Monday, December 15, 2008

Green Retailing Memo: Portland, Oregon USA-Based Natural Foods Grocer New Seasons Market Wins State's Top Award For 'Green' Leadership

Nine-store Portland, Oregon natural foods retailer New Seasons Market has won the State of Oregon's 2008 Best Practices Award in the large company category for its environmental sustainability programs and practices.

The award, which is sponsored by the Governor of Oregon, honors the "greenest" of the state's large, medium and small-sized companies for their overall programs, practices and efforts in the sustainability area.

New Seasons Market beat all of the Oregon businesses in the "large company" category that applied for the award, being named the state's sustainable leader in its category this year.

Below (the text in italics) are the primary reasons and sustainable practices the state of Oregon said earned New Seasons Market the top award this year as the state's leading sustainable large business:

"A locally owned and operated grocery, New Seasons Market is committed to promoting sustainable agriculture, community involvement, and a progressive workplace.

Their green practices are modeled from the top down and supported by a staff Green Team at every store. Examples of how they have incorporated sustainable operations are almost too numerous to mention, but here's a sampling of activities that we'd especially like to recognize:

Waste reduction: New Seasons has programs in place at every store to reduce waste through food scrap composting, internal recycling, paper use reduction, and avoiding the use of disposable tableware and flatware.

Alternative Transportation: Besides driving biofuel-blend delivery vans, they encourage both customers and employees to use mass transit, ZipCar and bicycles through the incentive programs and community activities like the BTA Bike Commute Challenge.

Renewable Energy: They use 10 percent wind power and reclaim waste heat from refrigeration systems to heat water.

Modeling Green Practices: Their stores are a model for the community through their display of green building elements, green purchasing practices, public education around nutrition and sustainable food production.

Promoting social equity: New Seasons encourages their employees to volunteer and provides health benefits for any employee who works at least one shift per week. They are also a breast-feeding-friendly employer.

Obviously, operating a green business isn't just a business model for New Seasons, it's a passion and a way of life. Bravo, New Seasons!"

New Seasons Market has a company policy that puts a major focus on the environment and local and community issues. All three areas of focus are part of what the natural grocer defines as sustainability.

For example, it gives preference to and offers incentives to local food producers and vendors in terms of doing business with its stores.

The natural foods grocer, which this year celebrated its 8th birthday as a company, also involves itself with a myriad of community organizations, local groups and businesses throughout the Portland Metropolitan region where it operates its nine stores. In 2007 New Seasons donated over $400,000 to local community organizations and charities, for example.

The retailer gives 10% of its after-tax profits to local non-profit organizations in the Portland, Oregon area.

One of the local charitable organizations New Seasons' is a major contributor to is Loaves & Fishes, the Meals-On-Wheels program in the region. Each of the nine New Seasons Market stores has a different delivery route lined up and volunteers get together weekly to bring food and conversation to senior citizens. The natural grocer also donates 50 cents from the sale of each loaf of its New Seasons Market store brand Organic Sourdough bread to Loaves & Fishes.

[You can read about some of the other local non-profit organizations New Seasons market is involved with in the Portland region here.]

It's interesting and ironic New Seasons Market is involved in the ongoing U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) legal case to overturn Whole Foods Market, Inc.'s acquisition last summer of its friendly acquisition of Wild Oats market, Inc. by virtue of New Seasons' having been one of 96 natural products retailers issued subpoenas by Whole Foods in its legal defense against the FTC. As we've reported and written about, New Seasons Market has filed various motions with the FTC to "quash" the Whole Foods subpoena. Those motions are awaiting a ruling by the FTC.

The irony involved is that New Seasons Market, through its local and sustainable programs which are tied into its marketing and merchandising programs and the entire way it approaches local market natural foods retailing, is the reason it's able to compete strongly against Whole Foods Market stores in the Portland region. New Seasons is doing well, has a strong customer base, and in no way is being "monopolized" by Whole Foods in the Portland market, which just happens to be one of the 18-29 U.S. markets in which the FTC argues Whole Foods post the Wild Oats' merger holds a monopoly in what the regulator calls the "premium organic retailer segment."

As we've argued since last summer, the FTC is wrong that Whole Foods Market, Inc. has such a monopoly. It's premise, that a segment called "premium organic retailing" is relevant also is wrong.

The retailing of natural, organic and premium food, grocer and related products today in the U.S. is a multi-format, hyper-competitive business. Whole Foods holds no advantage in the natural and organic products' retailing business any longer in the U.S., in our analysis. New Seasons Market and hundreds of other independent natural grocers are proving this each day throughout the country, as our huge supermarket chains, regional chains that focus on natural, organic and specialty products, mass merchandisers like Wal-Mart Target and Costco, and natural products discount category killers like Trader Joe's.

In addition to the growing multi-format competition in the natural, organic and premium segments, you can bet once the current recession starts coming to and end, there will be the next new thing in category retailing -- either by an established player or a new one -- that will further challenge Whole Foods Market, Inc. This is something nearly everybody in the natural and organic foods business knows to be the case but appears to be something the FTC either is unable to understand or has chosen it doesn't want to understand.

We congratulate New Seasons Market on its leadership in environmental sustainability, and for winning the 2008 Oregon Governor's award. We also suggest the FTC take a closer look at the "premium organic retailing' category competition in the Pacific Northwest and those other twenty-some U.S. markets it argues Whole Foods Market, Inc. is monopolizing.


MagicBrad said...

Healthy LIFE EXPO - Jan 30-31, 2009
Minneapolis Convention Center
Mpls, MN

We are looking for someone to donate 50-100 samples of natural products for the "1st 50" attenees.

Anonymous said...

Try Grocery Outlet first for organic foods. The Hollywood branch has an awesome selection at unbelievable prices. I walk out with two full bags at less than $w0.