The trend of retailers embracing vertical farming continues with Albertsons Co. Inc. expanding its Protected Produce partnership with Bowery Farming to deliver fresh and sustainable products year-round to an initial 275 Safeway and Acme stores across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.
"Whether our customers shop with us in store or through our websites and apps, they expect to find fresh and sustainable produce for delicious meals at home," said Ricardo Dimarzio, produce sales manager of Albertsons’ Mid-Atlantic division. "We're proud to offer Bowery Farming's innovative and sustainable produce to help meet customer demand for high-quality local indoor-grown greens and herbs."
Bowery builds smart indoor farms close to the cities it serves, using technology to create a simplified, agile food system focused on flavor, freshness and safety. At the core of its operations is the BoweryOS, a proprietary operating system that uses sensors, vision systems, machine learning and automation technology to monitor and control all variables contributing to crop growth 24/7.
As a result of the BoweryOS, Bowery's farms claim to be more than 100 times more productive than a comparable square foot of traditional farmland, and its crops grow more than two times faster than in the field, using a fraction of the water and land. Bowery's greens and herbs grow in completely controlled environments year-round, independent of weather and seasonality. The company can grow traceable pesticide-free produce that is harvested at peak freshness and available on local grocery shelves within just a few days.
Albertsons is no stranger to embracing vertical farm suppliers. A few weeks ago, its Safeway banner added greens from vertical-farming company Plenty to 17 more stores across Northern California — bringing the total number of stores carrying Plenty products in the region to 53.
In its extended Protected Produce partnership with Bowery, five SKUs will now be available in 164 Acme stores (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, and Maryland) and 111 Safeway stores (Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.). These products include the following:
- Bowery Baby Butter Lettuce: Crisp yet tender, a mild and smooth baby lettuce with a refreshing finish.
- Bowery Crispy Leaf: Crunchy and refreshing, this mild and versatile green is the ideal base for a salad or grain bowl, or garnish.
- Bowery Spring Blend: A smooth mix of red and green oakleaf, romaine and mustard for a peppery finish, this is Bowery's modern take on a classic lettuce blend.
- Baby Kale Blend: Robust and balanced, this versatile blend of three types of baby kale can work well in any dish.
- Bowery Basil: Aromatic and sweet, with a peppery flavor that adds depth to any dish.
"At Bowery, we believe that everyone should have access to fresh, healthy produce," said Katie Seawell, chief commercial officer of New York-based Bowery Farming. "We're proud to partner with Albertsons Cos. to bring millions of shoppers our local, wildly delicious Protected Produce and meet unprecedented demand for our growing category, which we believe is the next frontier of agriculture."
Bowery has seen nearly 700% growth in sales since January 2020 with brick-and-mortar grocery retailers, and more than quadrupled its sales with e-commerce platforms, including Amazon. To sustain this growth and meet demand for its produce, Bowery is building its largest and most technologically advanced farm yet in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, which will further automate the growing process from seed to store and expand the company's reach throughout the East Coast. Bowery also has two commercial farms in Kearny, New Jersey, and Nottingham, Maryland, which are currently serving customers.
Bowery's produce is available in nearly 800 grocery stores and via e-commerce platforms, including Amazon Fresh, Giant Food, Hungryroot, Stop & Shop, Walmart, Weis, and specialty grocers. The company has raised more than $172.5 million from leading investors, including Temasek and GV (formerly Google Ventures).
Other retailers embracing vertical farming include Pittsburgh-based Giant Engle. It recently welcomed four SKUs of locally grown fresh leafy greens and ready-to-eat salads from Fifth Season, a Pittsburgh-based vertical- and robotic-farming company, to more than 75 Giant Eagle and Market District locations in the Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, and Pittsburgh metro areas.
Additionally, Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market worked with Berlin-based Infarm last year to install two modular vertical-farming units in two of Whole Foods' London outlets.
Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons operates 2,252 retail stores with 1,725 pharmacies, 398 associated fuel centers, 22 dedicated distribution centers and 20 manufacturing facilities. The company’s stores predominantly operate under the Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Carrs, Jewel-Osco, Acme, Shaw’s, Star Market, United Supermarkets, Market Street and Haggen banners. The company is No. 8 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. Owned by Seattle-based Amazon, No. 2 on The PG 100, Whole Foods is No. 24 on the list, while Giant Eagle is No. 39.