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SN Whole Health's Fit 25: Imagine That

These 25 retailers demonstrate how the industry is leading the way in getting consumers to shop smarter and live better — an SN Whole Health special report in Sourcebook 2009

Channel Champion — National Chain: Kroger

With more than a dozen banners operating in 31 states, it's easy to see how Kroger could make it onto anyone's short list of top national chains. The retailer's wellness offerings are as varied as its store formats, but no doubt there's a significant presence of natural, organic and better-for-you products in each banner.

The 2,500-store chain, based in Cincinnati, helps ensure this by making health a cornerstone of its private-label portfolio. They include Private Selection Organics certified organic items; Active Lifestyle functional food products; and Naturally Preferred, a line of both natural and organic foods.

Of all the retailer's formats, however, one stands out from the group: Fred Meyer. With its headquarters in Portland, Ore., the chain of more than 125 multi-department supercenters gives health and wellness plenty of merchandising space under a Natural Choices department that often includes dry shelving, refrigerated and frozen cases, and HBC.

Another winning format within the Kroger family of stores is Denver-based King Soopers. As a conventional supermarket, products are typically integrated into the aisles, though set off with signage and special shelf elements.

Kroger's most recent quarterly financials indicate the chain is still a favorite among mainstream supermarket customers. While wellness sales were not broken out, half of the chain's six private labels are devoted to wellness, and officials pointed out that private brands comprised 26% of sales and 35% of sales volume for the quarter.

— Robert Vosburgh

Channel Champion — Regional Chain: Yoke's Fresh Markets

Yoke's Fresh Markets isn't a retailer that makes a lot of noise, but this 12-store, employee-owned supermarket chain has a wealth of innovative whole health ideas.

For starters, the Spokane Valley, Wash.-based company makes a point of offering a wide array of local, all-natural products. Since 2000, the retailer has worked to expand its network of area growers and ranchers, and now sources from dozens in Washington and Idaho. The retailer also uses a popular “Never-Ever” label to denote proteins that have been raised without the use of hormones or antibiotics. These and many organic products can be found in the company's store-within-a-store section, Nature's Corner.

To cut down on waste, Yoke's offers biodegradable plastic bags and encourages reusable bag use. In April, the company moved its monthly circular online, saving an estimated 145 tons of paper per year.

“And this is just the next step in our efforts to be part of the green movement,” said Denny York, the chain's senior vice president of marketing and store development.

— Jeff Wells

Channel Champion — Independent Operator: Big Y

When it comes to wellness, Big Y emphasizes the “big.” In the past year, the 56-store retailer based in Springfield, Mass., has expanded it efforts by creating a two-person “wellness team” that is the voice of the chain's Living Well Eating Smart newsletter. The duo of Carrie Taylor and Andrea Samson counsels customers through audio and video presentations, blogs and numerous personal appearances.

In March, Big Y initiated a new prescription savings club aimed at shoppers with no prescription drug coverage. In April, the retailer became the first U.S. chain to carry O Organics, the private label created by Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif., that is now being distributed internationally to non-competing supermarket operators.

Big Y also began free distribution earlier this year of Going Green, a custom magazine designed to help shoppers make lifestyle choices that will benefit the environment and themselves.

“It seems like everyone is becoming environmentally conscious these days,” said Donald D'Amour, Big Y's chief executive officer, in a press release. “But it can be really difficult to know exactly what you can do to try to make a difference.”

The inaugural April 2009 issue included $350 worth of coupon savings.

— Robert Vosburgh

Channel Champions — Single Store: Woodlands Market

In the movement to source food closer to home, there's local, and then there's local. Put Woodlands Market in the latter category for its commitment to not just sourcing from the community in which it's based, but for giving back to it as well.

The Kentfield, Calif., retailer's latest project says it all. Owner Don Santa is currently converting several acres of property that he owns a mile from the store into farmland. There, he plans to grow fresh produce to sell in his store — everything from heirloom tomatoes to squash, artichoke, beets, apples and cherries. With its location in the enviable microclimate between San Francisco and Sonoma, the farm — and the store — should be able to thrive year-round.

“We want to create the most environmentally responsible yet best-tasting and nutritionally complex products available,” said Santa.

