As expected, the new version of Ahold´s convenience format AH to go, which opened for business last Monday in Amsterdam, sells even more ´food for now´ than it used to. The real news however is the store itself. The colours and brand icons are totally different from the Albert Heijn brand in the Dutch home market. This means that AH to go has been clearly earmarked as frontrunner in Albert Heijn’s cross border expansion.
The green, orange and purper colours of the new AH to go are a giant leap away from the well known brand identity of the leading Dutch food retailer. The blue colour and the icon with the little ‘Zaandam’ house, referring to the store founding father Albert Heijn opened up for business 125 years ago, are ubiquitous in the Netherlands.
Cross border however, Germans and Belgians are less aware of what the Albert Heijn brand stands for. In Belgium Albert Heijn entered the market by rolling out its Albert Heijn supermarkets that are in many ways similar to the Dutch stores. The main differences are in the assortment which is tailored to local taste.
Germans and Belgians are less aware of what the Albert Heijn brand stands for.
In Germany Ahold said to bypass the cut throat competition in the supermarket segment, focusing solely on the roll out of its AH to go convenience format. With no brand equity to respond to, Albert Heijn is free to adapt the AH to go format to its needs in Germany. And to other European markets where it could be a format for market entry.
The new format identity is brand new in the Netherlands. At home the roll out of the number AH to go-stores has not been as impressive as Albert Heijn growing its numbers of supermarket-formats on all sizes, up to the larges AH XL-stores. According to the rules of multi format retailing AH to go had been designed clearly in line with the known brand identity.
This now will change dramatically and it can be expected that a large share of the 150 AH to go-stores Ahold intends to open in coming years, will be in neighboring markets. In Belgian cities like Brussels and Antwerp (in the latter city Ahold will also open an Albert Heijn city format), but foremost in the agglomerations of the large German cities in the Ruhrgebiet.
Not far away in kilometers, but light years away in the perspective of the Albert Heijn brand development.