Five ways Albert Heijn is innovating to win

Date : 17 May 2018

Dutch market leader Albert Heijn continues to raise the bar with new store concepts and range innovation. We round up five of the latest developments.

1. New concept fresh store with a focus on fresh

Albert Heijn has opened a new concept store in Hoofdorp. The store brings to life some of the retailer’s latest innovations in concepts and range, with a focus on fresh.

Among other features, this includes a self-serve herb garden, patisserie and cocktail island. This aims to inspire shoppers to create a cocktail board from a mixture of sweet and savoury products.

The produce category includes the dry misting of fresh produce, as well as a selection of bulbs, seeds, cuttings and accessories to help shoppers grow their own produce at home.

Meanwhile an interactive screen allows shoppers to order from the retailer’s extended range of groceries online, which can then be fulfilled by ah.nl. Other technological innovations include a variety of self-scanning services, with hand scanners and mobile scan and go available.

Source: Albert Heijn

...As competitor Jumbo introduces fourth Foodmarkt store

Elsewhere in the market, Jumbo has opened a new Foodmarkt store in Liedsche Rijn. The store, which is the retailer’s largest site in Utrecht looks to provide tasty and healthy food inspiration.

In-store, there are variety of chefs making fresh dishes, while the retailer has broadened its international offer, with the addition of Mexican street food, Hawaiian poke bowls and fresh coconuts.

Branch manager Arjan van der Maas highlighted the store’s new La Place world kitchens where meals are freshly prepared, such as handmade sushi rolls, freshly rolled pasta and healthy salads’. These can either be enjoyed in-store or at home.

La Place products including bakery and confectionery are also available, as well as freshly roasted nuts and 128 affordable international wines. More widely the store stocks over 20,000 products.

Commenting on the launch, Colette Cloosterman - van Eerd, CCO said, ‘From Jumbo we continuously respond to the wishes of customers and we want to continue to exceed expectations. In this concept store all ideas and inspiration come together that we have in the field of easy, tasty and healthy eating. We do this with a wide range of fresh, tasty and healthy products and the preparation of fresh meals in our La Place kitchens. Shopping at Jumbo Food Market Leidsche Rijn is really a party. We therefore look forward to inspire everyone in the Utrecht region with the best of Jumbo and La Place’.

IGD Retail Analysis subscribers can also access our exclusive report, ‘Netherlands – 10 stores to see in 2018’. This includes stores from Albert Heijn and Jumbo, as well as other innovative store concepts from Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Eindhoven and Utrecht.

Source: Jumbo

2. Albert Heijn trials fixture where shoppers can harvest lettuce…

In other news, Albert Heijn has introduced a new fixture that lets shoppers harvest their own lettuce at its store in Gelderlandplein, Amsterdam. It has been co-created by Albert Heijn’s Food Rebels team, the retailer’s lettuce suppliers and Dutch company Hrbs.

Source: Fresh Plaza

How does the fixture work?

It includes 35 lettuce heads, which have roots attached so that the lettuces stay fresh. Shoppers can take the lettuce and put them in supplied packaging to stop them dripping.

Commenting on the initiative, Michiel van Zanten, from Dutch company Hrbs said this offers ‘a very different sight to the lettuce in bags of which as many as possible are crammed into a crate. The stand looks good. People regularly take photos of it. It is also going well regarding rotation. I often see people harvesting a head of lettuce’.

Van Zanten continued, ‘Hrbs wants to bring the world of fruit and vegetables as close to the ordinary person as possible. We want to integrate them into everyday life. We supply stands, for inside and outside, with trays for different kinds of mini-vegetable crops and herbs. Chefs and clients can then harvest these themselves. When the crops have all been harvested, or are old, we deliver a new tray and take the old one along for reuse’.

3. …While introducing oyster mushrooms grown on coffee grounds

Source: Christiaan Vette, LinkedIn

In the same store, Albert Heijn is now selling fresh oyster mushrooms that have been grown on coffee grounds as it looks to make the food chain more sustainable. The idea was developed in partnership with a mushroom supplier, Gro (Green Recycled Organics. If this initiative is successful, it could be scaled to more stores using caffeine from other stores.

How does the fixture work?

  • Ground coffee is collected from an Albert Heijn store and is input into tunnels with lime and fungal spores
  • Following a few weeks of growth, temperature is lowered, resulting in ‘an autumn-like’ climate
  • Oyster mushrooms grow without pesticides

A press release from the retailer stated, ‘Albert Heijn encourages initiatives that make a positive contribution to the food system and wants to contribute to a sustainable economy and green business, the reuse of materials, raw materials and waste products. That is why a number of stores will receive a flexible shelf in the coming weeks for experimenting or activating new product concepts with options for testing and selling’.

Albert Heijn is continuing to push the boundaries on sustainable initiatives in fresh produce. The retailer previously invested in similar initiatives, including offering fresh herbs to harvest in-store. IGD Retail Analysis subscribers can read more about this innovation here.

4. Albert Heijn invests in nearly 200 convenient meal solutions...

Citing research that suggests that Dutch people spend less time preparing food, the retailer has introduced 173 new and improved fresh products, aimed at offering more tasty meal solutions. This includes '72 new meals, 73 improved meals, 33 new salads and three new pureed soups’.

As part of this, the retailer has considered sustainability, reducing packaging in prepared meals by 15% and reducing bagged lettuce to 50 grams to prevent food waste.

Health is also on the agenda, with sugar being substantially reduced by '30 million sugar cubes per year...as a result of improved recipes for ready-to-eat meals’. Meanwhile, the vegetable content of products has been more clearly communicated.

Commenting on the launch, Marit van Egmond, director of merchandising and sourcing said, ‘We believe that delicious fresh food contributes to a better life for everyone. Sometimes it lacks inspiration or time to think and make everything yourself. And we can play a part in that. By offering, together with our suppliers, innovative and surprising products in which a large portion of vegetables has been processed’.

Source: Albert Heijn

5. …And runs latest annual Product Pitch

In other news, the retailer has started its annual Product Pitch, as it looks ‘to stimulate young entrepreneurship and to discover innovative products’.

This campaign sees start up businesses compete to win a place on Albert Heijn’s shelves, as well as money to activate their product and coaching to grow their business.

Registration has now closed, with fifteen entrepreneurs presenting their product to category managers and buyers on May 23rd. The ten best concepts will then compete in the final phase of the competition on June 7th.

Last year, Abel’s Deli won the Product Pitch competition. Five Abel’s Deli fresh food jars  can now be found in over 100 Albert Heijn stores. These include Vegetable Medley, Pasta Pomodoro, Pasta Pesto, Italian Tomato Soup and Velvety Pumpkin Soup.

According to the retailer, ‘the pots are full of good nutrients, healthy fats, proteins and fresh vegetables that are stacked in colourful layers’.

Meanwhile, previous winners of Product Pitch including broth from Bouillon Brothers and Ginmayo from Mossel & Gin can be found in-store and online at Albert Heijn.

Source: Albert Heijn, Abel’s Deli

The Netherlands remains a key market to visit in Europe for those looking for innovation in store formats, private label, new product development and technology. More widely, IGD visits over 700 grocery stores globally on an annual basis. We use our network and retailer relationships to visit some of the latest concept stores. Explore how IGD can help your business gain inspiration by taking you on a Retail Safari tailored to meet your needs.