Since its inception in 1986, Woodlands has invested more than $2 million in the local community, and it hopes to channel that same spirit through the new farm project. Santa said he plans on offering cooking schools on the property, as well as holding tours and educational programs for kids. He said he's also considered donating the farm's profits to community causes.

As if this ambitious project weren't enough, Santa plans to open an in-store cafe in August, and then a second retail location in the nearby town of Tiburon next year.

— Jeff Wells

Channel Champions — Wholesalers: Spartan Stores

As both a distributor and a retailer, Spartan Stores has a deep understanding about where opportunities exist in the supermarket industry. It's no wonder, then, that the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company has made health and sustainability a top priority.

Spartan started off the year by putting a whole health spin on an age-old debate: The chicken or the egg? In this case, the answer was both. The company now packages its eggs in molded fiber cartons, which are fully recyclable and biodegradable, saving an estimated 675,000 pounds of pulp fiber from landfills. And just in time for Super Bowl week, Spartan released a line of all-natural chicken products made without hormones or antibiotics.

Promoting reusable bags is also a priority, with 10,000 given away at Spartan's retail stores — D&W Fresh Market, Felpausch, Family Fare, Glen's Markets and VG's Food and Pharmacy.

“We want to make it easier for our customers to make more environmentally friendly decisions,” said Alan Hartline, Spartan's executive vice president of merchandising.

The company's retail locations held numerous health screening events, as well. In February, the stores joined with ConAgra to offer heart health screenings and educational sessions. Then in May, the stores helped raise awareness of osteoporosis by offering bone density screenings for $10.

— Jeff Wells

Channel Champions — Alternate Format: Whole Foods

The days of calling Whole Foods Market an “alternate format” may be drawing to a close. With more than 270 stores in the United States, Canada and Europe, the super-natural food retailer has been the preferred venue for many core wellness consumers, as well as the curious and the dabblers.

At least until the recession hit. Faced with significant fall-offs in sales, the chain moved aggressively to shore up its customer base. It introduced the Whole Deal, a multifaceted program that recasts the Austin, Texas, company as a more affordable retail destination. Private labels like its award-winning 365 line have taken on a greater role in promotions.

The economy has taken a toll internally, as well. Expansion has been scaled back and Chief Executive Officer John Mackey has brought in a pair of outside investors who now control a quarter of the company. Industry observers note that Whole Foods no longer acts like a renegade. After years of fast-paced growth, the latest financials showed decreased same-store sales and the need for strict cost controls.

To its credit, Whole Foods refuses to compromise on the qualities that make it such a special retailer. The company continues to fund local agriculture efforts, make micro-loans to encourage artisan food producers and take up-front stands on issues like animal welfare and fair trade.

— Robert Vosburgh

Channel Champions — Prepared Foods: Heinen's

With two corporate chefs and dozens of entrees and sides for customers to choose from, Heinen’s knows how to do gourmet meals. With the expansion of its Healthy Appetite program this year, it’s clear the Warrensville Heights, Ohio, retailer knows a thing or two about wellness, too.

Started in 2007, Healthy Appetite is a food-labeling initiative that identifies low-fat, heart-healthy meal options. These aren’t just abstract marketing claims — Heinen’s enlisted dietitians at the nearby Cleveland Clinic to develop specific guidelines. To qualify, items have to meet five criteria: Contain no trans fats; be made from 100% whole grains; contain less than 600 milligrams of sodium for entrees, and 480 milligrams for sides and desserts; and contain less than 4 grams of saturated fats and sugars for main dishes, and 2 grams for sides and desserts.

So successful was the Healthy Appetite program that, earlier this year, Heinen’s decided to expand it to products throughout the store. In February, the retailer unveiled a supplemental green “Go” label on more than 1,500 products that had met the criteria. The Cleveland Clinic, too, adopted the label for food items sold in its cafeteria.

At Heinen’s, the Healthy Appetite/Go program is a bit of healthy reassurance for a customer base that’s increasingly turning to prepared foods in the down economy.

— Jeff Wells

Service Stars — Consumer Wellness: Hy-Vee

This year, Hy-Vee became one of the first — and largest — chains to implement the NuVal nutrition scoring system. By introducing customers to NuVal during its initial rollout phase, Hy-Vee again demonstrated a level of commitment that makes this regional chain a national leader.

