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Fresh & Easy Markets in California--like 'em?

Do you shop there? What do you think? What do you know about their products?

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  1. there are some planned to open up here in Sacto. but I don't think they have yet. There's been multiple articles about them in the Sacramento Bee newspaper. I think they're based out of London and are trying to go the inexpensive, deli route and be more urban accessible.

    2 Replies
    1. re: lilyalli

      i had heard (don't remember where) that the plans for the ones in the Sacto. area had come to a grinding halt. Has anyone else heard that?

      1. re: lilyalli

        I personally like them. Their meat and fish have always been top quality and packaged, unlike Costco, with just enough for my wife and myself to make a nice meal. Their ravioli is damned good. Ditto for their goat yoghurt. Prices I have found always to be fair and somewhat lower than say Ralphs or Albertsons. Checkout is a smooth quick operation. Employees are helpful. The point of the packaging is to make sure items are fresh, yes, and sold on or before the date of expiration. The vegetables seem to be a little pricey but all in all the stores are wonderful especially for the meats and doubly so for the fish. Very good fresh sweet tasting fish. So what if the stores are kind of plain, when the food is the reason you're there.

      2. I love them, but then I'm english! I go there for the british style bacon, but the bakery stuff is all very good, and the cheese selection is really nice. They have so many tempting desserts! Its run by supermarket giant Tesco from the UK.

        5 Replies
        1. re: jennywenny

          By "British style bacon", do you mean gammon? I remember getting that in Scotland, and haven't seen it here.

          1. re: menuinprogress

            Tesco USA doesn't sell "British style" foods or items. Instead they try to sell what local people already buy. I was a bit put off by this since I was hoping to find real Mars bars, some frozen Cornish Pasties, and some real English farmhouse cheddar.

            On the upside their prepared foods aren't bad and they're way cheaper then whole foods but I can still think of several ethnic take out places in the same price range who offer better food.

            1. re: oerdin

              F&E sells a bacon that has the label "British brand bacon" using that upper case and lower case lettering.

              I believe jennywenny merely typed it incorrectly and menuinprogress followed that wording.

              1. re: Cathy

                I ate this for breakfast this morning. It is uncured back bacon. It looks like streaky bacon with a piece of canadian bacon attached to it. Very tasty!

                1. re: Divamac

                  Oh yeah...seems to not be cut uniformly, so you get some pieces crispier than others...I absolutely do not mind paying $6 for a pound of that bacon.

        2. They're alright. I was actually hoping they'd have stuff that they would sell in an actual Tesco though.

          1. I love them. In my experience, the store brands are really good, and the prices are reasonable. And the deserts are awesome!

            1. I like them a lot for certain things - humboldt fog and other gourmet cheeses, spanish chorizo and deli meats, seafood, organic dairy and eggs, fresh pasta and sauces, fresh squeezed grapefruit juice and lemonade, prepared sandwiches and salads, ice creams, inexpensive wines (they have two good cheap roses) and chocolate. I occasionally buy the veggies but I'm not crazy about all the packaging, and they're not nearly as fresh as the farmer's market goods I'm hooked on.

              They just revamped their prepared foods and added cold cooked chicken breasts and cold fried chicken - the Indian stuff is ok but the calories are sky high. They've been giving out a lot of $5. off coupons if you spend over $20. I've only been once that I wasn't able to use one, so ask if you don't already have one!

              1. From the limited photos on their site, they do look packaging-heavy.

                Is the store like a conventional (yet small) grocery, or more deli-like with pre-prepared foods?

                I yearn for a decent market in my town of 16,000. All we have is one Von's and a few Hispanic markets.

                4 Replies
                1. re: toodie jane

                  The packaging is just like they do it in Europe (less tampering or 'exchanging' of labels and product).

                  Also everything comes from one central warehouse (no hot rotissiere chicken or hot bakery products).

                  After about 4 p.m. the stores start to mark down the products with that day's expiration date -half off-. The stuff does not go bad the next day. If it does, they do have a great return policy...and all the seafood products have a 'freshness indicator' on the packaging (changes color when it goes bad, so you don't hae to open it and small it). All of the locations close at 10 p.m. and I have gotten some great deals when I go in later in the day, including the fresh flowers...

                  That said- the roasted banana gelato is my craving.

                  The premade (just nuke) beef lasagne for $3.98 for 25 ounces and a bag of mixed lettuce for 96ยข and a baguette for $1.29. Meal for two, plus leftovers for about $7...lazy, I know, but some nights...

                  The uncured "British brand" bacon is wonderful.

