Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Food 4 Us

The grocery chain Food 4 Less is a creature of the Kroger Co., the supermarket giant that doesn’t seem too hep on re-naming all of its stores after itself, since it operates Fred Meyer, Ralph’s, Smith's, King Sooper, Dillon, Fry's, not to mention Kroger, which I visited often when I lived in Nashville. Food 4 Less--as the name hollers like a carnie tout--is a discounter, competing with the likes of Cub Foods and Aldi. It also seems to be Kroger’s way of inching back into the Chicago market.

One of its circulars inspired me to visit the new Food 4 Less in Roselle this afternoon, my first visit to that brand. It isn’t especially far away, but not near any of my usual orbits. Still, I figured I’d take a look.

Wish I could report some curiosity or odd item for sale, but for that you have to go to Trader Joe’s (which I might add isn’t really expensive, though not a discounter). Food 4 Less is fairly straightforward, looking and feeling a lot like a Cub Foods—a warehouse format, no décor to speak of, bag it yourself. I did like the selection on Aisle 6: Soda; Chips; Candy; Health Foods; Religious Candles.

The store was also keen to remind shoppers that Boy howdy, you’re saving big! Signs to that effect seemed to be everywhere, though not quite using those words. Just various of peppy slogans. The store was trying hard—too hard--to assert itself as a true discounter, but nothing that I saw made me think it was any cheaper, overall, than Cub or Aldi.

I was inspired to try a couple of new things from the discount realm. One was a box of frozen “Gravy and 6 Salisbury Steaks” sold by On-Cor Frozen Foods of Northbrook, Illinois. Interesting that gravy is the first item in the name. On-Cor, as far as I can tell, is the Red Roof Inn of the frozen food business—not the biggest, nor the best, but a steady niche player. The company’s marketing stresses quantity, and indeed that’s what you get: two pounds of gravy and steak for $1.34. It sits in my freezer even now, waiting for when a gravy-and-meat mood might strike.

Next to the checkout line there was a shopping cart full of loose canned soda with a sign telling me that they were 15¢ each. Well, as long as they weren’t President’s Choice (that’s another story), I could go for that. So I added a single Big K Diet Cola to my cart. Must be Kroger’s brand, made for them by the blandly named Inter-American Products Inc. of Cincinnati. (Trans-American? No, taken. Pan-American? No, an airline. All-American? No, no, that’s sports. How about Inter-American? Yeah, that’ll do.)

I drank some on the way home. Might have been better cold. About as nondescript as that company name. Completely mediocre, but priced right.

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