“We believe that if you can make a difference in the health of your customers, you should,” wrote Ric Jurgens, chairman, chief executive officer and president, in an editorial after the chain was named winner of the 2008 SN Whole Health Enterprise Award.

With more than 225 stores in seven Midwestern states, Hy-Vee is a health touchstone for much of Middle America. The chain employs more than 100 dietitians who not only carry the retailer’s wellness message into stores, they help customize marketing to fit the priorities of the community.

Likewise, the chain provides resources in the form of programs like Live Healthy America, a 100-day challenge that uses group dynamics to change lifestyle habits. There’s also Begin, a weight-management initiative that includes nutritional counseling and workouts.

The highest-profile event, however, remains the Hy-Vee Triathlon. The world-class event is held during the last weekend in June, and is now three years old.

— Robert Vosburgh

Service Stars — Employee Wellness: Hannaford Bros.

For many Hannaford Bros. employees, good health is more than just a personal goal — it’s a financial incentive.

In January, the Delhaize America-owned chain expanded its involvement in a behavior-based insurance program that determines employee contributions based on their health and the lifestyle improvements they make. Operated through RedBrick Health, Minneapolis, the program kicked off in June 2008 with 2,400 Hannaford employees; by January of this year, enrollment topped 18,000.

“The successful implementation of the pilot program, along with the enthusiasm seen among our staff, moved us to expand ahead of schedule,” said Peter Hayes, director of associate health and wellness for Hannaford, in a statement.

The program, focusing on prevention and accountability, starts with an in-depth screening that determines an employee’s overall health. This is used to calculate the amount they pay into their plan, as well as to serve as a benchmark for their performance going forward. The better their health, the less they pay. RedBrick offers an array of resources, including online and over-the-phone counseling.

The result, according to Hannaford officials, should be decreased costs for the company and a positive sense of responsibility for its workers.

“We’re excited to keep this momentum going,” said Hayes.

— Jeff Wells

Service Stars — Consumer Education: Bashas'

Nutrition education, for many retailers, is a piecemeal affair — a labeling program here, a newsletter there. Not at Bashas’, though, where a program called “Eat Smart,” introduced in February, draws several resources together under one marketing umbrella.

The highlight of Eat Smart is its extensive labeling system, which includes six colorful tags indicating products that have met nutritional benchmarks for claims such as “heart healthy,” “low sodium,” “reduced sugar” and “calcium rich.” The claims are based on guidelines set forth by the Food and Drug Administration, the American Heart Association and other respected sources. To guard against loopholes and dubious picks — a product that’s fortified with calcium but loaded with salt, say — the Chandler, Ariz.-based chain has disqualified foods with high levels of sodium, saturated fats and other less-than-healthy ingredients.

“We’re ultimately taking the guesswork out of healthy eating,” said Barbara Ruhs, Bashas’ registered dietitian, who plays an integral role in Eat Smart.

The program includes a free monthly newsletter filled with eating tips, product information and coupons. Ruhs also conducts monthly store tours that explain the new food labeling system.

— Jeff Wells

Service Stars — Blogging: Hiller's Markets

To say Hiller’s is an independent retailer is an understatement. A focus on the customer runs from the top on down throughout the seven-store Michigan chain, as reflected in the words of the chain’s president. Jim Hiller has been writing a blog on the retailer’s home page since March 2006, and anyone can read up on his views, opinions and musings, on topics ranging from the taste of gluten-free products to why he ordered his store to stop selling cigarettes — a decision that he says costs the company more than $250,000 a year.

“When you’re a leader, however slight and humble, your every move makes a statement,” he wrote in a plainspoken style that is his trademark. “So I won’t sell cigarettes anymore [and] you can hate me for having scruples...”

The wellness theme runs throughout the blog, and encompasses not just physical health, as in the case of smoking, but one’s mental and spiritual health as well. One recent entry discusses a dream involving a boat and a storm: “When I awoke from that dream, I knew it was significant. It was a metaphor for these turbulent economic times...”

