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    Food Lion Boosting Fresh, Applying Other Tweaks to Bloom

    SALISBURY, N.C. -- Food Lion asked, and Bloom shoppers have answered: We want more fresh foods.

    SALISBURY, N.C. -- Food Lion asked, and Bloom shoppers have answered: We want more fresh foods.

    Based on this and other reactions from its customers, Food Lion said yesterday it is taking the next step in the evolution of the Bloom brand, by preparing to unveil a series of changes in its five Bloom stores, chief among them a selection heavier on the fresh side; more than 1,000 new specialty items; and a redesigned deli/bakery.

    Bloom is the experimental concept launched last year by Food Lion, a division of the Delhaize Group. The banner's units are in the cities of Charlotte, Harrisburg, Mint Hill and Mooresville, N.C. Food Lion designed the Bloom concept to test the validity of its version of a straightforward, hassle-free shopping experience. The Bloom stores are a blend of innovative design, simplified merchandising, and advanced retailing technologies.

    "For more than a year, Bloom has sought customer feedback, and we've listened," said Robin Johnson, director of brand development and marketing for Bloom, in a statement posted on Food Lion's Web site. "These five Bloom stores have truly been learning labs, and with our customers' input, we have worked to refine the Bloom concept."

    Starting Aug. 31, Bloom customers will find remodeled stores, a greater variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, more cuts of fresh meat, new fresh seafood counters, more fresh-baked breads, a broader selection of wines, and greater variety throughout the grocery aisles.

    The revisions are not intended to signal any turn away from the original idea, however. "Even though we are making some changes, and will continue to make enhancements, the Bloom concept remains true; to provide a thoughtful, straightforward, hassle-free shopping experience customers will enjoy," Johnson said.

    Overall, the Bloom format has resonated with customers, she added. "They like the stores and Bloom's approach to grocery shopping. They simply want more, and more is what we're providing."

    The revamp's major elements:

    -- Sixty percent more fresh produce items, including more varieties of tomatoes, mushrooms and peppers; more herbs; more tropical, international and fresh-cut fruits; and a greater selection of bagged salads.

    -- A wide assortment of Angus, dry-aged, and all-natural beef in the meat department. Natural pork and poultry have been added. Also, newly installed fresh seafood counters will offer a broad selection of shrimp, shellfish, Atlantic salmon, live lobsters, and more. Bloom's new stuffed crab is made from 75 percent claw crabmeat, and stuffed in a natural shell.

    -- More than 25 varieties of artisan and whole-grain breads in a redesigned deli-bakery. Bloom's specialty cheese offering has grown to more than 100 varieties. Customers will be able to order from a menu of 10 specialty sandwiches and watch them prepared with "Bloom Inspirations" premium deli meats.

    -- New "Wine-in-Motion" displays, in which novel and select wines are rotated, many on a while-supplies-last basis. More specialty and imported brews have been added to the Bloom beer department.

    -- More than 1,000 new specialty food products in the grocery aisles. These include olive oils, pasta sauces, marinades, mustards, salsas, and beverages.

    Providing added convenience continues to be a focus of Bloom. Through its Table Top Circle, Bloom will offer a greatly expanded selection of quick meal solutions, including sushi, fresh pizzas, fresh Italian pastas, store-prepared salads, sandwiches, and more Boston Market refrigerated entrees and side dishes.

    "The plan from the start was to give ourselves time to operate the five pilot stores and talk with customers," Johnson explained. "The experience we are gaining from these stores and the insight our customers are providing have helped us take a great idea and make it better. These store enhancements are the next step in growing the Bloom brand. We are excited about Bloom's future."

    To announce its store changes, Bloom has launched a new marketing campaign, using direct mail, outdoor advertising, weekly flyers, and radio messages.

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