Consumers care about sustainability and want to see it both in practice and in action. The path to a more sustainable grocery supply chain—from CPG to supplier, to grocery store, to consumer, to the home—will be imperfect but impactful, so long as retailers embrace clear initiatives to try their best in sustainable practices. A sustainable retailer benefits the planet, the consumer, the community, and the business. Not only do sustainable practices save money and benefit the community and the environment, but visible and clear practices increase the chances of a consumer remaining loyal to a brand; it is up to the retailer to educate their consumers on how they are trying to do better.
Food Waste & Grocery
The U.S. Department of Agriculture finds that 30–40% of the food supply results in food waste
Preventing this waste in the first place should take precedence. Grocers can avoid unnecessary food waste by optimizing refrigeration systems to prevent loss, track shelf life effectively to be sure products sell before they expire, and donate unavoidable excess to local food banks and hunger- relief organizations. Grocery retailers can be leaders in making the food chain more sustainable through food waste prevention.
Grocery stores are an important link in the food chain responsible for embracing sustainability as a continuously improving practice. From reducing shrink and preventing foods living on the shelf past their expiration with software like Date Check Pro; to smartly implementing SKU rationalization for a well-edited product assortment; to tackling food insecurity within communities and donating unsellable foods, grocers have myriad opportunities to challenge the ecosystem in which food waste currently thrives.
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Sustainability Trends, Initiatives, & Education
Surging attention to individual and mass impact on the environment means elevated consumer interest in sustainability, which includes preventing food waste, ethically sourced products, and moves toward plastic-free bagging. What encompasses sustainability in the grocery industry? Retailers need to recognize “the immensity of sustainability as a concept and in action” and begin “addressing its various dimensions by procuring and promoting sustainable products for their shoppers and changing their own way of doing business,” writes Lynn Petrak for Progressive Grocer. “Despite the seeming agreement on the need to protect the environment and its resources, sustainability is an all- encompassing term, and its dimensions are open to interpretation.”
The consumer of 2021 and beyond expects retailers to take sustainability seriously. How can grocers adjust to expectations?
Expired shrink is an ongoing challenge for grocery retailers, and addressing excessive loss from expiring products often falls to the bottom of the to-do list. Methods such as SKU Rationalization can help grocers more effectively manage a well-edited assortment of products and prevent unnecessary loss from expiration. Expiration date management software Date Check Pro can also help mitigate expired shrink, saving the grocery precious time and money in the process.
Nonprofit & Community Connections
Grocery stores are just one link in an ecosystem of food in any community. Many grocers feel a responsibility to look for food insecurity and shortages in their surrounding area and take action to help fill in disparities. The work also extends to addressing the challenge of food waste through prevention, reduction, and donation. Donations to and partnerships with organizations that work hard to feed community members who might otherwise go hungry benefit a grocer not just ethically, but in strengthening the links in the food ecosystem. Nonprofit partnerships appeal to consumers who care about businesses giving back to their communities. Cyclical benefits can emerge from such partnerships: continued support creates relationships between the grocer and the community, encourages collaborative, long-term solutions for food insecurity and food waste, and will draw in business from community members paying attention to nonprofit or charity work.
Grocers who care about their communities gain the trust of shoppers. Food waste and food insecurity are not quick-fix issues. Each requires intentional, consistent action. Solutions vary in size and execution, but as seen above, grocers of all sizes and locations are taking steps to address the cycle of food disparity. Caring about these issues long-term benefits the food ecosystem in which grocery retailers exist, and will only continue to grow and better the communities they find themselves a part of.
Did you know that $165 billion worth of food is wasted each year in the US, or that 40% of the food produced in the US goes uneaten? Food waste happens at every stage of the supply chain – not just at home – and unfortunately, a large amount of food waste comes from grocers inability to track their expiration dates efficiently.
The modern grocery consumer cares more and more about eating healthy while practicing sustainability; they want fresh and local produce, sustainably sourced meat and fish, environmentally conscious dairy and non-dairy products, and more variety in plant-based products. How does the evolution of food consumption to this stage of higher health awareness reflect attention paid to sustainable practices? How can grocery retailers keep up with both rising trends? Catering to consumers that prefer eco-friendly diets and committing to sustainable operations as a grocer are linked practices.
Packaging waste is an urgent global problem, and the food industry is poised in a unique position to make lasting, impactful change while serving as an example to other retail sectors. Grocers will find that prioritizing planet-friendly packaging not only benefits the environment and the bottom line, but it attracts consumers who are motivated to make their own positive impact.