Insights from Industry-Leading Retailers & Brands August 5, 2022 by Leah Wolfe
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How can regenerative brands set themselves apart and appeal to retailers? Why does supplier-data transparency benefit both brands and retailers? Can sustainable brands and retailers keep their competitive edge when sustainability has become table stakes for many of their traditional counterparts? 

 

We’re sharing wisdom from HowGood’s most recent Innovation Series in which retailers and the brands they carry discussed moving toward a triple-bottom-line win for people, planet, and their businesses.

#1: Sourcing regenerative ingredients with scalability in mind from the start can help mitigate supply disruptions down the road.

Meghan Rowe White Leaf Provisions

From a sourcing perspective, whenever we launch a product, we really do a lot of diligence prior to even launching any SKU. It’s a deliberate exercise where we ask ourselves, “If we’re going to use an ingredient, how far can we go with it?” The worst thing you could do is launch a beautiful product, you are supposed to go national with a big, huge chain, and then all of a sudden you have no more to give to it.

Keith Rowe White Leaf Provisions

White Leaf started on a very small scale and from the very get-go, we were always going to pay farmers a fair price for their crop. We understood the time and the effort it takes to grow these crops.  I think that formed strong bonds and relationships with these farmers. So as we were scaling, they were able to scale with us.

#2: Brands that can provide in-depth sourcing information have a leg-up with retailers who want to vet product sustainability claims. 

Annika Gacnik Hive Brands

Hive wants brands to give us sourcing information because it not only helps us see that there are legs behind the sustainability claims that they’re making, but it also helps build trust with our customers because we’re able to put a lot of that information on the product pages, beyond what you would normally see on-pack or on-shelf.

#3: Retailers recognize that customers vote with their dollar, especially as millennials and gen-z take over as the largest consumer group. 

Alan Lewis Natural Grocers

People understand that the government’s not gonna protect them. People know that corporate ag and pharma corporations, the food corporations do not have their best interests in mind. So even at the very local level, they’re recapturing control over their food. That’s my hopeful answer about the government holding retailers and food producers and brands accountable–I don’t see that happening, but I do see communities and individuals holding them accountable.

#4: Brands and retailers that are committed to ethical sourcing are necessary for regenerative farmers to thrive.  

Matt Maier Thousand Hills

When generations of farmers have a model that works for them, it’s really tough to get them to change. Even if that model doesn’t work as well today as it did yesterday, it’s what they know. They have a system that’s paid the bills and they need to survive. There’s some desperation to hang on, in some cases in these conventional agriculture models and it’s difficult to change. There needs to be a catalyst –either financial or generational–that begins to open their eyes to other possibilities of a different ag model.

Basically, we have to ensure that if producers take this risk, we’ll be there to buy their cattle at a price that they will know when the calf hits the ground. And that is partially possible because we have solid customers like Natural Grocers that live up to their word.

#5: Partnering with larger brands to maximize logistical capacity can lead to savings for regenerative producers and the consumer.

Paul Greive Pasturebird

We’re huge believers that this regenerative movement needed to happen 10 or 20 years ago. We’re way behind the ball already and we need to put these kinds of products into people’s fridges. But we really felt like we needed to figure out how to bring some scale to this.

One of the most important things we did is partner with Purdue farms back in 2019. That gave us a lot of leverage when it came to scale–the hatchery, the transportation, the harvesting, the packaging, and the capital to be able to bring down our costs. We’re still not going to be the cheapest on the shelf by far, but it’s also not a $40 whole chicken, is really tough for people.

#6: Innovation can give sustainable retailers an edge when competing with traditional counterparts who are moving in on the sustainable space. 

Mike Loftus Sprouts Farmers Market

We can’t compete with the great big guys on cost and very honestly, everybody is now selling organic, natural type items, and it’s not their entry price point items, but it’s on their shelves. Somebody wants to go shop for organic or natural items? They can go to Walmart and buy them. So we have to continually look for what is the next thing, what can be new or exciting to continue to give us an edge on sustainability.

To learn more from food industry experts check out our full Innovation Series.

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