BIG is an organization dedicated to helping consumers, food makers and grocers learn about the many environmental and economic benefits of bulk foods.

by Admin on Aug 9, 2013 at 11:12 AM

Sizing up Your Growth Strategy, Natural Foods Merchandiser - Joel Warner

 (Click to enlarge)  

Expansion.  It's likely the most exciting, but intimidating, milestone in the lifespan of your business.  Whether you’re looking to add a second location, expand an existing store or just increase your product offerings, growing your company comes with risks—but also sizeable potential rewards.  “Expanding boils down to one question,” says Tom Sokoloff, president of Paradise Health and Nutrition, a three-store chain in Brevard County, Fla. “Are you ready to have your life changed?”  If you are ready to make the leap for your business, questions abound: What’s the smartest way to go about an expansion?  How do you determine the right spot for a new location or the products and services to feature in an enlarged retail space?  And how do you know if it’s really time to grow? 

Here are some tips on what to do—and not to do—from retailers who’ve successfully expanded.

Know when the time is right.  It’s easy to think that once your store has reached a certain level of sales, it’s time to grow.  But Dean Nelson, owner of Dean’s Natural Food Market, says he had different reasoning behind expanding his flagship store in Ocean Township, N.J., from 5,800 to 7,500 square feet and adding smaller locations in nearby Shrewsbury and Basking Ridge.  “Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you should expand,” he says.  “You expand when you think you are not hitting a particular market in your store.  Are you driving consumers elsewhere because you can’t meet their needs?  That’s really the expansion question.”  Store expansions, after all, mean not just major capital expenses, but also sizeable increases in overhead costs, and you have to be sure the potential increase in market share is worth it, Nelson says.  That’s why, before he expanded his operation, he consulted with outside experts.  “I don’t usually believe in consultants,” he says.  “But I think there are times when you need to reach outside of your knowledge base and get some guidance, so you can make a decision on quantifiable information, and not just your gut.”

Consider new locations.  “We used to be able to draw people from up to 15 miles away routinely, because if they wanted good natural, organic products, they didn’t have another choice,” says Terry Brett, owner of the Kimberton Whole Foods chain in Pennsylvania.  “But as mainstream stores started to add more and more natural and organic lines, I saw we were going to lose a lot of these customers.  They were going to drive three miles to Wegmans to do their natural foods shopping, rather than drive another 12 miles to our store.”  Today, the reality is, if retailers want to keep these customers, they have to go to them.  That’s why Kimberton currently boasts five locations.  But how do you determine where to plant your flag these days, especially when there aren’t many communities left that aren’t already serviced by natural options?  One way is to design new stores that build upon, instead of dominate, the existing natural retail landscape.  For Sizing up your growth strategy example, Donnie Caffery of Good Foods Grocery in Virginia, made sure his two small-footprint stores were part of the regional “natural food circuit” by focusing on an area untapped by his competitors: bulk food offerings, including 450 bulk bins and 350 jars of spices and herbs.  “Nobody else around here is moving that department forward,” he says.  “We’ve found a niche within a niche here.”  Niche positioning is also the reason why Brett’s ongoing expansion strategy entails moving closer to bigger retailers such as Wegmans, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market, instead of away from them.  According to Brett, the presence—and success—of such stores suggests there’s an existing market for high-end natural foods, one that could also support smaller, independent stores like his that offer a specialty selection.  “There’s a huge movement to buy local,” he explains.  “We can focus on sourcing products locally or regionally and have a number of products you can only get at a smaller independent because the vendors can’t supply these larger chains.  We are going to be the ‘town grocery store’ to a certain degree.  So many small mom-and-pops have been knocked out of business by the big chains.  There’s a chance for small-footprint retailers to come in and become a local community market.”

Nail down a plan.  Having a well-reasoned expansion plan in place is essential, says Shannon Hoffmann, co-owner of GreenAcres Market.  For example, as GreenAcres grew from a single store in Wichita, Kan., to a second store in Kansas City, Mo., and then a third in Jenks, Okla., the business made sure to nail down its inter-store organization and communication systems.  “We needed to know how the stores would communicate, how they were related and how the central staff would work equally between all stores,” Hoffmann says.  “You don’t want to fall into an out-of-sight, out-of-mind syndrome,” in which one location ends up attracting greater managerial attention to the detriment of the others.  At the same time, GreenAcres put together solid ground teams for each store, crews that understood the unique needs of their location.  “The local community needs to feel that the store is their store,” Hoffmann says, and not an operation that is being managed from afar.  For Sokoloff, careful expansion planning also meant having a savvy financial strategy in place.  For his first store expansion, he secured a bank loan.  But he found he didn’t like being in debt, nor did he enjoy supplying the bank with his financial records each year.  So when it came time to expand again, Sokoloff saved up as much cash as he could so he could cover the cost all at once.  That resulted in a lower price tag because “you can get contractors to work a better deal if you are willing to pay cash when they finish the job,” he says.  But the most important thing to plan for, says Sokoloff, is for not everything to go as planned.  “Realistically, there will always be things that end up taking longer than you think,” he says.  “Even when you plan out everything six months in advance, something will always delay the operation, whether it’s nuances of the inspection process or certain building materials not being available.  The biggest lesson is to be patient with all of these factors.”

