Retailers, CPGs Ramp Up Efforts in Sustainability

Mom’s Organic Market

Family-owned and -operated MOM’s Organic Market is working to reduce food waste as a company by donating to food banks, offering free compost drop-off at all of its stores, carrying upcycled food products and spreading awareness on the issue of food waste to its customers.

Last year, the Rockville, Md.-based chain debuted a first-of-its-kind end cap highlighting upcycled food products, and dedicated a month-long promotion to food waste awareness. “In 2021, we donated over $1 million in extra food from our stores to over 60 different local food banks, soup kitchens and churches,” says Liz Dunn, category manager, personal care, apparel and lifestyle.

Greener Operations

“We implemented 10-cent credit incentives for reusable bags and have worked on legislative advocacy products for plastic bag taxes,” notes Dunn. MOM’s elects not to sell bottled water, preferring instead to host a filtered-water machine that supplies communities with refillable reverse-osmosis and alkaline water options. “We offer a large selection of bulk products to allow our clients to go plastic-free when possible and provide compostable or recyclable options for our bulk, coffee and produce departments,” says Dunn. The company even sponsors a denim drive to collect old denim jeans for affordable home insulations.

Through an internal stewardship program, team captains are chosen to ensure that the chain’s environmental goals are being met in every store. “Grocery managers listen to our customers and provide feedback,” says Chris Miller, produce director and meat and seafood coordinator. “They scour the market for new and more sustainable companies.”

Supplier Sustainability

“We want to shorten the supply chain whenever possible for meat, and work directly with the producers,” Miller continues. “We try to source local and pasture-based operations, and we love to support farming practices that contribute to soil health, especially the Chesapeake watershed.”

According to Miller, the company is the only grocery store in the United States to offer 100% sustainable seafood — right down to its canned tuna — and follows the recommendations of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program.

“We are evolving further, seasonal local hosting CSA [community-supported agriculture] pickups and partnering with an oyster recovery program to provide fresh oysters via local farms,” he notes.

The company is working with a host of new suppliers, including Northfield, Wis.-based aquaponic business Superior Fresh, which grows certified-organic greens that cleanse the water in which salmon is raised. In turn, the salmon provide nutritious water for the greens. MOM’s also works with mushroom grower Smallhold, a Brooklyn, NY-based company that’s reimagining sustainability with an inherently circular growing model that repurposes waste from other industries, such as sawdust, to grow mushrooms, and then donates the rich mushroom compost to farms, schools and non-profits.

Miller says that last year, MOM’s found more produce options, such as grapes, heirloom onion varieties and mushrooms, with compostable packaging, or reduced the packaging. “When possible, we work with partners that are moving the needle in sustainable packaging, like Hex Ferments, the only kombucha company in the Mid-Atlantic that has implemented and successfully integrated a bottle-return exchange program, saving over half a million bottles from the recycling and waste stream since 2013,” he points out. The retailer also works with UK company Georganics, which uses specialized recycling partners for materials and allows customers to join its Zero-To-Landfill plan to mail in products to be recycled.

Doubling Down on Recycling

MOM’s stores walk the walk when it comes to reuse and recycling. The stores recycle plastic wrap, boxes (waxed and plain), and scrap metal, and use bulk cleaning products. Stores that use reusable mop heads and towels launder them in-house. Registers use sustainable paper, adhesives and ink; the chain’s in-house Naked Lunch and Bake Shop kitchens use compostable utensils and napkins; and breakrooms are equipped with washable plates and cups only.

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