                  I really haven't had anything I did not like. The hot dog buns feel hard- but are that "good" kind of white bread...if you toast the buns, they are soft and hearty, not really chewy, even though if you touch them, look at the date and wonder if they are old- they aren't.

                  1. re: Cathy

                    I was never in a Fresh&Easy Market and was just wondering what you meant by "The packaging is just like they do it in Europe (less tampering or 'exchanging' of labels and product). "

                    1. re: honkman

                      In Great Britain and Ireland almost all items are pre-packed/measured upon delivery to the store-before being put out to be purchased..

                      Best example is the baskets of strawberies here. People will 'exchange' and 'add' strawberries to the individual pint and quart baskets, making their own kind of purchse. This can lead to different sizes of pints and quarts, as well as a lot of handling and possible tampering-possible germs or other 'additions' to the remaining fruit...

                    2. re: Cathy

                      The F&E on Navajo in San Carlos has been selling the regular bacon for .99/lb this week...

                  2. OC Register story said they are planning to bring in more UK items and try to make the stores a bit more attractive. I've shopped there when in CA visiting and got some good deals. Some items not to my liking and store was smaller than I'm used to so couldn't do major shopping. That said - everything was very fresh and prices good especially when they were marked down. They do feature a lot of grab and go which my daughter who doesn't cook much likes. She's switched from Pavillions for her two-person family.

                    1. here's some info on Tesco and their strategy. Sounds like WalMart may start bleeding employees/execs to Tesco.


                      7 Replies
                      1. re: toodie jane

                        I read in the business section awhile ago that their launch in the US has fallen fall from projections and there will be no new openings. Even stores in the process of build-outs have been put on hold. There aren't any close to me so haven't had a chance to experience them but if you are a fan, give it lots of support to keep them around.

                        1. re: foodiechick

                          I'm thinking of checking out the one in Vista, so I will report in if I do. I feel they picked strange locations here in the San Diego North county area - both are about 20 miles from me (a bit north and inland). I am sure it was a cost issue as vista and escondido are much more affordable than the coastal towns, yet I feel they are losing a huge consumer base by not being closer to the coast.

                          1. re: Enorah

                            They were supposed to go into Point Loma which is still aways from me but would have checked it out, unfortunately that plan went out with the expansion bathwater. I'm wondering if their price points had something to do with locations, obviously they did demographic research for the areas.

                            1. re: foodiechick

                              I think they tried to clarify and said they're just slowing down the openings - but who knows for sure. I do think they have picked some odd locations - I'm happy that there's one here in Casa de Oro, but I am sure they'd be busier in more upscale areas.

                              1. re: Alice Q

                                I believe the Point Loma store location now has a "For Lease" sign on it, so it looks like that one is not opening at all.

                                I drive from Mission Valley to the store on Navajo. I agree with the over-packaging, but I have been very pleased with the freshness of the produce (the prepared radishes are a particular favorite) and the meats and seafood have been very good. I haven't had any of the prepared foods or bakery items, but I think the variety available is quite good for such a small store. I just wish they were in better locations.

                                I think one of their charters was to open in less-well-serviced locations. But they also seem to have opened in spaces that were previously occupied by failed grocery store chains. To me, their model and the products they carry are better suited for the Trader Joe''s crowd or those who like Whole Foods but wish it were more reasonably priced (me on both counts). And with the good variety of prepared foods, locations closer to business areas would pull in the lunch crowd. In fact, Mission Valley would have been a great place for one. We only have a lousy Ralphs and a Food for Less.

                                1. re: Divamac

                                  This is not correct. The Point Loma store is going forward and is being prepared to open. The are two 'for lease' signs in the smaller retail spaces. Peet's is almost ready to open too.

                        2. re: toodie jane

                          Take Kevin Coupe's article with a large grain of salt. He has been cheerleading for Tesco for the past two years on his Morningnewsbeat.com website.

                          Tesco is a great retailer but gets 10x the press that it deserves on its Fresh and Easy markets which have been anything but successful.

                        3. I was a little turned off by the large amount of processed foods in the store. I noticed they have some items not readily available in the average grocery, like Greek Yogurt. The meat prices seem to be a bit high. My boss bought some flowers for our shop, and they had so much artificial perfume on them that it upset my allergies. So, I guess they're ok if you only need a few things, and don't have time to wait in a long line (all the checkouts are self-service :)

                          1. I like them. They have pretty much replaced major supermarkets and even Trader Joe's for most of my basic grocery store shopping. I characterize them as a small grocery store that carries some higher-quality items at good prices. They are more than a convenience store, I don't particularly think the prepared items are the strong points. They carry some national brands and some imported items. Most of my purchases are their own-brand products, almost all of which I like. For the most part I buy staples like meat, dairy, breads, frozen berries, occasionally a marked-down prepared item.

