When we hear the word “sustainability”, and consider how it affects us, what often comes to mind are the ideas of a greener environment, a healthier planet, and a continuous supply of natural resources. However, in the food retail sector, it’s more than that. These days, sustainability has taken on a broad and somewhat more vague definition. Often, it is used loosely enough in the industry that some retailers are not fully aware of sustainability’s major impacts on their overall retail operation. This has the effect of resulting in the minimal and incomplete implementation of sustainable efforts on their part.
Sustainability in the food retail sector is more than just an abstract or non-tangible idea. It has real-life effects on consumers and stakeholders when adopted correctly and strategically. Here are some ways how sustainable efforts holistically impact food retail operations in a real-life setting:
- Sustainability Drives Consumer Spending
One of the things that consumers look for in a food product is its sustainability claims. Food products with sustainability labels are greatly influencing consumer buying decisions. According to a survey done by Cargill of 6,000 consumers in 11 countries, 55% of global consumers are more likely to purchase food products that are labeled with sustainability claims. This is a good sign for retailers to highlight their sustainability efforts, utilizing their in-store and product messaging as well as food packaging strategies. Retailers focusing their initiatives on accentuating their sustainable practices on product labels will signal to their consumers that their local grocers are exerting efforts for the good of the environment.
2. Sustainability Reinforces the Supply Chain and Expands Product Offerings
Another way sustainability impacts the food retail industry is through the supply chain and the opportunity for retailers to expand their product offerings. Sustainability affects the supply chain as it enables retailers to selectively partner with vendors that align with their values in cutting greenhouse gas emissions through responsible sourcing-to-packaging actions as well as reducing waste in all supply chain touchpoints. Likewise, through sustainability, retailers can further promote clean labels, in-store and online, and offer expanded private label brands with deeper consideration given to eco-friendly packaging.
3. Sustainability Saves Retailers Energy and Cost
Perhaps one of the most beneficial impacts of sustainability in food retail is how it significantly cuts energy and operational cost in the store. The use of natural solutions, such as refrigeration systems and display cases that utilize CO2, ammonia, and propane, have short- and long-term energy savings benefits that could serve as the basis for significant cost savings. Plus, these natural refrigeration systems are exempted from future refrigerant regulations, so retailers don’t need to worry about constantly retrofitting or building a new system to adhere to regulatory changes.
Sustainability has become a commonly used buzzword in the industry these days. However, it has a far deeper meaning and purpose than just being used as a marketing scheme. Though there’s still much to do on the path to sustainability, grocers as well as all the sectors in the food retail space, including consumers, should take part in truly promoting and integrating sustainability in our daily regimen—because at the end of the day, it is our responsibility to paint the picture of what a green future will look like for generations to come.