AISLE CHATTER

Karen is the director of marketing/digital strategy and the specialty foods editor at Food World and Food Trade News. With many years under her belt in the hospitality, food & beverage, and retail food industries, she transitioned to the media side of the business in 2011. She can be reached at karen@foodtradenews.com.

Many of you may not realize this, but July 11 was World Population Day, which was created in 1989 by the United Nations Development Programme to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues. As it stands, the current world population is around 7.7 billion people and while that number is expected to exponentially keep growing, our natural resources are doing the opposite. This depletion is the greatest threat to the continually rising population number. Therefore, I always like to highlight large companies that are taking proactive steps towards sustainability because every initiative makes a difference. One recent example is the company Mondelez, which has signed a 12-year power purchase agreement with Enel Green Power North America, an under-construction solar farm in Texas. The purchased energy that will be generated is said to be enough to produce more than 50 percent of all the Oreos consumed each year. That’s roughly 10 billion cookies! It is the largest renewable energy partnership for the big CPG company to date and the first one in the U.S. The partnership is expected to allow the company to reduce 80,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, which is around five percent of the manufacturer’s global manufacturing emissions. “Our ambition is to create a future where people and planet thrive by reducing the environmental impact of the snacks we make,” said Glen Walter, executive vice president and president, Mondelez International North America. “This agreement demonstrates our commitment to reducing carbon dioxide emissions from our manufacturing footprint around the world, as well as specifically in North America. Together with our broader goals to eradicate deforestation in key ingredient supply chains, it forms a critical element of our sustainable snacking strategy and our contribution to creating a sustainable future.”

Also showing a commitment to sustainability is Publix. The Lakeland, FL-based retailer has partnered with Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) and Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) to make it easier for customers to know about the seafood they are purchasing. The supermarket chain will be featuring new color-coded identifying tags to let customers know that the seafood meets rigorous standards set forth by the SFP and GSSI. Blue tags labeled “Responsibly Sourced” will indicate that the product is one of two things: if wild-caught it is considered managed by the SFP or in a credible, graded fishery improvement project (FIP); or if farm-raised, the farm level of the supply chain qualifies for a GSSI-approved ecolabel or in an Aquaculture Improvement Project (AIP) and may also be certified at the hatchery, plant, and/or feed levels. Green tags labeled “Sustainably Sourced” will show that the seafood is one of the following: if wild-caught, it qualifies for a GSSI-approved ecolabel or evaluated by the SFP and considered well managed; or if farm-raised, all four levels of the supply chain (farm, hatchery, plant, and feed) qualify for a GSSI-approved ecolabel, shellfish must qualify at three levels of the supply chain (farm, plant, and hatchery). While the seafood labeling system is new to the grocer’s 1,221 stores, the initiative towards seafood sustainability is not. In addition to being the first supermarket chain to join the Open Disclosure Project, which provides a reporting framework for seafood-buying companies to voluntarily disclose their wild-caught seafood sourcing alongside information on the environmental performance of each fishery, Publix hosts an annual Sustainability Summit to convene all of its seafood suppliers to discuss how they can better address the issues.

While we’re on the topic of supply chains, Nestlé is taking steps to create even more transparency in theirs by testing out a public blockchain for its dairy supply. The world’s largest food and beverage company is partnering up with Australia-based startup OpenSC to provide an innovative blockchain platform that will allow consumers to track their food right back to the farm. The initial pilot program will trace milk from farms in New Zealand to Nestlé’s facilities in the Middle East. Nestlé will then extend the program to other products including palm oil in the Americas in order to test the scalability of the new tracking system. According to Magdi Batato, executive vice president and head of operations for Nestlé S.A., “We want our consumers to make an informed decision on their choice of products – to choose products produced responsibly. Added Benjamin Ware, Nestlé S.A.’s global head of responsible sourcing, “This open blockchain technology will allow anyone, anywhere in the world to assess our responsible sourcing facts and figures. Open blockchain technology might allow us to share reliable information with consumers in an accessible way.” The global CPG company has been actively involved with piloting blockchain technology since 2017, when it became one of the founding members of the IBM Food Trust, a collaborative network of growers, processors, wholesalers, distributors, manufacturers, retailers and others, working to enhance visibility and accountability across the food supply chain.

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In area retailer news, Weis Markets hosted its 2019 charity golf tournament this month at five of Central Pennsylvania’s premier golf courses. The two-day event raised more than $1 million in proceeds, which will be distributed to local charitable organizations in the retailer’s seven-state market area. “In recent years, our locally focused donations have benefited food banks, community centers, schools, medical programs serving women and children and environmental groups. Overall, we’ve donated more than $7 million to these worthy causes since we started our tournament in 2003,” stated Weis Markets’ chairman and CEO Jonathan Weis. “The strong support from our partners makes this possible. We are truly grateful.”

Giant Food was once again the title sponsor for this year’s National Capital Barbecue Battle which benefits the USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore and the Capital Area Food Bank. The two-day summer street festival, which was located on Pennsylvania Avenue between 3rd and 7th Streets, featured live musical performances spanning three stages, barbecue food, cooking demos and competitions, and appearances by celebrity chefs and representatives from local professional sports teams. Last year I was impressed by the record $630,000 that Giant donated to the USO-Metro from this and related fundraising events. However, the Landover, MD-based retailer has once again raised the bar even higher this year with more than 120,000 people attending (up from 107,000 last year) and a record donation amount totaling $1,128,336 – the most contributed in a single year. This includes monies raised through an in-store campaign at all 164 Giant Food stores that ran from May 24 to June 23, a fundraising dinner at Myron Mixon’s Pitmaster Barbeque restaurant in Alexandria, VA, and the proceeds of the BBQ Battle itself. I’m continually awed with how the entire Giant team seamlessly pulls together this festival year after year and I look forward to seeing the rabbit they pull out of the hat at the next BBQ Battle.

Finally, I would like to give a shout out to Safeway Eastern for their continued philanthropic support of area charitable organizations. Last month, employee volunteers from the Lanham, MD based retailer hosted an ice social for campers, counselors and families to kick off the first day of the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s (MDA) Summer Camp at Camp Fairlee in Chestertown, MD during which they scooped ice cream, helped make sundaes, gave out gift bags, and spread cheer. The overnight summer camp program is offered to children ages 6-17 afflicted with muscular dystrophy and other related neuromuscular diseases at no cost. The campers learn to gain independence as they spend time away from homes and their caregivers, offering them the opportunity to form lifelong friendships, develop greater self-esteem and spend time with children who have similar challenges. It also offers the parents and caregivers a much needed break knowing that their children are being cared for by dedicated health care professional and trained camp volunteers. MDA has been an annual recipient of Safeway Foundation grants, which fund the MDA summer camp program. In 2018, the foundation awarded MDA with a $75,000 grant that went towards last month’s camp. Keep up the good work!

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As many of you are on vacation throughout this month, I hope you’re enjoying the time off and experiencing beautiful summer weather.

Until next month…

Karen can be contacted via email at karen@foodtradenews.com