Basics Market tests new retail concepts to help shoppers cook more from scratch

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Basics Market tests new retail concepts to help shoppers cook more from scratch

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The rapid growth of pre-prepared foods in supermarkets shows that shoppers want quick convenient options for dinner. However, the rise of meal kits suggests that many Americans also want to cook more from scratch, but need extra help, says the president of Basics Market, a new food retail concept out of Portland, Oregon.

The layouts in each store are slightly different, said Fernando Divina, who was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA as he geared up to open a third location in Tualtin, Oregon, but they all include meal stations featuring a recipe card hanging overhead and the various components needed to cook it underneath: effectively a meal kit without all the pre-portioning and packaging.

Other distinctive features include:

  • The Northwest Proteins counter featuring sustainably caught fish, a wide variety of Pacific Northwest fresh and cured meats, poultry, and plant-based selections all locally sourced from farms that prioritize animal welfare and sustainable practices;
  • Fresh, seasonal produce delivered daily;
  • Organic, locally made brands from Basics’ founder, including Lulubelle’s milk products and Gwendolyn’s Organic Eggs; and
  • A bar and bottle shop featuring regional wines, craft beers and 'creative libations.'

The markets, which vary in size from 5,000sq ft to 13,000sq ft and contain 2,500-3,000 SKUs, are operated by Wild Rose Foods​, a company created by Pacific Foods founder Chuck Eggert which owns a series of local food producers.

While it stocks some pantry staples, the bulk of the offer at Basics Market is fresh, locally sourced produce, meat, eggs, and dairy products sourced directly from Wild Rose and its partners, said Divina.

"We want to make these products accessible to everyone, not just the upper eschelons that shop at Whole Foods."

'We're a gathering place'

If a retail concept featuring an instore demo kitchen and cooking classes, craft beers, organic produce and sustainable seafood might not sound hugely accessible, the fact the business is largely vertically integrated helps keep prices down, he claimed.

"Some of our milk even out of the gate with the low volume we're doing right now is a dollar less than what you'd normally pay and the ultra filtered milks we're just releasing now are considerably less expensive by virtue of an innovative production method we've developed."

Meanwhile, although it's expensive to devote up to 20% of the footprint to what is effectively 'idle space' in the form of a demo kitchen, having nutritionists educating shoppers and a chef hosting cooking classes generates buzz and traffic, and is key to helping customers understand how to prepare the fresh foods they can buy in the store, he claimed.

"We're a gathering place."


Basics Market​ opened its first location in 2017 on campus in the Faubion School with a second market following in 2018 on Sandy Boulevard in northeast Portland.

The third location - opening this month - is in Tualtin, with a fourth to follow in Portland’s Pearl District in spring 2020 boasting additional amenities including the Wild Rose bottle bar and beer shop featuring regional wines and craft beers on tap and an on-site cheese aging chamber.

By 2021/22, the aim is to have around 12 locations up and running, said president Fernando Divina.

Right now, it's too early to determine the optimal size and layout for Basics Market, said Divina: "We're not sure what the sweet spot is yet, but we think that the smaller markets in the 5,000 sq ft model fit well into lots of different scenarios. We're not interested in operating a 30,000 sw ft store.

"It's about the essentials. Consider that there's only about 100 food items that people buy consistently, so we're focused on offering the highest quality and the best value."


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