Hiller wrote that the dream was the inspiration behind “Hometown First,” his home-state initiative promoting local businesses. Launched in February with 10 restaurants, the program now boasts more than 100 assorted businesses.

The chain is open to other voices as well and, in fact, calls a section of its website just that. Here, customers will find sections called “Ruminations” and “Voices on Food.” The most recent entry on the latter profiles a fashion photo shoot that used the produce department at one Hiller’s store as a backdrop.

— Robert Vosburgh

Service Stars — Community Outreach: Wal-Mart Stores

Wal-Mart is big, it seems to be everywhere and it’s not universally liked. But there’s no denying the beneficial impact a retailer of this size can have on community outreach. Pick a cause, and it’s likely that — to some degree — Wal-Mart is involved.

The Wal-Mart Foundation is the primary vehicle for significant donations. For example, it has donated $7.8 million to support food banks and provide healthy, summer meals to children and families. It has also granted a total of $5.7 million to two organizations training workers for jobs in emerging green industries, including renewable electricity, alternative fuels, engineering, and residential and commercial retrofits.

On the food side, Wal-Mart is one of the biggest retail donors to Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief charity. Every format under the retailer’s umbrella is expected to participate by the end of 2009, when officials anticipate donating 90 million pounds of food — enough for 70 million meals.

Then, of course, there are the myriad small efforts the retailer makes to assist individual customers. Among them is a program introduced this spring to make eye care more affordable by reducing the cost of contacts, and youth and teen eyewear.

— Robert Vosburgh

Service Stars — Single Event: H-E-B

As of mid-July, participants in H.E. Butt Grocery’s Commuter Challenge had approached the 10-million-mile mark, not bad for a reward program launched just four months prior. The initiative, a partnership between the 300-store retailer and NuRide, an online organization promoting ride-sharing and other environmentally friendly commuting options, was introduced in March with the goal of reducing commuters’ impact by 15 million miles throughout the Houston area and eliminating more than 6,000 tons of emissions from the atmosphere, through the use of carpooling, vanpooling, biking, walking, telecommuting or public transportation.

The retailer put an interesting spin on the event by noting Challenge participants will be saving money on gas costs as well as helping the environment.

“H-E-B has long been committed to working families throughout the communities we serve,” said Winell Herron, H-E-B’s spokeswoman.
Participating customers can redeem points for rewards and special offers from local and national sponsors. As an added incentive, H-E-B has been providing coupons for $5 off of $50 purchases, as well as a grand prize of one year of free groceries, to be awarded once the 15-million-mile goal has been reached.

The event is being managed by NuRide, which has organized and administered similar contests throughout the country. Earlier in the year, H-E-B helped sponsor a 3-million-mile challenge in the San Antonio area.

— Robert Vosburgh

Aisle Advocates — Kids Marketing: PCC Natural Markets

In choosing what products to market to kids, Seattle-based PCC Natural Markets turns to the experts themselves. The co-op’s popular Kid Picks program lets children sample and vote on their favorite items from throughout the store, bestowing a colorful “Kid Picks” tag on those that get at least two-thirds approval. Products sampled include everything from produce and prepared meals, to HBC products like shampoo, which they test using dolls.

The process isn’t all child’s play, however. PCC’s mission is to empower kids and introduce them to healthful items they might not normally try, like omega-3-rich anchovies — a surprise winner at a recent tasting.

“We want the program to introduce kids to less — or even totally — unfamiliar foods, as well as healthier versions of popular ones,” said Sara Walsh, PCC’s community relations manager.

Introduced in 2004, the Kid Picks program has grown into a community event. Samplings take place in stores, as well as at schools, community centers and public festivals. Thanks to the Kid Picks Mobile — an old motor home that was gutted and refurbished with plenty of storage and counter space — it’s easy for PCC to take its show on the road.

Currently, more than 1,500 products in PCC’s stores carry the Kid Picks label. That number is expected to increase as the program, and its namesake vehicle, roll on.

— Jeff Wells

Aisle Advocates — Recession Buster: Fresh & Easy

Eating healthy isn’t always cheap, and it’s especially difficult when times are tight. And yet, give consumers enticing price incentives, as Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market has done, and they’ll jump at the opportunity.

