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    White Hen Unveils Pantry Gourmet Concept

    The new concept for the brand features a full-service coffee bar, expanded produce, housewares and traditional, natural and organic food offerings.

    NORWOOD, Mass. -- Under the guidance of New England Pantry Inc., the White Hen Pantry convenience store brand continues to evolve, as the company launched a new upscale concept called Pantry Gourmet, a 3,200-square-foot store that crosses several retail channels, the company stated.

    New England Pantry, the master franchisor of the White Hen Pantry brand in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, operates 56 locations, none of which were involved in the 2006 sale to 7-Eleven, the company stated.

    The Pantry Gourmet store, located in Northborough, Mass., features a full-service Chock Full o Nuts Cafe, complete with dark roast coffees, lattes, cappuccinos and smoothies, along with store-baked pastries, desserts and Cheesecake Factory cheesecakes, the company stated.

    The store also boasts a 12-foot expanded produce section, an organic coffee bean kiosk from Hogan Brothers of Framingham, Mass., and a small housewares department featuring Village Candles, according to the company. The store's dedicated, full-service foodservice section is the largest in the company's history, and its grocery section offers a mix of traditional, specialty, natural and organic items, which was created to offer Whole Foods shoppers an alternative to their "fill-in" shopping, the company stated.

    In addition, the store's deli offers Dietz & Watson premium deli meats and cheeses to make a variety of sandwiches, wraps, ciabattas and personal pizzas. Soups are also available through the Pantry Gourmet kitchen stove, while a three-tier octagonal display case features an assortment of cut cheeses, specialty breads and crackers, natural beef and chicken selections, the company stated.

    While a number of these changes were incorporated into New England Pantry's White Hen stores during the past several years, "We found that consumers already had a strong, preconceived notion of what a White Hen is and does," Christopher Brosco, director of marketing and merchandising, said in a statement. "Ultimately, this became a limiting factor in trying to advance the brand and make it more contemporary. Customers were uneasy when we took the stores too far left or right of center."

    As a result, the White Hen name was minimally referenced, and a new logo was created in an effort to move forward with the least resistance, the company stated.

    "It is never easy to make a well-established brand, like White Hen, take a back seat," said Brosco. "But, facts and research led us to believe that consumers would not let us make this big leap forward if the White Hen name was over the front door. We needed consumers to enter this prototype with a clean slate -- no preconceived notion of what takes place within the four walls."

    In addition, the store does not offer lottery and has scaled down a tobacco set to less than 30 nonvisible facings, according to the company. The store's design features a Southwestern color palette, an open ceiling, accent lighting, bistro tables and chairs and a floral department, the company stated.

    To develop the new concept, company executives researched retailers, delis and grocers in New York.

    "Here, we were able to understand how to incorporate many different fresh food concepts into a single, small format location," Andrew Brothers, president of New England Pantry, said in a statement. "We also learned a great many ways to merchandise a wide array of products within a limited space."

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