Twin brothers Patrick and Mike Fitzgerald are using their experience as wholesale produce distributors to launch an online fresh food and meal delivery providing locally grown produce and chef-driven meal solutions. Known as Fresh Midwest, the new service will begin in the northern Chicagoland market from Kenosha, Wis., through the Lincoln Park neighborhood, and is set to expand throughout the Chicagoland market in early 2021.
The Fitzgerald brothers grew up working at Midwest Foods, a second-generation, family-owned business of eight brothers and sisters that has served the Midwest market for more than 50 years. They said they gained admiration for a different aspect of the business, however, through Mike’s friendship with Thomas Parkinson, co-founder of Chicago-based e-grocer Peapod, a division of Ahold Delhaize USA, which shut down the Midwest division of the online grocery sales business earlier this year and later phased out use of the Peapod app for its Giant Food and Stop & Shop banners.
Now Parkinson and several other former Peapod executives are helping the brothers in their new venture.
“The passion behind Fresh Midwest is to provide an exceptional experience to order and receive the finest of local produce, fresh salads, meal kits, meats and seafood, and restaurant-made meals,” said Patrick Fitzgerald, creator and co-owner of Fresh Midwest. “Our vision is to connect customers directly with offerings typically reserved for high-quality restaurants at a good value.”
“Fresh Midwest is delivering a need for fresh food to consumers' homes on the day and time they want it,” said Thomas Parkinson, co-founder of Peapod. “Fresh has always been a challenge for any online company, but I am impressed with their experience and attention to quality and selection.”
The new service features a state-of-the-art, climate-controlled cool chain, according to the company. Each order is hand-selected by professional in-house staff, and is then delivered in refrigerated trucks. Fresh Midwest also pledges to prioritize food safety by offering limited handling of all products, and contactless delivery.
Joining the Fitzgerald brothers at Fresh Midwest are two former Peapod veterans, Chicagoans Tony Stallone (chief merchant) and Mary Rose Neises (marketing lead). Stallone, also known as the “Produce Guru” and creator of meal kits at Peapod, was an integral part of that company's team for 20 years and was VP of merchandising. Rose, who spent 17 years at Peapod, drove e-commerce customer loyalty initiatives and was also senior director of the Midwest and D.C. markets.
Fresh Midwest said that it plans to capitalize on the Fitzgerald family’s exclusive connections with local farmers, artisans and restaurants, which will provide a "premium source" for fresh food and meal kits. Among the online retailer's offerings are nutritious breakfast items; time-saving snacks, including home-made yogurt parfaits; and chef-driven meal solutions such as sandwiches and salads. Fresh Midwest also will offer dishes from acclaimed Chicagoland restaurants all in one place, starting with Wildfire and Big Bowl, to soon be followed by a host of other well-known establishments.
“There was a void of delivering restaurant prepared foods to consumers when Peapod left,” said Howard Katz, Lettuce Entertain You enterprise divisional president of Wildfire & Big Bowl. “We are happy to partner with Fresh Midwest to deliver Wildfire and Big Bowl favorites and meal kits directly to their doors.”
Fresh Midwest will be based in both Chicago and Kenosha, Wis., with more than 200 employees.