Maximize your existing location.  “Bigger is not always better,” Hoffmann warns.  “You really need to look at what you’re already offering and be maxing out what you’ve already got.”  Even when it seems like your store is bursting at the seams, “it’s amazing how you can find room,” she points out, by cleaning out the back room or using sales data to identify and remove slow sellers.  In Nelson’s case, expanding his flagship Dean’s Natural Food Market wasn’t simply about creating more space for existing offerings, but also branching out into new services.  Because many natural retailers’ center-store product lines are under fire thanks to conventional retailers’ forays into natural products, Nelson decided to go in the other direction, making room for peripheral offerings such as a juice bar.  “We identified something that Wegmans and Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s don’t do, which is fresh juice,” he explains.  Foodservice is an exciting peripheral to consider while expanding, but it’s a move that shouldn’t be taken lightly, warns Caffery.  “The minute you step into foodservice, you are stepping into a new arena,” he says.  From ingredient prep to menu pricing to marketing considerations, the operation is more like a restaurant than grocery store.  “Unless you have a foodservice background, you should have a manager who understands that world,” Caffery says.

Enjoy the results.  Yes, a store expansion can be a trying experience.  But for Caffery, once the dust settled, the results paid off.  “Nothing’s more rewarding than when you make that expansion and your customers walk in the door at the grand opening and are so excited for you,” he says.  “It has been so worth it.”

Joel Warner has written for Wired, Businessweek, Grantland, Slate, Westword and many other publications.  He is co-author of The Humor Code, a global scientific exploration of what makes things funny, to by published by Simon & Schuster in early 2014.

Tags: , ,

by Admin on Nov 19, 2012 at 4:11 PM

Portland, Ore. – November 19, 2012 –The Bulk is Green Council (BIG), together with natural food stores and grocery stores across the country recently participated in the 2012 National Bulk Foods Week to celebrate and educate consumers about the eco-friendly and affordable benefits of buying natural and organic foods in bulk.

Approximately 800 stores signed up to participate in this weeklong event held October 14-20, 2012 by decorating their stores, promoting through literature, offering samples and discounts on bulk food products, and telling the Bulk is Green story.

“Bulk food aisles have been around for decades, and the countless environmental and money-saving benefits are becoming more well-known among shoppers,” said Clint Landis, chief marketing officer for Frontier Natural Products Co-Op and a founding member of the Bulk is Green Council.  “Still, for those who have never shopped in bulk, National Bulk Foods Week provides the perfect opportunity to discover the environmental and economic benefits of doing so.”

Governors of fifteen other states also formally recognized the benefits of shopping the bulk foods aisle by proclaiming Oct. 14-20, 2012, National Bulk Foods Week in their states.

The Bulk is Green Council (BIG) is proud to announce Market of Choice #7 as the winner of the "2012 Bulk Retailer of the Year" award.  Market of Choice #7, located in Corvallis, OR showed great creativity in promoting National Bulk Foods Week.  To help celebrate and promote all the good reasons to buy in bulk, Amanda C., Bulk Buyer for Market of Choice #7 decorated her bulk section very well, brought in 15 local bulk food suppliers for sampling and also brought in waste management personnel to talk about the packaging savings associated with bulk foods.  Congratulations Market of Choice #7 and Amanda!

The Bulk is Green (BIG) Council would like to thank everyone who participated, and encourages you to participate in the 2013 National Bulk Foods Week to be held in October.

For more information about the benefits of buying in bulk, please visit


The Bulk is Green (BIG) Council is an organization dedicated to increasing consumer, retailer and grocer awareness of the environmental and economic benefits of buying natural and organic in bulk. Founded in 2008, the council serves as a research and advocacy group, conducting and publishing studies on industry trends and offering educational tools and resources online. The board includes industry leaders Frontier Natural Products Co-Op, Hain Celestial, Lundberg Family Farms, SunRidge Farms and Trade Fixtures. Additional information is available at

Tags: , , , ,

by Admin on Mar 9, 2012 at 2:12 PM
Filed in News

Research findings show compelling reasons for shoppers to buy in bulk

Portland, Ore. – March 12, 2012 – A shopper can save an average of 89 percent by purchasing natural and organic foods in the bulk foods aisle of a grocery store, according to a recent study conducted by the Portland State University’s Food Industry Leadership Center (FILC) on behalf of The Bulk is Green Council (BIG). The study, the first of its kind in the United States, also found tangible environmental benefits of buying in bulk.

