Is Haggen the Antidote to the Average L.A. Supermarket?

The chain offers a mix of grocery store standards, local products, and organic produce

Having your local grocery store replaced is kind of like getting a new neighbor: a good one can enhance your quality of life while a bad one can really make you want to move.

Haggen, a small chain of supermarkets based in the Pacific Northwest, is storming L.A. with 18 stores set to open in Los Angeles County, taking the place of some Albertsons and Safeway locations. At the moment, two Haggens have set up shop—one in Burbank and one in Santa Monica.

The switchover came courtesy of the Federal Trade Commission. Earlier this year, the FTC forced Albertsons and Safeway Inc. to sell off 168 of their supermarkets as their merger was seen as anti-competitive for consumers. This gave Haggen an opportunity to expand. With very little fanfare, Albertsons in Santa Monica closed on April 23rd and Haggen opened its doors just two quick days later.

According to Haggen Pacific Southwest CEO Bill Shaner, “We’ve introduced more than 1,000 enhanced, fresh, organic, ‘healthy-for-you,’ and local products to better serve our guests, with another 1,000 in the works.”

Haggen’s product selection includes a mix of major brands, along with smaller, local, and healthier options. Thrifty ice cream sits alongside artisanal purveyor Three Twins while Cascade rubs elbows with Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day, and Twinkies share the aisle with Bob’s Red Mill flours and meals.

In the bakery, you can choose from ice cream cakes with enormous pictures of Curious George or Super Mario Bros. for your next birthday extravaganza or pick an elegant raspberry Sachertorte as the piece de resistance for a swanky dinner party.

Not surprisingly, as the company’s home base is in Washington, there are a lot of apples to choose from, including Opals from Bruetje Orchards. These golden, non-GMO fruit do not brown when cut, making them perfect for salads. Local Southern California fruits, like Riverside’s Gold Nugget mandarins, a super-juicy, sweet citrus, are also ripe for picking. Haggen says they’re committed to doubling the amount of organic produce that Albertsons carried, setting a goal of offering over 250 varieties.

The overall tenor of the store veers away from the standard supermarket fare of overly processed food—although there is plenty of that as well—to a more modern approach to eating. The meat department offers house-made sausage, like chorizo while the produce department beckons with adorable miniature cauliflower in a variety of colors. The store’s main seafood supplier is Santa Monica Seafood.

Having retained any of the employees who wanted to stay on, Haggen in Santa Monica feels full of possibility at the moment. I even overheard one of the produce clerks waxing enthusiastic about the company to a shopper, saying, “This company has been around since 1933. They deal with quality.” We shall see.