                            There has been a lot of back and forth on chowhound especially the LA Board (one of their first test areas). It seems some people expected a specialty British store, which it isn't. Other people don't "get" the interior layout and design. They expected a more warm and fuzzy Whole Foodsy Trader Joesy type of place. Some dislike the prepackaged produce (which is exactly how Trader Joes does it) and some don't want to use the self-checkout terminals.

                            I still prefer to get most of my fruit and veg elsewhere although I'll occasionally get something splurgy that's marked down. I don't think they are particularly worth driving out of your way for, except maybe out of curiosity. But if you've got one in your neighborhood and hate to wait in the lines at TJs or pay grocery store prices, they are great.

                            I've noticed that my closest store seems much busier than when it first opened. Yesterday I actually had to look twice for a parking space, and all of the registers were in use.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: mlgb

                              "Some dislike the prepackaged produce (which is exactly how Trader Joes does it) " - And that is one of the reasons I really don't like TJ. This is producing way too much garbage for just buying produce. In addition, it is also important for me pick my own produce.

                              1. re: honkman

                                Trader Joe's is charging us for all that extra packaging--you can bet on it. Just like we're paying the full per-pound charge on fresh salmon for the generous piece of kale and lemon wedges that come along with the fish.

                                It's easier for them to pre-package everything. No produce worker needed, no trimmings trash to dispose of, pre-priced, etc. Saves them lots of $$ by shifting those costs to the consumer. Tesco is using the same device.

                                1. re: toodie jane

                                  I agree and that the reason why I don'y buy at TJ (and in addition I never found the quality of most of their products to be really good).

                            2. Their website says the Manhattan Beach store is scheduled to open July 2, 2008, I guess they are going to resume more openings after their "pause" for tweaks.


                              1. Had the ravioli the other night with just some parmesano cheese and some of their very very rich mushroom soup. Their meats and fish are great especially for two because the pack it in small packages, always fresh. I got a big tender tri-tip from them and served it to six people for dinner after marinating it in teriyaki and cajun power mixture, also turned out tender but not as tasy as I would have liked. People are always helpful. My wife picked up some frozen meals, a name brand like Amys, and it was good for one evening. I also like their roti, I'm coming to like these markets better than before. Only thing is I send them an e-mail once and they didn't respond until I sent them a second e-mail; and the same thing happened again recently. Guess they don't like answering e-mails.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: EclecticEater

                                  Last night they had marked down the refrigerated butternut squash soup. What a great item! It's non dairy and veg-stock based, with canola oil rather than cream. It was delicious cold straight from the container on a hot night. Alternatively it can be microwaved in the container. They have started to add some of the new items to the stores in my area, including a wider selection of dried bean mixes, & quinoa in the packaged section. I wonder if they are starting to tailor the product mix.

                                  Also, has anyone else mentioned that the plastic overwrap on some of the veggies (like the snow peas) is actually a microwave pouch? At least there is some value added with some of the over-packaging.

                                2. Here's the "scoop" on the supplier of their gelato and sorbet (the $2.99/$1.99 pints on the right hand side of the freezer case). It describes the vetting process that the supplier had to follow. Many 'Hounds have praised the roasted banana gelato, I like the blueberry-pom sorbet.

                                  The best news is that, to quote " In September, they will add Berto's cappuccino and chocolate-hazelnut gelato and its pineapple-orange and blackberry-rum sorbets."

                                  Can't wait for the blackberry-rum. I was there yesterday but it wasn't out.


                                  1. Fresh & Easy is about to open at least three stores in San Francisco and others in the Bay Area (February 2011). I haven't shopped there but from what I have seen on their site am concerned about excessive amounts of packaging. I am hoping consumers here will put pressure on them to reduce their packaging and use of plastic films (plastic wrap). They do advertise energy efficient stores with solar panels, that is a welcome change from the Cala and Delano's stores they are replacing.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: jovich

                                      Try going there and seeing for yourself before 'pressuring them to change' something you don't know about and haven't seen.

                                      The prepackaged items are fewer in number than when they opened and far more per piece items are available. They do not have scales and do not sell produce by the pound. Prepacks help them -and us- save money.

                                      The lighting is LEDs which are more energy efficient. Not all stores have solar panels.

                                      1. re: jovich

                                        Their produce (and most of their packaging) is very similar to what Trader Joe's does. They sell a few items by the piece, but there isn't bulk produce. If that is what you are looking for, don't bother wasting gas to go there.