SAN FRANCISCO — Wegmans Food Markets is working with vendors to develop packaging that is sustainable yet still attractive to customers, Jason Wadsworth, sustainability specialist for the Rochester, N.Y.-based chain, told a workshop audience here.
Speaking at Food Marketing Institute's Sustainability Summit last month, Wadsworth said, “Customers are definitely interested in being able to recycle packages or at least to feel better about throwing them out.”
Wegmans' goals for packaging, he said, are “to reduce, reuse, recycle and renew.”
“Those are the attributes we focus on in talking with vendors about sustainability in package design,” Wadsworth explained. “For example, we look at the performance of the product, the quality of the material, its appearance in terms of marketability and its supply chain integrity as it moves from the supplier to the distribution center to the store shelves.
“We try to determine if a different type of package will give us better cube utilization, as well as whether the customer can reuse it and whether we can recycle it at the store or whether the customer can recycle it at home.”
Wadsworth said Wegmans has changed packaging materials throughout its stores in a move toward greater sustainability, including:
- Using completely recyclable containers in its Wokery sections.
- Switching from Styrofoam containers to a sugar cane derivative that is renewable and compostable for its weekly fish fry event.
- Utilizing molded fiber plates instead of Styrofoam in its Market Cafes.
- Selling nearly 3 million reusable bags at 99 cents each since March 2007, while also introducing a stronger plastic bag in 2008 that uses 30% less plastic but holds more groceries per bag.
- Reconfiguring its commodity deli case packs for better cube utilization and fewer trucks on the road.
- Using compostable packaging at a store in Ithaca, N.Y., and collecting material from the store's cafe, along with produce and floral waste, for composting at a local greenhouse.