This winter, the El Segundo, Calif., retailer started off the new year by rolling out 98-cent produce packs. These include a lineup of fresh fruits and vegetables, made available in a range of quantities based on season and availability. Recent selections included a pound of nectarines, 2 pounds of “spuddies” potatoes and a three-count of apples.

Fresh & Easy also took aim at frugal shoppers through their prepared-meals department. Last fall, the company introduced a mix-and-match assortment that combines meats, vegetarian dishes and sauces to create meals for $10. Then, the retailer went bigger and even cheaper in April of this year, releasing a line of family-sized fresh meals for $8. These combine hearty fare with healthy favorites, like chicken teriyaki with rice and vegetables, and spaghetti with turkey meatballs.

“People are focused on eating in, and it’s something I think everyone is seeing across the board,” said spokesman Brendan Wonnacott, noting that produce packs helped increase sales of fruits and vegetables by 11% in their first month.

— Jeff Wells

Aisle Advocates — Pharmacy Services: Harris Teeter

From A-Hydrocort to Zyvox, Harris Teeter has got its pharmacy customers covered. The Matthews, N.C.-based chain of 181 stores has long offered comprehensive pharmacy services that go far beyond the usual prescription filling and counter advice.

Harris Teeter is an information leader when it comes to medications. The retailer’s website includes in-depth discussions covering prescriptions and vitamins, as well as holistic health and herbal remedies — two topics not typically addressed by mainstream retail pharmacies, but familiar to Harris Teeter pharmacists.

The online Rx Answers section provides overviews of the most commonly prescribed drugs, and also lists the top nutrient-depleting drugs — a feature especially helpful to older patients who may not be aware of the potential contradictions that arise with taking multiple medications. The website also includes a Vitamin Guide that lists vitamins and minerals not only alphabetically, but by lifestyle, such as sports & fitness, or weight control.

Harris Teeter discusses a wide variety of alternative therapies, including acupuncture and chiropractic, noting that such therapies are “often used in conjunction with conventional

There is also a section that covers herbal remedies, an area of growing interest among wellness-minded consumers.

— Robert Vosburgh

Aisle Advocates — Store-in-Store Selection: Publix

At a time when most supermarket retailers seem to be moving toward integration of wellness products, Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla., remains a bold exception. Publix, which won the same honor in last year’s Fit 25 list, continues to demonstrate how segregation can be preferable to other merchandising schemes provided it’s done correctly, with the customer — not the retailer — in mind.

“We ask our customers how they prefer to shop and set up stores accordingly,” said spokeswoman Maria Brous in discussing the retailer’s strategy.

The concept, called GreenWise, is well-known to Publix shoppers. Introduced originally as a natural/organic private label, GreenWise has evolved almost into a brand itself, to the point where the chain’s in-store wellness sections are also branded GreenWise. In September 2007, the retailer went one step further and opened the first stand-alone GreenWise market store; currently there are three operating in Tampa, Boca Raton and Palm Beach Gardens, all in Florida.

The GreenWise brand continues to offer multiple products across three categories: organic (free of growth hormones or synthetic antibiotics, steroids, pesticides, fertilizers or genetically modified organisms); all-natural (minimally processed, with no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or sweeteners); and earth-friendly (manufactured with minimal impact on the environment).

At this time, the label spans dry grocery, as well as meat, produce, dairy, paper goods, household cleaners and dietary supplements, with new products regularly added to the lineup.

— Robert Vosburgh

Aisle Advocates — Local Sourcing: Dorothy Lane Market

As much as supermarkets like to tout their selection of local foods, they still can’t compete with Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which offers consumers a weekly box of fresh produce, straight from the farm.

Dorothy Lane Market has figured out a way to benefit from that relationship while helping one CSA meet local demand. The Dayton, Ohio, retailer has actually become the pick-up site for the weekly produce deliveries, joining with Farm 2 Fork Fresh, a CSA that sources from farms in the Miami Valley region.

Those who sign up pay an annual membership fee of $35, then select one of three time periods from the four-month summer/fall growing season. Each period costs $150, and signing up for the whole season is $450. Once enrolled, customers drop in at one of three Dorothy Lane Market stores on the CSA’s delivery date to pick up their box of just-picked produce. The first delivery took place on June 15.

