Bristol Farms: From a Culture of Sarcasm to Exceeding Sales Numbers

Bristol Farms is a leading Southern California grocery retailer since 1982 of gourmet, organic, and natural foods. The retailer’s mission is “To Entice Your Passion For Food Beyond The Everyday Experience.”

“There was old-school thinking, new-school thinking, thinking that didn’t work.”

Adam Caldecott, President & COO of Bristol Farms


When Bristol Farms, a leading Southern California grocery retailer, underwent a series of buyouts, its company culture suffered. Each investment company brought with it new priorities and business strategies. Every time the company adjusted to the changes, it was sold again. The constant change resulted in inconsistent expectations, a clash of cultures, and mixed messages. After many years with that kind of turnover, the culture was extremely dysfunctional, dissatisfied, and weary. A culture of sarcasm had taken root. “There was old-school thinking, new-school thinking, thinking that didn’t work,” said Adam Caldecott, who became President & COO in 2015. He decided to make culture a priority.


Caldecott brought in Culture Partners and introduced the Culture Journey – a comprehensive, three-year process to shift their culture. Caldecott, along with senior leadership, together identified and determined the company’s Cultural Beliefs and set the Key Results for the year: year-over-year growth of 5% sales and 15% point-of-difference (POD) products. This was a big stretch for the company, and no one was confident the company would meet its goals. However, because of the new emphasis on culture, everyone felt the numbers were more attainable than before.

As a part of the roll-out, the company presented Cultural Beliefs meetings to most of the management team. The management team immediately incorporated all the Lead Culture process and tools, including the following:

  • Establishing Common language: With Caldecott’s support, the company established a common language to encourage people to interact, communicate the Key Results and hold each other accountable.
  • Incorporating Feedback: Giving and receiving feedback became a daily habit, championed first and foremost by Caldecott. As a leader, he held himself accountable and was holding others accountable as well. Bristol Farms didn’t have that Culture of Accountability before, and encouraging the leadership team to act on feedback as part of the shift.


Through a focus on human interactions and culture, rather than sales goals, Bristol Farms has not only achieved financial health but also surpassed its stretch goals. Bristol Farms crushed 2016, finishing the year at 7.7% in sales (a 2.7% increase over the previous year) and increasing the POD to 22%.

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