Why the DTC Mosaic brand opened a frozen-only grocery store

Direct-to-consumer brand Mosaic wants to demystify the bad reputation of frozen foods among American consumers while building brand awareness. To accomplish these two tasks, he drew inspiration from Europe and opened his first exclusively frozen grocery store.

On Friday, May 20, the plant-based frozen meal maker has opened a brick-and-mortar pop-up in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights neighborhood. The store, which will be open for at least six months, features Mosaic’s entire online assortment and its Mosaic+ collection of chef-created dishes, as well as soon-to-be-launched categories and those the brand wants to test, Sam McIntireco-founder and Chief Revenue Officer, said in an interview

McIntire said inspiration for the pop-up came from frozen food-focused retail brands overseas, particularly in Europe, such as French food company Picard Surgelés and British supermarket chain Iceland Foods.

“It’s a model that’s very popular in the rest of the world and hasn’t really caught on in the United States yet, in part because the frozen food industry is so stigmatized,” McIntire said.

Interior of Mosaic’s frozen grocery store in Brooklyn.

Courtesy of Mosaic

Mosaic, at the intersection of plant-based and frozen foods, hopes the store can help change the common perception that “frozen meals” equates to TV dinners of the 50s and 60s. he broader frozen food industry has been focused on improving flavor and freshness over the past few years, and sales have been growing even before the pandemic.

The store follows a $6 million funding round in November led by Gather Ventures, which the Brooklyn-based food startup plans to use to grow its DTC business, expand into offline channels and roll out new lines. of products.

Break down the barriers

Founded by McIntire and Matthew Davis, who met while working for consulting firm Bain & Company, Mosaic was launched in May 2019 with a mission to reach health-conscious consumers with meal-packaged meals. frozen vegetables.

Now celebrating its third anniversary, the food startup is turning to bricks and mortar to help it overcome several obstacles to winning over customers, from stereotypes about frozen food to customer mistrust of the taste and quality of online offers only. The brand’s website notes that freezing foods can preserve nutrients and reduce food waste by extending the shelf life of meals.

The store will offer sampling events for shoppers to try out items once they’ve been fully heated. It will also help address the challenges of being an online-only brand, McIntire said, since customers won’t have to meet the $70 order minimum and sign up for recurring meal deliveries.

Chest freezers at the store.

Courtesy of Mosaic

In terms of sustainability, Mosaic is considering how to make its operations more environmentally friendly. In November, the brand unveiled updated packaging, including a fully recyclable curbside paper-based liner.

“We do a lot and spend a lot to make sure our deliveries are as sustainable as possible…but even with all these things we do, it’s still less packaging and less waste if we can. bring the meal directly to the person without dry ice, without a liner, without the cost of shipping and the carbon emissions involved in that process,” McIntire said.

To help keep retail operations sustainable, Mosaic primarily uses chest freezers for its products, as well as freestanding freezers. “Cold air falls, so when you have a chest freezer and you open the door from the top, the cold air stays in that freezer and doesn’t come out,” McIntire said.

Mosaic store interior.

Courtesy of Mosaic

Inside the store

Located at 607a Vanderbilt Ave., the store is about 700 square feet, with about a third of the space reserved for a “sample bar” that will serve items several times a day. The sales area will have more than 70 references of vegetarian and vegan dishes.

The store will serve as a launch point for new categories before they are available online, including pizza and smoothies. Buyers will be able to get 16 oz. smoothies ($7.99 or three for $20) in flavors like Carrot Spice, Mango Lassi and Cocoa Cold Brew before they launch online in June. The pizza category, which Mosaic says is the most requested item by its customers, will include barbecue seitan, “sausage” and peppers, four cheeses and a broccoli crust. The pizzas will be available to online customers in July.

Plant-based frozen products from Mosaic.

Courtesy of Mosaic

Mosaic will offer store-only offerings, including cookies in flavors such as snickerdoodle and double chocolate, and sides to pair with its four-serving family meals. Sides available will include roasted potatoes, braised coconut spinach, harissa-glazed carrots, and balsamic sprouts and carrots.

“It’s a unique opportunity for us to have people try the product in front of us in our space and sit down with them and say, ‘Hey, is this something you like? How would you modify it? Are the flavors good? Is this the kind of food you want to eat regularly? said McIntire. “And then we can take those learnings and bring them to our direct-to-consumer side.”

The ability to offer in-person sampling while building brand awareness has prompted vendors to open physical stores in recent years. In grocery, it’s mostly one-off openings, like a Jack Links store that opened in Minneapolis and Blue Apron pop-up stores that rolled out over a month-long period in New York City in 2018. Brands that started online, like Warby Parker and Allbirds, have opened stores in major cities as they seek to reach more consumers.

As omnichannel shopping grows, businesses are also exploring a variety of digital sales channels. Major vendors like PepsiCo and Impossible Foods have launched direct-to-consumer sites, while online brands Butcherbox and SunBasket have recently started selling their wares on Instacart.

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