A new program called Stop Waste Together that launched at Madison, Wis.-based Metcalfe’s Market last month aims to reduce food waste by selling soon-to-expire products at discounted prices.
Shelf talkers direct customers to the products, which are sold at a 25% discount, while an affixed coupon identifies the discount when the item is brought to the cash register. The cashier tears off the coupon, leaving behind a sticker with an explanation of the program.
“We try to educate the customers based on the shelf talkers as well as the sticker itself. It’s not just, ‘hey take 25% off,’ and there’s no explanation on it. When they tear off the actual coupon there’s a disclosure that states … why we’re doing this and describes the program,” Kevin Metcalfe, co-owner of the three-store independent, told SN.
Stop Waste Together was initiated by Andrew Hoeft, CEO at Pinpoint Software, maker of a software solution called Date Check Pro that helps retailers keep track of expiration dates to manage on-shelf inventory. Hoeft said he started the program because of the growing consumer awareness around food waste in the U.S.
“So we had retailers like Kevin ask us, how do we market this? How do we put this in a way that we can get our shoppers involved and help us? And that’s why Stop Waste Together was created. Because we wanted to have this brand and entity that the shoppers could affiliate with it that we could utilize to not just get shoppers to buy this product — that’s the side effect — but to be aware of the waste that happens and the efforts that the retailers that they’re shopping at are making on that,” said Hoeft.
“If you just slap a coupon on something and you don’t educate them as to the importance of it, it’s not as motivating, not going to make as much impact on food waste as if you have that emotional story that shows look, this is a part of a much greater cause.”
Metcalfe’s, a Date Check Pro user, was a logical choice to begin the consumer program because of its existing environment initiatives. The retailer purchases renewable energy credits to offset 100% of its power needs and uses LED lighting and night shades to reduce energy consumption. It also composts its unsold produce through a company called Purple Cow, which uses the produce to make fertilizer that is sold in Metcalfe’s stores.
“When Andrew approached us regarding his idea to Stop Waste Together, it was really just an easy thing for us to implement, given that our green efforts were already strong and this added to enhance that opportunity for us to continue moving forward in that initiative,” Metcalfe.
In the first month that stores have implemented Stop Waste Together, Metcalfe’s has seen redemption rates of 60% to 70% on marked down items.
“So it’s made a big impact on allowing us to minimize the amount that goes to the landfill,” said Metcalfe.
He said he recently met a new customer who decided to shop the store after seeing a local news article about Stop Waste Together.
“The positive impact is that we’re already doing a lot to help the environment, and having this additional program added on captured some exposure,” he said.
Fellow Wisconsin retailers Trigs and Hansen’s IGA have also begun implementing Stop Waste Together, and Fox Bros. Piggly Wiggly will likely launch soon, Hoeft said.
Another Date Check Pro user, Skogen’s Festival Foods, has its own program for discounting soon-to-expire products.
“They utilize a different way to mark down products than Stop Waste Together, and that’s fine. The goal is still to just prevent waste in general. So they have a way that works and we do that with them,” said Hoeft.
Pinpoint Software also plans to look at other methods for helping retailers reduce food waste.
“Our next step in the process is to find ways to innovate around once it actually does expire,” said Hoeft.
For example, Hoeft wants to help retailers donate more expired refrigerated products to food pantries by figuring out a communication system for pantries to be able to pick up the items when they are culled from stores.