September 20, 2017

Maine Food Insider: Rosemont Market plans sixth store and consolidated operations

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
Rosemont Market will open its new store in November at 573 Shore Road in Cape Elizabeth. Rosemont bought the three-story building for $400,000 last spring.

Rosemont Market will open a sixth store and the Portland-based grocer plans to double its local food processing and sales and consolidate most processing and production operations under one much-larger roof.

Rosemont General Manager Dan Roche said the new store will open in November at 573 Shore Road in Cape Elizabeth. Rosemont bought the three-story building for $400,000 last spring.

"We are always looking for the right location for another Rosemont, believing that we can be successful once we've found the conditions that fit us," Roche said.

Elsewhere, Rosemont has Portland stores at 5 Commercial St., 88 Congress St., 580 Brighton Ave. and 40 Pine St. It also has a store at 96 Main St. in Yarmouth.

Rosemont plans to expand its offering of locally produced food following a study that was funded by a $64,922 grant from the U.S Department of Agriculture's Local Food Promotion program. The study led to a report by Atlantic Corporation of Waterville, commissioned by Rosemont, concluded that customers are willing to pay more for local food and that Maine farmers are eager to take advantage of that trend.

Rosemont is already is a leader in local food sales and production. At the time the study began, about 40% of its revenue, which was approaching $10 million in 2016, was connected to locally sourced food.

Now, Rosemont's goal "is to double local food sales in the very near future," the study says.

The report says the company is already on its way to that goal, with a 2% increase in customers and a 25.8% increase in local food sales over the past year.

"They have added new partners, expanded their business to business relationships, increased seasonality with existing products, and built new market opportunities for their partners," the report says.

Roche said that locally produced food costs more because of the scale of production and quality. "Typical grocery store products are cheaper because they are produced in large scale," he said. "The local farmers we work with are usually operating on a very small scale and trying to do it the best possible way, which is expensive to do. Also, they are trying to pay their workers fair wages."

Rosemont planning consolidation under one roof

The report's purpose was to determine local food needs and how to strengthen ties with producers and support local farms. It found that consumers are willing to pay more for local food, particularly meat.

"People who shop at Rosemont have always been willing to pay more for products that are higher quality and products that they now when they purchase them, more of the money is staying in the community," Roche said by email on Wednesday. Roche said that the company is in the "very early stages" of planning the new facility.

"We have a site," he said, adding that the company had been considering such a move for some time, but hadn't found the right location. He didn't give details on where the site is or what the timetable is.

At the new site, the company plans to consolidate its bakery, kitchen, butchery, warehouse and administrative offices under one roof in a 12,000-square-foot building, increasing square footage for its operations by 72% and its staffing by 50% and investing $684,000 in equipment, according to the report that came out of the study. The bakery, kitchen and warehouse all operate at different sites.

The company immediately should add 2,100 square feet to its Commercial Street warehouse, but the study made it clear that would only be a short-term solution.

"The company projects a need for twice as much warehouse space and over $200,000 of extra equipment with increased personnel to double its warehousing and handling of local food," the report says.

The report also touched on more employee training regarding local food, more efficient distribution practices and more ways to brand and get the word out to consumers.

Local food trends

The company will discuss its conclusions from the year-long local food survey, and how it can be beneficial to others, in a presentation at the Common Ground Fair Sunday, from 2 to 3 p.m.

Conclusions from the study include:

  • Consumers are willing to pay up to 20% more for local produce and more than 20% more for local meat.
  • Most people buy their food or local stores or chains that make a commitment to selling local food and consider the availability of local food a major factor in deciding where to shop.
  • Almost every farm interviewed in the study was interested in having a supplier relationship with Rosemont, and they either have products that are already available to supply or would increase their production plan to make the supply available. "The farmers contacted were excited about the opportunity that selling to Rosemont offers," the study says. "Many farmers expressed they wanted to expand their reach, but were having difficulty locating wholesale accounts." The company currently has 27 "farm partners."
  • More consumers, 49%, think print advertising is the most effective way to promote local goods than those who think social media is the best approach (40%).

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