NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–The Hub City's newest supermarket has changed its name once again.
After 17 months as "Key Food Marketplace," the 50,000 square-foot market is changing to a new brand name: "Superfresh."
Key Food Stores Co-Operative Inc. "intends to utilize the SuperFresh brand going forward for all Key Food stores in New Jersey,” according to Jennifer Bradshaw, the City of New Brunswick's public information officer.
Key Food is secretive and keeps things close to the vest. The company has not responded to multiple requests for comment on this story.
In early 2016, the parent company bought the SuperFresh brand name, or “banner” in industry parlance, and related intellectual property from the bankrupt Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A&P), in a bankruptcy court auction.
At the time, Key Food reportedly said it would take advantage of using the new banner on several new stores.
New signage went up on the outside of the building, which is owned by the New Brunswick Parking Authority (NBPA), during the week of January 16.
It's not hard to find numerous places where the old Key Food Marketplace logo remains inside the store, but it is now officially "Superfresh."
While the co-operative said ownership of the supermarket would remain the same, a rebranding ceremony and celebration will take place in the spring.
It's the third name for the store that first opened in November 2012 across from New Brunswick's busy railroad station.
The Hub City location didn’t become a Key Foods until August 2015, when it reopened after being closed for more than a year following a failed effort by the Pennsylvania-based theFreshGrocer.
Fast forward about six months and the business was delivering more than 200 grocery orders to local residents every week. However, the delivery service experienced its own share of problems in 2016.
The unique downtown supermarket was built by New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO) and leased by the NBPA, which owns the attached parking garage and got burned for over $1 million on its first supermarket tenant.
By the end of the summer of 2013, theFreshGrocer jumped to a different distributor, along with seven other supermarkets.
Wakefern, the distribution arm of one of the largest US food retailers cooperative, Shop-Rite, announced it would aquire the FreshGrocer banner.
In 2015, Key Food purchased 23 stores from bankrupt A&P reportedly saving some 1,800 jobs in NY and NJ, where A&P’s, Food Basics, and Food Emporium’s, Pathmark’s, and Waldbaum’s stores were located.
Key Food Marketplace, one of the co-op's many brands, is usually referred to simply as "Key Food" or "Key Foods," by locals, causing some confusion given the similarity to the co-operative's name.
The Staten Island-based co-op said last year that it planned to “better” the SuperFresh banner by using its strong points as a competitive wedge.
The co-operative said the banner would appear on some of its larger-format stores in the suburbs, and that it would re-brand existing location that fit the Superfresh model.
It also said it would grant the name to new stores it might pick up during the course of its rapid Northeast retail expansion.
Since acquiring the Superfresh banner in February 2015, the co-op has announced openings of NJ stores in Denville, Paterson, Belleville, Garwood, Glen Rock and Irvington.
Though the co-operative currently has some 240 stores, the auction purchases brought the co-op’s store count to 212, while the acquisitions would also bring in as much as $400 million in additional annual retail sales for the company.
Total annual retail sales would reach $2.3 billion, Key said.
"The customers of these stores deserve a high-quality neighborhood grocery store, and we are thrilled to be able to play that role," said Dean Janeway, CEO of Key Food by the end of 2015.
However, grocery retailers are increasingly grapping with continued food deflation as grocery prices continue to fall.
Bloomberg Businessweek calls it a “development almost unheard of outside [of] a recession.” Grocery operators are nothing short of fed up, reports the magazine.
Industry watchers reportedly point to low oil and grain prices as being among of the causes. However, fierce competition between supermarkets and big box stores like Walmart and Target is also to blame.
On top of that, there are discount chains like the Germany-based Aldi chain, which has a location in New Brunswick, and dollar stores, that are providing more competition.
Furthermore, another German discount supermarket chain known as Lidl is planning a massive US debut.
The company has said it will open as many as 150 stores along the East Coast by 2018. And according to Reports, three Lidl’s in NJ are in the works: Millville, Vineland and Upper Deerfield Township (Cumberland County).
Moreover, the fierce “competition creates a bargain bonanza” in grocery stores, according to Bloomberg Magazine.
Though not known as a discounter, Whole Foods is set to open in Metuchen this year, and currently has a new store in Marlboro on Route 9 South and Route 520.
Key Foods Co-operative has announced it's opening a Food Emporium, rather than a Superfresh, in Marlboro, at Route 520 and Route 79, within the former site of an A&P, where the build-out is underway.
“The severity of what we’re seeing is completely unprecedented, Scott Mushkin, and analyst at Wolfe Research, told Bloomberg Businessweek recently.
“We’ve never seen deflation this sharp,” said Mushkin. Wolfe has been studying grocery prices for more than 10 years.
The price of food and retail grocery prices dropped for the eighth consecutive month in December, according to a January Bureau of Labor Statistics report.
There was a reduction of prices in produce, beef, and eggs said the bureau, adding that “food at home,” a common gage for grocery store prices, declined by 0.2% in December.
Moreover, online grocery shopping is a trend that is gaining acceptance among consumers and food retailers.
Ordering groceries on the web could become a much bigger market this year, according to speakers at a recent presentation in New York City.
“The rate of acceleration of change is increasing drastically,” said Bill Bishop, co-founder of Brick Meets Click, a group that helps grocers “navigate the changing food retail ecosystem,” and adapt the innovation.
“We sense 2017 is going to be a year of major change.”