What’s So New About New Frontiers Market?

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When New Frontiers abandoned its cramped but friendly store on E. Foothill Blvd. near downtown San Luis Obispo and opened its spacious new megamarket in November 2010 in Irish Hills Plaza with roughly 32,000 square feet, it seemed a fair question to ask if such a concept could survive in the same bare, big-box neighborhood as Home Depot, Costco and Target.

What New Frontiers has done with the vast expanse to serve their high-end, health-conscious customers explains why the sophisticated hybrid market has rapidly become the best in the County. They keep replenishing the “new” in New Frontiers every day, relentlessly, purposefully adding fresh facets to the store’s already formidable array of health-driven foods, products and services.

“We now offer a really extensive food services department,” says Ron Colone, Marketing Director for New Frontiers Natural Marketplace, headquartered in Solvang, “which includes a hot bar that features a variety of entrees and side dishes that change from breakfast to lunch and dinner, a salad bar, made-to-order Asian wok bowls, pizza, panini and sandwiches, in addition to sushi, soups and salads, hot and cold entrees, a bakery, fresh juice and coffee bar and a gelato counter.”

New in the 18-month-old store is an artisan cheese shop, an expanded fresh meat and seafood department — which includes dry-aged beef — a floral department, a large deli seating area with free WiFi, and a conference room available for meetings and other uses by community groups.

So shoppers can eat in the store in a dining area with seats, tables and a microwave, or outside on the sidewalk patio with their dogs. New Frontiers’ “menu” is as extensive as any gourmet deli and restaurant in town, and, says Mr. Colone, “as it says on the wall in our deli: ‘We artfully prepare fresh food in our kitchen daily.’

“All that incredible food that you see in the deli case and in the bakery is made right there in our kitchen. And yes, freshness is very important to us, as is flavor. The fresher the food the more nutritious it is — to body and soul, and flavor is what makes it exciting. What good is having natural food if it doesn’t taste good?”

To make sure customers know the food they buy there is always fresh and healthy, New Frontiers not only grows their own produce, they also play a major role as a hub for other specialized growers.

“We own and operate our own organic farm (just south of Buellton), and help support other small, independent, family farmers, to supply fresh fruits and vegetables to our stores and others as well. … We’ve made a commitment to buying local – not only from local farmers, but we carry a lot of local products all throughout the store, and we work together with those local vendors to promote their products.”

New Frontiers is also a pioneer on the green frontier both in the fields and in the store, Mr. Colone explains.

“During the past year, we began a large-scale composting operation on the farm using food scraps from our San Luis Obispo store and vegetable trimmings and green matter from the fields, along with horse manure to create a biologically rich and safe product that builds up the farm soil.

“We strive to be good stewards of the earth, and towards that end we’ve incorporated many green measures into the design and construction of our store, including solar energy panels on the roof, decorations, bins and display units made from repurposed wood, high-tech energy-saving refrigeration systems, waterless toilet, and much more. We also eliminated plastic grocery bags entirely a year ago.”

Emphasizing their commitment to organic products, New Frontiers actively “avoids” genetically modified foods as it pursues a dedicated green course.

“Starting last summer, New Frontiers initiated a policy change that saw us taking a much firmer active stance to avoid genetically modified organisms,” Mr. Colone says. “It began with changes in our deli, when a decision was made that all fresh produce at the salad bar and the juice bar had to be 100% certified organic. The deli also replaced the most common foods containing GMOs with non-GMO or organic alternatives, including:  soy, corn, canola, rice, zucchini and yellow squash. All the tofu and tempeh and Veganaise and tamari used in the deli are organic, and there are a minimum of two organic dressings at the salad bar at all times.

“We partner with the Non-GMO Project to celebrate consumers’ right to choose food and products that do not contain GMOs, and have been a leader in the industry in working to ensure viable non-GMO alternatives into the future. In each of the last two years, we donated several thousand dollars to support the work of the Non-GMO Project, including creating a standardized definition of non-GMO and a third-party verification program, and we have supported the effort to put mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods on the ballot in California this coming October.

“We’re also taking steps in our meat and seafood department to become more sustainable and to urge our suppliers to produce or source cleaner products and to utilize more sustainable methods,” he says. “We recently added a new line of pork which has ‘never ever’ been administered hormones or antibiotics. During the year, also, Greenpeace placed New Frontiers at the top of the Seafood Sustainability rankings as the most ‘green’ retailer of seafood in the state.

“We try to provide the highest quality food and products,” Mr. Colone tells The ROCK, “and in that way contribute to quality of life… and we embrace opportunities to improve the quality of life and make a difference in the community.”

For example, New Frontiers donates 5% of sales on the third Wednesday of each month to local non-profits. They support community programs, causes and organizations with contributions, gift baskets and raffle items. They offer a 10% off senior discount on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and they have a 100% guarantee return policy “to encourage people to try new things,” he adds.

Here are a few new things we tried and enjoyed on a recent visit to New Frontiers: a medium-size container of creamy bread pudding on sale ($3; $3.75 regular), a small container of baba ghanoush ($2.80; $6.99/lb.), and gelato ($2 for a small cup) made by Leo Leo of Paso Robles. The prepared half-pound containers of gourmet deli salads, dips and desserts are an affordable way to sample a wide variety of offerings.

Frontiers Finale: Available that day at the endless salad bar ($8.99/lb.), among a cornucopia of other specialty items, were: spicy yams, Hawaiian tempeh, chipotle potato salad, “Viva Italia” quinoa, collard green slaw, Moroccan toasted millet, caramel apple bread pudding, apple raspberry fruit crisp. Available at the deli: Ying Yang Salad ($8.99/lb.), Goat Cheese Tart ($5.99 each), New Wave Waldorf Salad ($9.99/lb.); Wild Blackened Salmon ($19.99/lb.), Curried Chicken & Grape Salad ($12.99), Artichoke Speltberry Salad ($8.99/lb.), Sausage Feta Hand Pie ($12.99). From the bakery: cannolis ($3.99 each). From the sushi kitchen: Chef Sampler ($11.99), Shoreline Combo ($9.79), Hawaiian Roll ($9.29). From the premium select meat & seafood markets: Vintage Natural Tri Tip Steak or Roasts ($6.99 lb. on sale), Wild Caught Albacore Tuna Steak ($13.99 lb. on sale), New York Steak ($24.99 lb.), Jumbo Scallops ($23.99 lb.). These items represent only a drop in the ocean of delights found almost everywhere in the store.

For coastal dwellers who may not have frequented the old, much smaller downtown location (opened in 1997), or have driven by the “new” New Frontiers but haven’t stopped to shop there yet, you’re overdue to inject some health and flavor into your diet. You will dazzled by the depth and breadth of high quality fresh, healthy, tasty food products you can’t find anywhere else in one place, which is the whole idea of New Frontiers. It’s not for the faint of wallet, though. Unless price is no consideration, the key is to shop carefully and ask for taste samples when possible. The store basically has its own entrance on Froom Ranch Way off Los Osos Valley Rd. – it’s the first right after passing the main entrance to the shopping center on Froom Ranch, and it comes up quickly!

—Ed Ochs

New Frontiers Natural Marketplace, 1531 Froom Ranch Way (Los Osos Valley Rd. near Home Depot), San Luis Obispo, California 93405. Hours: Monday-Sunday, 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. Tel: (805) 785-0194. Website: http://www.NewFrontiersMarket.com