Tom Winter, vice president of marketing at DLM, said that the partnership with Farm 2 Fork is an extension of the retailer’s growing commitment to local sourcing. For several years, DLM has held farmers’ markets in its store parking lots. Just last year, DLM adopted its own definition of “local”: Anything raised or grown within a 250-mile radius.

“We’ve been buying seasonal products from local farmers for years, but last year we got down to defining what local means to us,” said Winter.

— Jeff Wells

Aisle Advocates — Special Needs Program: Meijer

With 189 stores measuring an average of 200,000 square feet, there’s plenty of room for special needs products at Meijer stores. The Grand Rapids, Mich.-based chain, winner of the 2007 SN Whole Health Enterprise Award, was among the first of the mainstream grocers to install dedicated gluten-free sections within aisles. It introduced its own organic private label in 2007, followed by a natural line free of artificial ingredients or additives in early 2009. Diabetics find food products and counseling in Meijer’s expansive pharmacies.

“Meijer has the products that make [customers’] lives healthier, but above and beyond that is to make their lives a little easier,” is how corporate dietitian Shari Steinbach viewed the retailer’s role in the Upper Midwest, where the recession has hit harder than in other parts of the country.

Meeting the special needs of Meijer customers extends to online, where a Specialty Food section of its website offers a chance for customers to get hard-to-find products delivered straight to their door.

While some items cross over into the gourmet or ethnic categories, plenty of diet-related products are available. They range from gluten-free chocolate cake mix to brown rice syrup.

In-store, customers with special needs can get guidance on the healthiest items to purchase via Meijer’s participation in the NuVal nutrition rating system, which ranks the healthfulness of products on a scale of 1 to 100.

— Robert Vosburgh

Aisle Advocates — Private Label: Aldi

Aldi is thriving in these recessionary times, and private label is a big reason why. The retailer’s compact, no-frills stores offer a limited assortment of 1,400 products, 95% of which are its “select brands.”

Price is certainly the focus here — but not at the cost of good health. Since 2004, Batavia, Ill.-based firm has stocked Fit & Active, a private-label line that includes close to 60 products, from cereal bars to yogurt, and salad dressing to packaged meats. At an average price of $1.99, the Fit & Active offerings aren’t a sacrifice for consumers looking for decent nutrition. And indeed, the line has grown by 30% over the past two years.

This year, the company began adding “Fit Facts” to its Fit & Active products. These colorful graphics display the daily recommended amounts of calories, fat, sodium and sugar that a product carries, as well as supplemental information indicating if something is a good source of fiber, contains no trans fat, and so on.

“Consumers’ growing demand for healthier choices is a significant opportunity for us,” said Joan Kavanaugh, Aldi’s vice president of purchasing.

With 1,000 stores in the United States — 100 were added last year alone — Aldi is expanding fast. Having developed the Fit & Active line, and then upgrading it, the retailer is making sure health and wellness remain a strong part of its product portfolio.

— Jeff Wells

Green Giants — Supply Chain: Safeway

Reducing carbon output across the supply chain is something that many retailers strive to do, but it takes a national chain like Safeway to set the standard.

Three years ago, the Pleasanton, Calif.-based retailer signed a contract with the Chicago Climate Exchange, agreeing to reduce its carbon dioxide output by 390,000 tons before the end of 2010. This formidable goal was made even bigger by the fact that the benchmark year for the program is 2000 — meaning Safeway only has four years to do 10 years’ worth of work and reduce its carbon footprint by 6%.

“That’s a huge reduction for us,” said Joe Pettus, Safeway’s senior vice president of fuel and energy operations, in a recent interview with SN.

Things are well under way. Safeway has invested heavily in solar and wind power, cut its energy use by installing efficient new management systems, and made simple fixes like installing compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs. In addition, last year the company switched its 1,000-truck fleet over to biodiesel fuel — a measure that saves an estimated 75 million pounds of carbon each year.

Safeway’s climate exchange agreement presents a challenge, but it also comes with an enticing “cap-and-trade” incentive. If the company falls short of its carbon-reduction target, it has to buy the difference in credits. If it comes out ahead of target, though, it makes money by selling the surplus.

