Progressive Grocer

MAR 2017

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Page 32 of 117

W hen Niemann Foods broke ground on a new location in Champaign, in downstate Illi- nois, the plan had been to launch the store under its well-known County Market banner. But Rich Niemann Jr., president and CEO of the Quincy, Ill.-based operator, and his team realized that they'd need something different to compete in the university town, so they began playing around with an idea they had for a new concept, one that focused on the grow- ing farm-to-table trend. e resulting 58,000-square-foot Harvest Market, which by its very name harkens back to the land, offers a blend of conventional items and natu- ral/organic products supporting the farm-to-table ideal, with conventional products making up about 40 percent of the selection and natural/organic ac- counting for the bulk, at 60 percent. "We began with the idea and understanding that we wanted to have a connection for our customers that is unique in the industry and allows them to understand who the produc- ers and makers are," Niemann says. "Everything flows from this relation- ship with these producers and makers. at also allows them to understand where their food comes from, what's in it, what's not in it. People are very, very interested in that." e switch to a focus on local or smaller producers had the team rethinking the entire supply process. County Market stores are supplied by traditional wholesaler and DSD vendors, but for the new Harvest Market concept, Niemann says: "We just realized that the food business is changing. Obviously, it's changing very fast. How can we have something that has a real, true connection?" March 2017 | | 31 Chef inspired The deli and salad bar items were in r & d for a year before the store opened, to work out the best sources for local ingredients in the correct flavor combinations.

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