Vertical Farming Co.’s Produce Grows at Giant Eagle
Four SKUs of locally grown fresh leafy greens and ready-to-eat salads from Fifth Season, a Pittsburgh-based vertical- and robotic-farming company, are now available at more than 75 Giant Eagle and Market District locations in the Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, and Pittsburgh metro areas.
“We are committed to offering Giant Eagle and Market District guests access to the highest- quality fresh, locally sourced produce no matter the season through innovative growing practices like vertical farming,” said Dave Rajkovich, VP of fresh merchandising at Giant Eagle, also based in Pittsburgh. “We are excited to expand our partnership with Fifth Season to make their delicious, local greens and salads available in 75 locations across the Giant Eagle footprint.”
Fifth Season products were previously carried at 10 Pittsburgh-area Giant Eagle and Market District locations, along with select local independent grocers. Under the expanded distribution agreement, the products are now available to more than 650,000 households in the Cleveland, Columbus and Pittsburgh areas.
“As one of the country's largest and most successful grocers, Giant Eagle’s methodical approach to evaluating potential partners ensures they are always working with the best,” noted Fifth Season co-founder and CEO Austin Webb. “Our end-to-end automated platform run entirely by our integrated software and ordering system (both an industry first), combined with our entirely new flavor experience and product that stays fresh more than three times longer than field-grown products, are the factors that positioned us for success. We are deeply grateful for our partnership with Giant Eagle and look forward to continuing to grow alongside them.”
Fifth Season’s vertical farms eliminate many of the drawbacks of conventional produce. Removing the need for long-haul transportation significantly increases shelf life, and the company’s produce is grown using 95% less water and 97% less land than conventional farming, making it considerably more environmentally friendly. Further, the greens are cultivated in a human-free grow room, creating a much lower risk for pathogens and other contaminants.
“We are thrilled about Fifth Season's expanded partnership with Giant Eagle, as it’s further proof that Fifth Season has cracked the code of profitable vertical farming, an industry first,” asserted Chris Olsen, co-founder and partner at Drive Capital, a Columbus-based venture capital firm and Fifth Season investor. “This expansion is just one of many that Fifth Season will be announcing this year, as more retailers and foodservice companies become aware of the benefits of Fifth Season’s model — it’s an entirely new era of fresh food for the $60-billion U.S. produce industry.”
Fifth Season products now at Giant Eagle and Market District are:
- Bridge City Blend: comprising Chinese Cabbage, Red and Green Tatsoi, and Red and Green Frilly Mustard, and offering an earthy, zesty flavor.
- Three Rivers Blend: a colorful array of Leaf Broccoli, Green Mizuna, Red Pac Choi, Red Frilly Mustard and Red Mustard Greens, offering a complex flavor that combines bold and savory with a flare of spice.
- Crunchy Sesame: a mix of the Three Rivers Blend with crunchy sesame sticks, dried cranberries, farro and a zesty ginger mandarin dressing.
- Sweet Grains: complementing the Bridge City Blend with chickpeas, feta cheese, hearty quinoa, crunchy dried corn and a tangy poppyseed dressing.
Fifth Season's newest vertical farm, in Braddock, Pennsylvania, features a 25,000-square-foot grow room with twice the growing capacity of traditional vertical farms. The facility is set to grow more than 500,000 pounds of produce in its first full year of operation.
Giant Eagle is just one of many grocers to offer produce grown on indoor farms. Albertsons, The Kroger Co., Amazon-owned Whole Foods Market and many others, major players and small independents alike, have been offering such products in collaboration with such companies as Plenty, Infarm, Brightfarms and others.
Giant Eagle operates more than 470 stores throughout western Pennsylvania, Ohio, northern West Virginia, Maryland and Indiana. The company is No. 39 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food retailers in North America, while Cincinnati-based Kroger; Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons and Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods are Nos. 3, 8, and 25, respectively on PG’s list.