While the pandemic is top of mind for most consumers today. The simple fact is there will be a tomorrow and retailers that are looking a customer ahead understand that will include new thinking about how we can make life better, according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.
Just Salad, a chain with the ‘halo’ of better for you’ within its brand messaging and menu starting in September, will list the carbon emissions of each item on its menu. Is your brand looking a customer ahead? Do you think consumers are interested in calculating their carbon footprint the same way they count calories? No, well consider that this is an interactive and participatory way to extend brand value to those customers that do or would. Would you reconsider?
Proactive and striving to be a restaurant industry innovator in sustainability Johnson believes that Just Salad is doing many of the right things. Did you know that Just Salad has a reusable bowl program that’s been recognized by the EPA, and last fall it removed beef from its menu in favor of a plant-based analogue.
Just Salads, Chief Sustainability Officer, Sandra Noonan stated, “The idea behind its latest endeavor is to encourage diners to think not only about their own health when dining out but also the planet’s. …“The striking statistic for us was that 26% of global carbon emissions are related to food production,”
Noonan continued, “And as the climate crisis escalates, a business that operates in the food industry has to be thinking about the link between food and climate.”
Just Salad says it is the first restaurant to carbon-label its menu. Companies in other industries are making similar moves. Consumer goods giant Unilever, for instance, recently said it will label all of its 70,000 products with the carbon emissions associated with their production and transportation.
So, get this, while there are tools that can calculate emissions for various agricultural and other products, the challenge for Just Salad was dialing in those measurements for each of the dozens of ingredients on its menu and then for each menu item, Noonan said. The chain worked with MBA students in New York University’s Stern School of Business to do some of that “heavy lifting,” she said.
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Stern students also developed a Microsoft Excel-based calculator for the chain to measure carbon emissions for ingredients it adds down the line. The results of the process could affect Just Salad’s menu going forward, Noonan said. For instance, the calculations showed the impact cheese and dairy can have on the overall emissions of a salad, she said.
“We have definitely taken that to heart and committed to sourcing, for example, a plant-based cheese in the next couple of years,” she said.
“For this to become a standardized thing, we have to think about uniformity across calculations,” Noonan said—a set of agreed-upon boundaries for how carbon emissions are measured. That will require collaboration, funding and likely policy support, she said.
For now, Just Salad sees itself as setting an example for how the industry can reduce its impact on the environment.
“The more challenging and exciting part is contributing to a social shift where people do really start thinking about budgeting their carbon in the way they think about budgeting calories, money, steps on their iPhone,” she said. So, what do you think?
Success does leave clues. One clue that time and time again continues to resurface is “the consumer is dynamic not static”. Regular readers of this blog know that is the common refrain of Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®. Our Grocerant Guru® can help your company 253-759-7869.