- iFresh, an Asian American grocery supermarket chain and online grocer, is opening its first Texas location in Houston in the summer of 2018, the company said in a statement. The new market is under construction and will be located in what is known locally as “new Chinatown.”
- The Houston location will be the 10th retail supermarket for iFresh. The company offers fresh and culturally unique produce, seafood and other CPGs of interest to Asian-American consumers that are not typically found in mainstream supermarkets.
- “We look forward to opening our first location in the Houston area,” said Long Deng, chairman and CEO of iFresh. “Houston’s diverse community and large, growing Asian population makes the new store a compelling growth opportunity for iFresh.”
Twenty years since opening their first market, iFresh is expanding in multiple ways. In February, it became the first Chinese supermarket to be listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market. Now, it’s branching out beyond its East Coast territory to open the first iFresh in Texas.
Why Texas? Asian immigrants, primarily from India and China, are moving to the Lone Star State — the population more than doubled between 2005 and 2013 to 85,542, the Miami Hearld found. Asians also are more likely to move to Texas first, according to the state's demographer Lloyd Potter.
The Asian/Chinese grocery chain likely picked Houston for its fast-growing Asian population and its established Vietnamese community. A recent census report found major ethnic groups in greater Houston experienced population increases from 2014 to 2015, but the Asian population grew the fastest at 5.7%.
In addition to being called the "most ethnically diverse city in America," Houston also has ranked in the top 10 on GrubHub.com’s list of most food-diverse cities. This would be just another reason for iFresh to see the Texas city as an ideal location to open up shop.
As more Asian consumers move to Texas, they’re creating demand for fresh produce, seafood and CPGs that are traditionally difficult to find at big-box grocery stores. Cooking ingredients, such as black vinegar, traditional oyster sauce, dried wood ear mushrooms and fermented bean curd, are common in Chinese cooking, but not always easy to find outside of a specialty store.
The new iFresh will undoubtedly draw Asian customers who live in the area, but also shoppers of different ethnicities. Consumers, and millennials in particular, are increasingly interested in ethnic flavors and new spices, and would likely visit the new store. In addition, a recent poll found 65% of other shoppers said they'd be inclined to cook more multicultural foods if their stores had a better variety. The solution might just be to go to a new store like iFresh.
Japanese grocer Mitsuwa recently opened a location in Plano, Texas, and more Asian American grocers could soon follow suit. Southeastern Grocers has swapped out some Winn-Dixie stores to become Fresco y Mas markets, a banner that caters to Hispanic shoppers. With grocery chains desperate for growth, opening stores that serve a specific ethnicity could become a bigger focus for supermarkets going forward.