pasta, and refrigerated Thai rice bowls. It's a bit like buying leftovers from a family's fridge.

Still, I can see its appeal. It looks more modern and sophisticated than most supermarkets, or at least the front half is, and everything is nicely repackaged in friendly pastel colors, simple graphics, and lowercase fonts. This was most impressive in the meat/fish/seafood section, where color-added salmon fillets, pork meatballs, skinless chicken breasts and such were immaculately presented in clear plastic cases. This is where Rachel Ray goes to get groceries for her 30 minute meals. (Apparently when making mock up F&Es, they claimed it was a movie set.)

As far as offering something rare or exceptional, there wasn't much. The cheese selection is good - they have everything from Stilton Blue to wet mozz balls - and the $5 pate looked interesting. There's a lot of pre-marinated and sauced meats (carne asada, fajita kits, etc), which sounds like the sort of nearly-expired crap you'd find at a supermarket meat counter, but fresh&easy's actually looks, well, fresh. There's the typical Trader Joe's stuff as well - Vodka pasta sauce, $.99 pizza dough, and several varieties of hummus. They have their own brand of kid's lunches, with cool little mazes to boot, but Lunchables are available, just in case.

Overall I think it does live up to its name. Everything looks fresh (although the expiration dates for some of the sushi and sandwiches were today, but maybe that's the nature of fresh-not-frozen-or-preserved food) and easy -- the meat, for instance, looks nicely prepped, rinsed, and ready to be used. It's easy to plan a semi-homemade meal just walking up and down the aisles. And while there isn't a choice of brands, the packaging gives an assurance of quality ("everything just looks so damn good!" I heard someone remark), and not having to choose saves time. You could say it's either grocery shopping simplified or dumbed down.

It was opening day today, so it was jam-packed. The self-check-out-with-the-aid-of-an-employee lines were long and the only ones available, so I didn't buy anything. There were some curious locals and families, but mostly the crowd consisted of professionals, urbanites, TV reporters, and notebook-yielding competitors donned in suits. There weren't enough parking spaces (a hulking Toyota Land Cruiser and Honda Pilot took up the two "hybrid only" spaces), so I parked in front of someone's house instead. On the sidewalk were protestors against Tesco's labor and environmental policies. Near the entrance, Tesco employees countered with pamphlets claiming the contrary.

Part of Tesco's claims is to bring grocery stores to "food islands", which the Glassell Park location is (a Trader Joe's and Super-A are both a mile away). But the Glassell Park store is an exception, most are in already supermarket-saturated neighborhoods, and their product selection and prices for these objectives are questionable.

Still I think it'll do well, especially in more suburban areas. The advertising, graphic design, marketing, and product development people have definitely done their homework.

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  1. Thanks for the report -- I thought of checking it out today but was too tired from Whole Foods yesterday. It sounds about like I imagined. Some of that premade stuff always looks pretty scary at supermarkets, but if it looks better, maybe I'll try some of it and report back.

    1. Yeah, thank you for the thorough and descriptive report! This underwhelmed report (which I completely believe) reminds me of Famima!! a little bit, in that I was so excited in the beginning to go, and then after a few visits with obligatory purchases (just to be nice), I completely lost interest. It does sound like Tesco's Fresh and Easy won't be worth dragging my butt out of Torrance and away from Whole Foods and Trader Joe's just to be in a place that has cutely packaged prepared foods I can make myself. Oh well. I'll probably still swing by the Manhattan Beach one whenever it opens.

      Thanks again!!

      1. Probably wishful thinking on my part, but did they happen to have any British products, like tea and biscuits?

        22 Replies
        1. re: Heidi

          I don't mean to be rude, but why would people get the impression that a huge multinational retailer that wants to become like Wal-Mart and is moving into lower-income areas would stock British products, just because it is based in Britain? I don't think the residents of Hemet are pining for their crumpets. It's not the Tudor House -- it's pre-packaged carne asada.
          So, no.

          1. re: Chowpatty

            that's too bad. i too was hoping for the tesco brand english products i used to love.

            1. re: Chowpatty

              Why wouldn't people get that impression? If Ralph's or Costco opened in a foreign country, it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect to find Kroger or Kirkland products there.

              Tesco stocks major brands but they also make a ton of snacks, cereals and a zillion other food and household products under their own label. It's not that far-fetched to wonder if those will be stocked here.

              1. re: hrhboo

                Yes, in fact Costco in Japan carries the exact same Kirkland branded items as in the U.S.. Even the pizza and hot dogs are the same over there.

                1. re: hrhboo

                  Costco in the UK stock a lot of American products including the Kirkland band.

