Sustainability initiatives a top priority for grocery retailers, wholesalers

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From targeting net zero emissions to reducing or eliminating single-use plastics use and creating innovative ways to fight food waste and promoting recycling, grocery retailers and wholesalers are fighting the good fight for the environment while being keenly aware of social issues facing the communities they serve and the workers they employ.

Indeed, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, sustainability has remained at the forefront of American consumers’ concerns, with 69% of supermarket shoppers saying they try to reduce their impact on the environment as much as possible, according to a report released by the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council (CCRRC) of North America.

“With consumers increasingly considering and acting on sustainability issues when it comes to patronage and purchases, now is the time for supermarkets to actively examine the opportunities and challenges facing the industry, to best align with these growing consumer feelings,” said Michael Sansolo, research director of CCRRC North America. “Shoppers want local supermarkets to help them practice sustainability, and not doing so could mean losing shoppers down the road.”

Here are some of the latest initiatives being taken by leaders in the grocery industry to meet their sustainability goals.


Wegmans to phase out single-use plastic bags companywide by the end of 2022

Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans said it aims to shift all customers to reusable shopping bags, which it described as “the best option to solve the environmental challenge of single-use grocery bags.” Currently, the supermarket chain has eliminated the plastic bags in 61 of its 106 stores, including all New York locations plus selected stores in Virginia, Massachusetts and Maryland.

Hannaford eyes 100% renewable energy use by 2024

New England grocer Hannaford Supermarkets aims to power its operations completely by renewable energy by 2024. Scarborough, Maine-based Hannaford said that, to cut energy consumption and improve the way it currently use energy, the chain has implemented energy-efficiency projects such as LED lights, night shades, doors on cases and modern refrigeration systems, as well as rooftop solar panels on 10 of its stores.

Ahold Delhaize USA, ExxonMobil target circular food packaging

Ahold Delhaize USA, ExxonMobil and packaging specialist Sealed Air (SEE) have partnered on what they call a first-of-its-kind plastic food package recycling initiative in the United States. Under the project, flexible plastics from the food supply chain will be recycled and remade into new, certified circular food-grade packaging, Charlotte, N.C.-based Sealed Air said. Plans call for the effort to start this summer and scale up over time.

Associated Grocers of New England installs largest solar rooftop in New Hampshire

With Its 500,000-square-foot distribution center in its headquarters of Pembroke, N.H., now home to the largest rooftop solar installation in the state, regional grocery wholesaler and distributor Associated Grocers of New England (AGNE) is ramping up its commitment to improving the sustainability of its business.

The 1MW SolarEdge DC-optimized array is forecast to offset approximately 20% of the building’s annual energy consumption, contributing to a ROI of less than nine years, and will reduce carbon emissions by approximately 1,100 tons per year.

Southeastern Grocers own brands move away from ‘eco-unfriendly’ packaging

Southeastern Grocers (SEG) plans to shift to more sustainable packaging across its own-brand portfolio by the end of 2028. Jacksonville, Fla.-based SEG said late yesterday that it will “overhaul” its private-label packaging by phasing out the use of polystyrene and making all packaging reusable, recyclable or industrially compostable. All private-brand packaging from the retailer — whose supermarket banners include Winn-Dixie, Harveys Supermarket and Fresco y Más — also will include an average of 30% post-consumer recycled material.