Squeezing Success

Stories from Citrus America Customers

Stew Leonard's: Freshly Squeezed Innovation for Five Decades

Squeezing Success / Stew Leonard's | May 12, 2024 • 10 min read

In the dynamic world of grocery retail, where innovation is key to attracting and retaining customers, Stew Leonard's stands out as a beacon of creativity and excellence. Since its humble beginnings in 1969 as a small dairy store, this family-owned and operated business has grown into a powerhouse with over $550 million in sales and a reputation for delivering farm-fresh foods with a side of entertainment

Stew Leonard's: A Legacy of Innovation

Stew Leonard's is not just a grocery store; it's an experience. Often referred to as the "Disneyland of Dairy Stores" by the New York Times, Stew Leonard's has earned worldwide acclaim for its commitment to customer service, quality, and providing a unique shopping environment.

The company's culture is encapsulated in the acronym S.T.E.W.: Satisfy the customer, work together as a team, strive for excellence, and, most importantly, get the customer to say WOW.

Unlike traditional grocery stores with a center store and perimeter, Stew Leonard's changed the game altogether with a completely different layout that winds through different sections, all with an emphasis placed on fresh goods.

Also, unlike most grocery stores, Stew Leonard’s does not overwhelm customers with an overabundance of options. With only 3,200 carefully selected items, focusing on freshness, quality, and value, Stew Leonard has always aimed to create a curated shopping experience for its shoppers. A staggering 80% of the products sold in their stores are fresh, either brought in daily or prepared right in the store, showcasing their commitment to providing the best to their customers.

A Commitment to Fresh

In an era where consumers are increasingly conscientious about their health and well-being, the expectations from grocery stores have undergone a profound shift. Today's consumers seek more than just products; they demand transparency, freshness, and a clear understanding of the origins and ingredients of what they consume.

Stew Leonard's, attuned to this evolving trend, has emerged as a trailblazer in meeting these heightened expectations for more than five decades. Recognizing that consumers are not merely looking for nationally branded products, but rather for fresh and healthy options, Stew Leonard's has strategically aligned its offerings with this demand. Their commitment to providing customers with the knowledge of where products come from, detailing true ingredients, and ensuring the overall healthfulness of the items on their shelves has become a cornerstone of their longstanding success.

In essence, Stew Leonard's has turned consumer expectations into an opportunity, creating an environment where education and quality intersect, setting them apart as a grocery store that not only satisfies but exceeds the demands of an increasingly informed and health-conscious customer base.

A Fresh Juicing Renaissance

In 2023, the company made a triumphant return to the world of fresh-squeezed juice after an eight-year-long hiatus, reintroducing its new fresh juicing program, this time powered by Citrus America, the leading supplier of cutting-edge, high-quality juicing equipment.

Charles Yeh, Stew Leonard’s Director of Produce, spearheaded the revival of the fresh juicing program, selecting Citrus America's equipment thanks to its clean stainless-steel look on the sales floor, ease of operation and cleaning, and, most importantly, the delicious, fresh-squeezed orange juice it produces.

Since the introduction of Citrus America's juicers throughout all of their locations, Stew Leonard's has witnessed a remarkable doubling of sales of their juice.

"Since we began offering our customers freshly squeezed orange juice from Citrus America’s juicers, our sales have doubled," noted Yeh. "The juice is incredibly sweet – an 11 Brix minimum – and as soon as customers taste it, they’re hooked."

"Since we began offering our customers freshly squeezed orange juice from Citrus America’s juicers, our sales have doubled," noted Yeh.

Brian Framson, the founder of Citrus America, expressed his delight at Stew Leonard's recommitment to fresh juicing, emphasizing the unparalleled appeal of fresh juice for consumers. "The consumer absolutely loves fresh juice. There’s no comparison," Framson stated, emphasizing the gap between packaged and fresh juice.

Jay Gardner, Vice President of National Sales for Citrus America, commended Stew Leonard’s for its innovative approach. "Stew Leonard’s is truly innovative. They understand that the key to success is getting consumers into their locations by creating an experience for the consumer and their children," he said.

Gardner highlighted the uniqueness and innovation of Stew Leonard's, offering not only fresh juice but also a range of other fresh items like ice cream, coffee, and popcorn, as well as its popular animatronics, woo-ing and wow-ing shoppers and their families.

“They really push the farmers market side of the business, and their locations have that look as well. Even walking through their stores is innovative. Every location has animatronics for the kids to interact with. One of the locations even had a separate Candyland section that looked just like the board game.”

Stew Leonard's: The Show-and-Sell Philosophy

The success of Stew Leonard's can be attributed to its principle of "show and sell." The company doesn't just offer products; it creates an immersive experience for its customers. This philosophy is evident not only in the fresh juicing program but also in various other aspects of the store.

From the early days, Stew Leonard's has been a trendsetter. Back in the 1970s, animated characters, live farm animals, and captivating displays were the norm, captivating the imaginations of its customers. Today, this commitment to innovation is reflected in the incorporation of Citrus America's fresh juicing machines, prominently displayed in the produce section.

Elevating the Fresh Juicing Experience

Citrus America, the behind-the-scenes strategic partner in Stew Leonard's fresh juicing renaissance, specializes in supplying the highest quality juicing equipment and solutions to grocery retailers and foodservice operations nationwide. With a focus on taste, hygiene, and efficiency, Citrus America aligns perfectly with Stew Leonard's commitment to providing the best possible experience for its customers.

Framson, reflecting on the partnership, expressed pride in supporting Stew Leonard’s fresh juice program. The Connecticut native recalled his own childhood experiences shopping at Stew Leonard’s, where the store's innovative spirit left an indelible mark. The rekindling of fresh juicing at Stew Leonard's represents a full-circle moment for Framson and a testament to the enduring legacy of this iconic grocery chain.

Looking to the Future

As Stew Leonard's continues to grow, the success of its fresh juicing program sets the stage for further expansion. The upcoming eighth store in Clifton, N.J., slated to open in 2024, will feature Citrus America's juicing equipment, reaffirming their commitment to delivering high-quality, freshly squeezed juice to a broader audience.

And their prospect of introducing new juice flavors, including clementine, tangerine, and grapefruit, hints at Stew Leonard's dedication to staying at the forefront of consumer preferences.

Stew Leonard's has always exemplified the spirit of innovation in the grocery retail industry. By embracing Citrus America's premium juicing equipment and revitalizing their fresh juicing program, Stew Leonard's not only doubled its sales but also reaffirmed its position as a pioneer in creating a unique and unforgettable shopping experience for its customers.

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