One day we looked up to discover our local Albertsons had become a Haggen overnight. With Albertsons and Safeways merging, they needed to sell off some of their stores. According to Supermarket News, 55 California Albertsons and 28 Vons have been acquired by Haggen (pronounced “hay-gen”) from Bellingham Washington.
In March, Southern California stores began the transformation. Store employees had the option of staying with Albertsons, or being hired by Haagen, so they are mostly the same people you already know. They now have a butcher/fishmonger ready to cut your grass-fed beef or even filet an entire salmon for you. There is a full bakery, florist and deli. The tri tip that is sold hot alongside the fried chicken is outstanding.
Each Haggen store works with smaller distributors as opposed to the bigger chains that send the same product from a central location to every store. This means the employees and customers have some say in which items are stocked. The Burbank location has finished the changeover in the fresh departments and is now working on changing over the dry goods. That means it’s a good time to pick up some clearance Albertsons merchandise.
I just finished checking out our local Haggen grocery store in Burbank. The aisles are the same as Albertsons; and there is still a Starbucks. Haggen has been promoting its organic food and locally sourced products. Not only are there dedicated sections for sugar-free, gluten-free and organics, There are gluten-free and organic products throughout the store. I couldn’t help imagining the slogan, “Haggen: The store for picky eaters.” The produce section is fairly typical beyond the huge organic section. They did sell individual leaves of aloe vera and some weird fruit hybrids like kumquat-tangerine. There was also an extensive whole bean coffee selection and giant grinder.
A new store is always inspiring to the home cook. As you might expect from a Northwestern company, there were a lot of berries, salmon, and all kinds of canned pie fillings. The selection of spice mixes and artificial flavorings is also kind of stunning. They stock four kinds of cheese curds if you want to try your hand at making poutine, and King Arthur Flour for the serious baker. They even had Irish bacon and Heinz beans in tomato sauce so you can make a proper English breakfast. Other random items that caught my eye were honey in the comb, lots of cruelty-free organic dairy choices, creme fraiche, bread and butter pickles, and Sabrett’s Onions in Sauce for NY style hot dogs.
Haggen’s dedication to providing locally sourced products was most obvious in the cheese section. They offer a wide variety of California cheeses, including specialties like Purple Haze and Humbolt Fog from Cypress Grove. Unfortunately, there is nothing from Cowgirl Creamery, but they are putting in my request.
Right now most of their craft beers come from Stone Brewery, including the IPA and Arrogant Bastard. St. Archer from San Diego makes an appearance, and Vista’s Mother Earth represents with Beacoup IPA and Pinup Pale Ale. Soon local breweries like Angel City and Golden Road will join the party. We would like to see locals Saddlerock and Semler wines, plus perhaps some Oregon wines, which are severely underrated. Otherwise most of the wine department’s current offerings originate in Napa.
On the downside, The wide variety of pre-cut veggies and cute prepared snack paks suffered from lack of turnover, so the cut edges were brown, and some of their cold salads had been sitting too long. Hopefully that will all work out as customers increase and the store learns what product moves in Los Angeles. Complaints from Yelp contributors focus on the lighting, the higher prices and the lack of natural ingredients in store brand products. Someone even criticized the store for stocking Thrifty Ice Cream in the frozen food aisle; personally, I have missed my Marble Fudge! Welcome to LA., Haggen. Order me some Cowgirl Red Hawk.
Lists of converted stores created by Southern Cali Saver