                2. re: Chowpatty

                  You're right on that, and I'd take it a step further to say Tesco doesn't want to become like Wal-mart, it already operates that way in most of the dozen other countries where it has set up shop. This is the first time Tesco has entered a country without its first format being huge a supercenter/hypermarket, and they've been criticized for supply chain abuses, much the same as Wal-Mart.
                  Perhaps a little less like Wal-Mart, Tesco tends to do their homework and try to blend in with the locals as best as possible, which has proved complicated for the company when local cuisine (freshly slaughtered turtle) conflicts with the values of Tesco's home country.
                  It's actually a little depressing to me to know that Tesco did their homework here and came up with a rather aesthetically bland store that sells mini corn dogs, chips ahoy, shrink-wrapped veggies and Tide laundry detergent! I guess I've been living in the TJ's bubble.

                  1. re: Chowpatty

                    They do have several UK products, marmite, hp sauce. Nothing though that can't be found elsewhere.

                    1. re: Bippy

                      Well we found ONE thing they have that is hard to find elsewhere, even in LA. Rashers... thank GAWD they have Rashers...


                      1. re: Dommy

                        Do you mean like British Bacon ? !

                        If so they were out when I went (near end of opening day, so quite likely) and if they have them in next week it is awesome :)

                        1. re: Bippy

                          YEP! They have it in the meat case near the ham. Nice THICK slices too... perfect for proper breakfast! :)


                  2. re: Heidi

                    I haven't been to F&E, so I don't know if they have biscuits etc (mmm, Hob Nobs) but I agree it would be surprising if they did. However you can get a lot of that stuff at places like Cost Plus. They have Hob Nobs (milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and plain) rich tea biscuits, etc. And PG tips brand tea. Lots of other British goodies as well. It's cheap too. I don't even bother asking people to bring stuff back from the UK anymore, it's so easy to come by, even some of the larger branches of chain grocery stores have British food.

                    1. re: Heidi

                      Actually, when I went today I was sort of laughing about how some of the products had a kind of British spin. For instance, it seemed like most of the store-brand frozen dinners were Indian. And we all know Indian food is the best part of British cuisine, right? :)
                      Also, in the poultry section there were ENORMOUS turkey legs. How very Ren Faire!

                      1. re: Heidi

                        British Products? I didn't read your post until after my visit, but one of the items I do recall seeing is British Back Bacon for $4.99/# (Fresh & Easy Brand) I looked for clotted cream, as I sometimes like to have that, but I was not able to find any.

                        Also of note, many prepared foods are available as mentioned, but anything that you would eat hot or warm requires heating at home, there are no hot prepared foods, and no food bars. Everything with little exception is in a package which is alarming, even though they state environmental friendly packaging is question is all of the packaging even necessary?

                        1. re: robl

                          Everything is packaged (including every piece of whole produce they sell) because it's all self-checkout (or as I believe they prefer to call it, "guided" checkout.)

                          1. re: robl

                            This is good to know. I have been keeping an eye out for opening dates for the local F & E stores in my area, as my hubby is British and has been looking everywhere for proper 'bangers'. And I miss the selection of biscuits (local Albertsons has decent selection but not the same).

                            1. re: FoodieKat

                              Proper bangers are available frozen at either of the two tea rooms on the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and 2nd St. in Santa Monica.

                              1. re: Bjartmarr

                                The ones at Bob's Market in Santa Monica are also really tasty! :)


                                1. re: Bjartmarr

                                  The Winston Irish bangers I got from Tudor's House at SM are the best I've tried yet.

                                  There's also a grocery store called British Grocer's near the Olde Shipe at Fullerton. I know I've seen bangers there, but can't recall if they are Winston's. I know they stock lots of biscuits but Cost Plus Imports also have a decent selection of biscuits and cadburys.

                                  1. re: notmartha

                                    I found bangers- and even closer to home! Sprouts in Irvine sells bangers in their butchers counter.

                              2. re: robl

                                How is British Back Bacon different from regular bacon? And is the F&E version comparable to the stuff in the UK? (Is it worth my $5?)

                                1. re: avena

                                  I believed it's a different part of the pig - instead of belly it's back of a pig.

                                  Actually, it's not cured with nitrates, so it taste less smokey and less salty. It seems to be more meaty at one side than regular bacon, with still enough fat on another side closer to the skin.

                                  I prefer it to the nitrates cured pork belly bacon, but tastes are so subjective. Never had it in UK, so can't compare.

                            2. Thanks for the report - saw the OC Register article but none of the planned stores are near me - doesn't sound like I'm missing much as I make most meals from "scratch."

                              1. Web site showing locations is in the link.

                                Fresh & Easy
                                4211 Eagle Rock Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90065