Walgreens to Test Chilled Foods in the Fall

Walgreen Co. plans to test chilled foods at up to 12 stores this fall in a move the company says could eventually make the drug store chain a “destination for tonight’s meal.”

Sandwiches, fresh-cut fruit, soups and wraps will be tested in Chicago-area Walgreens stores in September, and if all goes as planned, will lead to a larger rollout of fresh foods companywide, including meals such as chicken Marsala, macaroni and cheese, and General Tso’s chicken.

The drug retailer, which reportedly still has to settle refrigeration and distribution issues, wouldn’t disclose the price range of the food items.

If executed properly, a successful rollout of a fresh program could mean a boost to Walgreens’ same-store sales. Drug store chains usually sell items such a cereal, toothpaste and over-the-counter drugs in the front end of their stores.

In April, Walgreens completed its acquisition of New York City drug store chain Duane Reade, known for its efforts in fresh food. While Walgreens was considering a fresh food initiative before the acquisition, according to the company, it expects to apply elements of those Duane Reade operations to Walgreens stores.

Drug stores such as Walgreens and CVS have been boosting their food selections and retooling stores to better fit consumers’ fast-paced lifestyles and a growing demand for one-stop shopping.

Walgreens declined to confirm the length of the test. In January, the company hired grocery and convenience store veteran Jim Jensen as its divisional merchandise manager of fresh food. Jensen has held positions with Tesco’s Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market chain and 7-Eleven.

Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreen Co. operates 7,500 stores nationwide.

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