Food sustainability is a crucial issue facing the world today. With the global population expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, it is important to ensure that we have a sustainable food system that can provide healthy food to everyone while protecting the environment, reducing the volume of surplus food generation, recycling and limiting the waste headed to landfills.
Coming out of COVID, food retailers like Price Chopper are still working to regain their momentum in sustainability efforts. During that period, in many cases, food banks could not transport the food that would normally be coming to them from food retailers through fresh recovery programs; this was mainly due to staffing, logistical restraints, and pandemic protocol. The program, an effort from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that Price Chopper joined in 2016, promotes reducing food waste generation, increasing the donation of unsaleable but still edible food, and composting excess food in order to operate more efficiently, feed hungry people and protect the environment.
The fallout from COVID threw some of the momentum Price Chopper had prior to COVID when they were able to get the food to the people that needed it within the cities and the footprint where they do business. With COVID in the rear view mirror, they are working on efforts to regain their footing and momentum in their fresh recovery program and get everyone back up to 100% execution.
Just as important as addressing food insecurity through its fresh recovery program, Price Chopper is focused on helping the environment through a new recycling program called AgriCycle. AgriCycle is helping Price Chopper save organic material from becoming landfilled. Over 50% of all materials being sent to landfills are compostable. These organic materials have the power to restore our soils and benefit our atmosphere when composted. When landfilled, these same materials directly contribute to greenhouse gases that pollute our air and contribute to climate change. AgriCycle is the premier food-waste-collection service in New England and the Mid-Atlantic. They recycle food waste and scraps via anaerobic digestion and composting—turning your “waste” into renewable energy and healthy soil. AgriCycle’s priority is to support its partners in reducing and donating food before collection. Participating in this AgriCycle has positively impacted the Price Choppers recycling program, sustainability program, and the back side of their business with what they send to landfills. It is great for the environment and Price Choppers’ bottom line because there are fewer trip costs and disposable costs.
“Everyone wins with Price Chopper’s sustainability efforts. People that need the food win, the environment wins, Price Chopper wins, and the customers in all the areas we do business win,” said Patrick Iannotti, Director of Retail Operations for stores in the Northeastern United States of Price Chopper and chair of PFMA’s Sustainability Committee.
Most importantly, Price Chopper sets out to make the right amount of products in the first place, which helps them limit the waste they will have. If they are producing the right amount of products, then they do not have as much shrink or as much markdown product leftover. They rely on the numbers and statistics from a production planning program called Periscope. Periscope is the latest in inventory management technology and came out of one of the many COVID-era lessons learned the hard way by commissaries and other offsite providers and their retail partners when they learned it was more important than ever to know your inventory and to limit budget-busting waste. Periscope, a fresh item management system that maintains and manages a perpetual inventory for all sellable and backroom products, also has a Financial Inventory module to capture fresh inventories for periodic financial reporting.
The Periscope production planning system helps Price Chopper determine how much each of their fresh products and their fresh departments need to produce each day to meet their customer needs. It’s all based on math, history, algorithms, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, which gives Price Chopper the information on what they need to produce on a daily basis. Collectively this helps Price Chopper affect how many leftover products they have, limiting waste and getting them closer to selling all of their products to the customer, eliminating leftovers. But they know that there will always be some leftovers, and when there is, Price Chopper wants to be prepared with a plan to distribute and recycle these goods, limiting the quantity sent to landfill.
Price Chopper follows the inverted triangle. They start with using technology to produce what their customer’s needs dictate, followed by donating to food banks through fresh recovery, getting good viable food to people who need it. After that, they try to help farmers by feeding livestock. Whatever product is left after completing those steps, Price Chopper works with AgriCycle before sending the remaining products to landfills.
Right now, Price Chopper is fine-tuning its processes. These efforts take a lot of collaboration and communication, which is the biggest challenge when it comes to sustainability efforts facing food retailers. Across its footprint, Price Chopper is working with 11 different food banks. That impact is contributing to sustainability and Feeding America. Price Chopper’s efforts in sustainability have not gone unnoticed. They have received several awards over the years, including EPA awards, produce sustainability awards, whole health wellness awards, and awards for cutting food waste with tech platforms.
In the wake of the COVID pandemic, unemployment and food insecurity soared. According to Feeding America, in 2021, 53 million people turned to food banks and community programs for help putting food on the table. Patrick Iannotti, said, “To me, impacting people that are food insecure within our footprint is one of the most rewarding thing that we do. To help people get food that need food, I do not know if there is anything more gratifying than that.”
To assist with PFMA’s efforts, or to get involved in the association’s Sustainability Committee, email email@example.com.
Erica Koup Logsdon, Director of Communications and Media Relations