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Responding to last week’s piece about the new Fairway Market in New Jersey, MNB user Mehgan A. Belanger wrote:

I'm always up for visiting a new retail food experience, so upon reading your positive notes from your recent visit to Fairway in nearby Paramus, N.J., I figured it would be a good way to spend some of my time Saturday (it sounds kind of sad, but I do have a life outside of this business, really I swear!)

Here's some of my observations, taken from a shopper's point-of-view:

-- While the signage was beautiful, the produce itself was even more so. All of the produce, whether it was organic or traditional, looked like it had been picked only hours before, and you can really taste the freshness. My only concern is that the high aisles in this section make customers traverse the whole area to find the fruits and veggies they want, making it slightly less convenient. But in the end, I had put more items in my cart than I planned to, so this approach can't be that bad.

-- The coffee section! Entering this area, there's a smell of freshly roasted beans that Starbucks could only hope for. The available flavors and countries of origin were impressive. I picked up a prepackaged bag of Fairway's Supreme blend, and after trying it this morning, it's perfect -- not too bold and not too wimpy, with some real flavor. I'm looking forward to going back and creating my own Caramel/Cinammon/Crème Brulee blend. Yum!

-- While I don't know if it was just grand-opening specials, the pricing in some areas seemed to be a steal! A gallon of regular 2 percent milk for $1.75, extra virgin olive oil for $4.99, filet mignon for $4.99, a dozen eggs for 89 cents -- how can you pass this up?! I'd make the half-hour trip for these items alone if those prices stay.

-- The quick-service Blimpie that is placed right inside the produce section has me puzzled. It doesn't seem to work with the gourmet/upscale image of Fairway, and since Fairway has its own section of prepared food to-go, I imagine Blimpie might take away some of that business.

-- The diversity (and volume) of customers. I enjoyed my experience at Fairway overall, but I really hope there's less customers the next time I visit. It made the shopping experience a bit of a hassle, but being opening weekend, it's understandable.

What was remarkable was the variety of customers -- you have the well-to-do shoppers picking out organic milk and value shoppers picking up the regular milk with the special pricing. You have label-reading health nuts and foodies picking out gourmet veggie chips next to regular Joes with their pretzels in the snack aisle. College-age kids are lined up next to baby boomers and senior citizens at the deli.

It's kind of surprising when you look at your neighboring shoppers, but it's cool to see a brand transcend income levels and demographics, and connect with all types of shoppers.

Best of luck to this new store! I know I'll be back in its aisles soon.

As will I. Thanks for the detailed report.

Regarding my continued calls for greater emphasis on e-grocery, MNB user Mike Spindler wrote:

In the interest of full disclosure, I remain a shareholder and board member of MyWebGrocer.

That said….. Online continues to grow in consumer influence for the CPG space inside and outside the actual online ordering and fulfillment components. The increase in the switch-out from paper-based circulars to those that are interactive (particularly if personalized based on their loyalty purchase records), the increases in coupon usage …almost all of it coming through either regular online or mobile online, the enthusiasm of consumers for CPG ads and offers when combined in online food environments and yes the continued growth of online shopping for CPG, at least for savvy operators, speaks volumes about both the potential and the necessity of getting in the game…and if in…of improving the state of your game.

Grocers could be caught in the crossfire between Amazon and Walmart. Or they could compete and take advantage of their banner and position in the marketplace. Online Grocery remains a very specialized application set due to the unique manner in which consumers engage. Their interest is in speed, convenience of interaction between the different tools and a predictable result. The applications built by companies such as MyWebGrocer, specifically aimed at the grocery shopper are much more effective at converting those consumers into action than the use of generalized or even customized packages of online applications which might well be effective in areas such as books, music and even apparel. This is also true of the applications used by Walmart and Amazon at least with regard to regular grocery type shopping.

Also in the interest of full disclosure, MyWebGrocer is a valued and longtime sponsor of MNB.

Got a lot of emails yesterday about our April Fool’s story, but this one, from MNB user Matt Flax, came the farthest (and is one of my favorites):

I read your column every day, currently from Shanghai, China. It's a must read no matter where in the world I am.

I am an American, originally from the Washington DC area who now works and lives in Shanghai. Your April Fool's story caught me for three reasons. The China angle, Giant Supermarket angle, and that I am reading it on April 2nd in Shanghai. I read China news every day as well and couldn't believe there was no report on a China company buying Borders & Rite Aid let alone Target & Starbucks. I totally believed Stop & Shop would do more damage to a once good supermarket brand. Giant was a great supermarket and dominant player in the DC area before Ahold took over and ruined it.

Well done!!! Keep up the great work!

I’m blushing.

And thanks.

More on the April Fool’s story below…

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