— Jeff Wells

Green Giants — Energy Conservation: Schnuck Markets

Schnuck Markets is quickly developing an identity as a sustainable store leader. Last November, the St. Louis-based retailer opened a store in Newburgh, Ind., that incorporated a lineup of energy-saving features. These include water-efficient plumbing fixtures like dual-flow toilets and sensor technology that turns off faucets when they’re not in use, as well as an energy management system to optimize lighting, heating, air conditioning and refrigeration. The store also utilizes recyclable mats and carpeting in the pharmacy and in the vestibule.

And that’s just the first step. Later this summer, Schnucks will open a store in Des Peres, Mo., that will incorporate many of the features found in the Newburgh store, as well as a self-contained ventilation system that cuts down on air-conditioning use.

Schnucks is also focused on incorporating many energy-efficient features into their existing locations, according to Ross Hutsel, the company’s director of facilities engineering.

“Our efforts are focused on taking the lessons learned from our new store program, and then integrating the best of these into our existing store base,” he said.

— Jeff Wells

Green Giants — Store Design: Cub Foods

Cub Foods may not be the first supermarket chain to receive LEED gold certification (it’s actually one of three), and others have attained higher levels of energy efficiency (platinum), but Cub gets the nod this year since it’s known first and foremost as a value retailer rather than an environmental leader.

The certification helps to change that perception. Cub, a division of Supervalu, completed a lengthy checklist in order to get the St. Paul, Minn., store approved.

“Cub Foods submitted 41 points to the [U.S. Green Building Council] for LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] Gold consideration,” said Scott Reinke, Supervalu’s senior project manager. “To have all 41 points approved is exceptional in the industry of green building development.”

Among the design elements in this store are 44 skylights that illuminate 75% of regularly occupied spaces using a solar-powered GPS system that tracks and redirects sunlight as needed.

Also, 75% of the building construction waste has been recycled and turned into other useful materials.

— Robert Vosburgh

Green Giants — Ethics: Trader Joe's

Trader Joe’s enjoys a level of customer loyalty rarely seen in the grocery industry. This is partly due to its eclectic product mix — edamame crackers, anyone? — and partly because of its low prices.

But it’s also due to one simple fact: The privately owned company prides itself on doing the right thing.

Much of this is rooted in its commitment to clean, high-quality ingredients. Trader Joe’s private-label products, which comprise 85% of the store stock, contain no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, added trans fats or MSG. The company has also shut the door on genetically modified ingredients.

To reassure the growing number of consumers out there with allergies, Monrovia, Calif., chain works closely with its suppliers to prevent common allergens from contacting other products.

“We work closely with all of the companies that manufacture our products and require that they are vigilant about minimizing and monitoring any potential cross contamination risk,” says the retailer, on its website.

For these initiatives and more, Ethisphere Magazine recently named Trader Joe’s to its list of World’s Most Ethical Companies for the second year in a row. The recognition — one of the most esteemed in all business sectors — gets beyond the marketing and researches a company’s leadership, track record, internal structure and outreach efforts.

— Jeff Wells

Green Giants — Recycling Program: ShopRite

Say what you will, but the recycling program started by two ShopRite stores in Connecticut is not for the birds. Really, it’s for the fishes.

The stores, located in New London and Norwich, have been donating roughly 75 pounds of culled produce items weekly to the nearby Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration, which feeds the fruit and vegetables to fish and other animal residents. The arrangement allows the stores — part of the Wakefern-supplied network of supermarkets — to reduce its solid waste costs, and the aquarium to save more than $15,000 every year on food.

The produce ranges from strawberries in the spring to year-round lettuce. While each item is still nutritious, it might be bruised or overripe, and therefore, no longer appealing to human eyes.

That’s not the case for the animals at the aquarium and institute, where the produce is trucked in and divided up among the species that include produce as part of their diet. According to officials, the iguanas prefer strawberries while sea turtles get to enjoy green peppers and eggplant.

“This partnership is a prime example of what can be accomplished when community members with a common interest come together,” said Peter Glankoff, senior vice president of marketing and public affairs for the facility.

The program was helped along by the general manager at Coca-Cola’s regional bottler, who sits on the aquarium’s board and helped contact the stores.

— Robert Vosburgh