There’s a new competitor in town: Whole Foods set to open in Burnaby

The grocery store landscape in Burnaby is about to add a new player to the game in an already competitive market.   

This week, the popular American-based grocery chain Whole Foods Market will be opening its latest store in the Lower Mainland, in the Solo District development in the Brentwood neighbourhood.

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The NOW was given a chance to take a tour of the new location ahead of Thursday’s grand opening.

The 41,000-square-foot store will offer similar products and shopping experience Whole Foods devotees are accustomed to – and then some, according to Grant Daisley, a marketing coordinator for the company in B.C.

He noted the company tries to model each store to fit the community, offering unique features that won’t be found at other locations.

Specifically, Daisley noted in Burnaby there is a crow theme throughout the store in a nod to the large number of crows that flock to the Still Creek area.

He also said the store is trying to bring in an assortment of international vegetables not carried in other stores to complement the diversity of the people living in the community.

The new store will also feature a mod bar espresso and coffee system. A mod bar essentially has all the major hardware under the counter.

If you’re not familiar, Whole Foods markets itself as “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store” offering organic and natural foods.

Daisley explained Whole Foods chose Burnaby as the fifth location in B.C. and just second outside Vancouver because of the number of requests for a store in the city.     

But the company has also come under a number of criticisms, mainly that its products are overpriced. In the summer, Whole Foods became the butt of jokes when it was discovered that a store in California was selling water with three asparagus stalks for $6.

Daisley said the Burnaby location will offer a number of items at prices customers will want, also encouraging people to come and check out the store’s experience.    

“As people are learning and asking more questions about their food … you can come into a Whole Foods market and know we’ve done the work to ensure you’re getting the best food you can get,” he told the NOW, arguing the company’s quality standards are unmatched.

The company announced it would be opening a Burnaby store back in 2012.

It’s not exactly the easiest time to open up major grocery store, with the cost of fruit and vegetables climbing sky high and the Canadian dollar in a free fall.

Those will just be some of the challenges the new store will face, according to Lindsay Meredith, a marketing professor with Simon Fraser University.

He said the store is appealing to urban millennials and Generation-Xers with the healthy and organic labels but noted it comes with a higher price point.

However, the SFU professor suggested the company has picked the right location, pointing out Brentwood is a relatively high-income area with a lot of single-family high rises dotting the landscape. 

“What you’re looking for is the ability to purchase right off the bat,” he said.

While Meredith said the store is catering to a niche market, he expects the Safeways of the world to keep their market share.

Paul Holden, the president and CEO of the Burnaby Board of Trade, welcomes the new store and believes the company has done the research as it enters the local market. 

“I think they’re coming in here with the ambition to be very successful,” he said.

Holden also sees the location of Whole Foods, which is a member of BBOT, becoming a destination for people who want the Whole Foods experience, providing spin-off benefits to the local economy.

The new Whole Foods officially opens its doors on Jan. 28, but will mark the opening with a “breaking bread” event at 8:30 a.m. at 4420 Lougheed Highway.

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