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Food retailers incentivize Earth Day participation

Kroger, Natural Grocers among chains promoting “green” products in April

Earth Day has morphed into Earth Week and even Earth Month as an increasing number of companies seek to position themselves on the right side of environmental issues.

Saturday, April 22, marks the official celebration of Earth Day, but food retailers have been promoting their environmental initiatives all month on social media and through various events and tie-ins, often encouraging customers to participate with financial incentives.

Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. has unveiled an initiative this year in which it is giving its customers an extra reason to go green — discounts on products with eco-friendly certifications, such as fair trade, Rainforest Alliance, Forest Stewardship Council and others — via a new website, SustainabilityLivesHere.com.

The site features more than $60 in digital coupons, most of which can be used up to five times, as well as recipes featuring eco-friendly products and links to more details about Kroger’s eco-friendly practices.

“At Kroger, our goal is to be a positive force for change in our communities and to conscientiously drive sustainability and innovation into the supply chain,” Jessica Adelman, Kroger's group VP of corporate affairs, said in a statement.

According to Forrester Research, more than half of consumers now say they are environmentally conscious. A Forrester survey of more than 58,000 adults found that 52% said they considered themselves to be environmentally conscious in 2016, up from 42% in 2014.

“Rather than expecting companies to take a political stand, customers expect them to declare and act on their corporate values whatever they may be — whether related to manufacturing practices, employment conditions, privacy regulations, or environmental commitments,” said Anjali Lai, an analyst on Forrester's data insights team, in a blog post on the research.

Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, the Lakewood, Colo.-based organic product specialist, is also encouraging consumer support of its supplier partners. The chain is showcasing eight product vendors that its says demonstrate exceptional environmental responsibility and provide high-quality products. The chain is featuring the companies in a series of Facebook posts, and will offer special deals on products from those companies in its stores on April 21-23.

“We go to great lengths to find products that truly embody our principles and resonate with what's important to our customers," said Kemper Isely, Natural Grocers' co-president. “The vendors we've chosen for our Earth Day celebration stand out for their quality, social impact and dedication to healthy food, so we're very excited to share their stories with our customers.”

Customers can also visit a Natural Grocers store on Earth Day from noon to 4 p.m. to participate in a seed-planting activity.

Market of Choice, a 10-store chain based in Eugene, Ore., is also getting into the planting spirit for Earth Day in a partnership with vendor partner NuNaturals. The two are teaming up with Forest Nation to encourage school students in grades 1 to 6 to create Earth Day posters in a competition that will see the winning entrants get trees for their entire class to plant. The goal is to plant 1,000 trees.

Further down the coast, Gelson’s Markets is also partnering with schools through the local Grades of Green program, which encourages environmental awareness among young people. Each week during Earth Month the chain is featuring on social media suggestions from local students for protecting the environment. This week, for example, a student suggests that consumers minimize their use of disposable plastic straws.

Other chains are promoting their partnerships with nonprofits, and rewarding their customers for doing so.

Grand Rapids, Mich.-based SpartanNash, for example, is continuing its multiyear partnership with Goodwill Industries to encourage consumers to donate products for recycling rather than send them to landfills.

On April 22 and 23, customers who drop off a donation at a participating Goodwill organization located in the same community as a SpartanNash corporate-owned store will receive a coupon for $10 off a $25 or more purchase at SpartanNash-owned stores.

“We are excited to continue expanding our partnership with Goodwill and challenge our associates and store guests to do some spring cleaning for a good cause,” said Meredith Gremel, VP of corporate affairs and communications, SpartanNash. “By donating clothing, electronics and household items to Goodwill, we can reduce landfill waste, promote reuse of products and create jobs through Goodwill’s job training programs. We also take this opportunity to raise awareness for the need to recycle, reuse and reinvest in workforce development training.”

Additional Earth Week activities are planned companywide at SpartanNash, including Earth-themed bakery competitions, complimentary local beer tastings, giveaways of seed packets and an Earth Week prize sweepstakes in which winners receive a gift bag of environmentally friendly products.

Other incentive programs include a social media promotion at Save-A-Lot in which the St. Louis, Mo.-based limited-assortment retailer is giving away reusable bags and $10 gift cards to a winner selected from followers who share its Earth Day social media posts.

And at Portland, Ore.-based New Seasons Market, the chain is encouraging customers to go paperless by signing up for email receipts by offering $5 coupons via email to those who do so in the month of April.

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