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What’s New in Prepared Foods: Projects & Goals

by Patrick Schroeder, Prepared Foods Category Manager

As we approach midsummer, we are always looking forward to the projects and goals that we set for ourselves for the next Fiscal Year. 

As you may have read elsewhere in this month’s publication, we have recently updated our Product Selection Philosophy. If you have not read that, yet, please look for Megan Minnick’s article in this issue of the Reader. 

Organic & Local

The Philosophy guides our hand in all of our purchasing—even those in Prepared Foods. One part of our Philosophy reads:

  • Preferring local, organic, natural, sustainable, fairly traded, and humane products that contribute to healthy, just, tolerant and viable communities. 

You might be surprised to learn that many grocery retailers with a focus on natural and organic, even large national ones and some co-ops, do not extend that focus into the sourcing in their Prepared Foods. This is not a judgment about that practice—we do what we must to meet fiscal goals so that food is accessible and people have work—but I call it out today simply to point out that this standing Philosophy in the Willy Street Co-op Prepared Foods departments will continue as it has been: preferring to source organic or local (but especially both) fresh produce. Preferring to source organic canned goods, condiments, grains, flours, eggs, and sugars. Preferring to source Wisconsin dairy and Fair Trade chocolate. 

We adhere to this Philosophy a huge majority of the time. There are just a handful of exceptions, and we are always trying to refine our approach. We do not, however, communicate this very well to you in our labeling or signage. We are going to work to improve this over the next 10-12 months so that you might be able to see which products are organic, vegan, made without gluten (and more) when you pick up that sandwich, cookie, or salad.

Packaging

Another (new) part of our Product Selection Philosophy reads: 

  • When available, preferring products with limited packaging or packaging that is recyclable, compostable, and ecologically mindful.

We have some ground to cover, here. Right now, we prefer to source packaging that is easily recyclable, produced locally, and made from 100% post-consumer material. Much, but not all, of our packaging meets this standard, and we still have lots of single-use plastics in our Prepared Foods operation. This is another area we are intending to improve this year. 

Grab & Go

Finally, we have been hard at work investigating our norms and practices in our Deli Grab and Go. We studied, interviewed, assessed, and number-crunched our way to a 12-month roadmap of over 40 recommendations that we plan to implement to improve our Deli Grab & Go and, hopefully, your experience of it. Next, we are undertaking a similar investigation into the way we run our Hot Bars. We will examine the way we operate them, create menus for them, your experience of them, and the equipment we use to run them and come up with a bold plan to bring change. We know you expect more in this area, and we intend to deliver.