"We’ve long touted shopping in the bulk foods aisle as the most economical and environmentally friendly way to shop, and now we have the data to back up those claims," said Todd Kluger, a founding member of BIG and vice president of marketing at Lundberg Family Farms. "Even better, with more and more U.S. grocery stores now offering a larger selection of bulk foods, these benefits are widely accessible."

For the study, researchers set out in the fall of 2011 to examine three main areas: Cost comparisons (to packaged counterparts), environmental impact and consumer attitudes toward buying in bulk.

To arrive at the overall average cost savings of 89 percent, researchers made cost comparisons between organic bulk foods and organic packaged foods in a number of key categories, including coffee and tea, nut butters, flour and grains, dried fruit, spices, beans, pasta and confectionaries. The percentage of savings when buying in bulk differed from category to category, but averaging the savings across all categories resulted in an average of 89 percent lower costs compared to packaged counterparts.

The researchers also evaluated the environmental advantages of buying in bulk and found several. Chief among them is reducing the amount of product packaging going into landfills. According to the findings, if coffee-drinking Americans purchased all of their coffee in bulk for one year, nearly 240 million pounds of foil packaging would be saved from entering a landfill. If

Americans purchased all their almonds in bulk for one year, 72 million pounds of waste would be saved from a landfill.

Food manufacturers also realize economical and environmental benefits by producing bulk foods, the study concluded. The findings show that a food company choosing to market bulk foods versus packaged foods can save an average of 54 percent on material and delivery costs since more pallets of bulk food can be packed onto delivery trucks.

Researchers found that consumers who do buy in bulk are aware of the benefits of doing so. The study’s findings show the main reason consumers shop the bulk foods aisle is for the ability to buy the exact quantity needed. As a result, consumers said bulk items were less likely than packaged items to be thrown away, which results in less food waste. Consumers also cited cost savings and the environmental aspect of using less packaging as the other top reasons for buying bulk.

The Food Industry Leadership Center began in 1994 as a partnership between Portland State University's School of Business Administration and the food industry. Located at Portland State University’s campus in Portland, Ore., the FILC works to promote education, leadership and research critical to the field and has come to be known as a world-class resource for recruiting and developing top management talent specific to the food industry.

"Our researchers worked diligently in the field to gather data and talk to consumers, and they conducted hours and hours of analyses," said Dr. Tom Gillpatrick, executive director of the Portland State University Food Industry Leadership Center. "Many claims have been made regarding the benefits of buying in bulk, but there have been few quantifiable statistics to support those claims. We’re excited to be the first research team in the United States to substantiate that buying in bulk does offer tangible environmental and economical benefits."

BIG has published the high-level findings from the study on its website,


The Bulk is Green Council is an organization dedicated to increasing consumer, retailer and grocer awareness of the environmental and economic benefits of buying in bulk. Founded in 2008, the council serves as a research and advocacy group, promoting industry trends and offering educational tools and resources online. BIG also sponsors National Bulk Foods Week each October. The board includes industry leaders Frontier Natural Products Co-Op, Hain Celestial, Lundberg Family Farms, SunRidge Farms and Trade Fixtures. Additional information is available at


To view the top level findings from the bulk foods study please see here: 2012 Portland State University / Bulk Is Green Study on Bulk Foods

by Admin on Dec 14, 2011 at 1:41 PM
Filed in

Thanks to all of you who participated and supported National Bulk Week 2011, there were nearly 750 stores nationwide. 

BIG will be awarding $100 to the selected charity of the store showing the greatest support for the week.  After reviewing a number of submitted photos, the council determined Richard's Foodporuim of Sarasota Florida as the events strongest supporter.  Richard's created additional signage communicating the attributes of buying in bulk, ran sales promotions on all bulk products and set up a sampling station for customers to try new bulk items.  A very close second place was Whole Foods - Capitola in Northern California, who also had additional signage and sales promotions. 

Thanks for you support; we look forward to seeing your entries next year!


Tags: , ,

by Admin on Nov 17, 2011 at 12:44 PM
Filed in News

Lori Corbin
More: Bio, E-mail, Facebook, Home Page, News Team

Download KABC's video report here: SaveMoneyBuyingBulk.flv Nov 17.flv (9.75 mb) 

Download the Green is Good internet radio program: ClintLandis.mp3 (24.25 mb) 

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Food prices are soaring and they aren't coming down anytime soon.  Is buying bulk food in bins a solution? Todd Kluger of the Bulk Is Green Council said consumers can see 10 to 65 percent in savings in they buy in bulk. Shopper Diana Woods said she finds items such as rice, oatmeal, bulgur and dates cheaper in the bin.  So does Bob Griffin, who came for quinoa.

"I can get it in bulk, and I can get it at a good price," said Griffin.

"Spices are actually a really great value. When you're buying spices, you have to buy the whole jar of it or whole jar of bay leaves when you may only need one bay leaf," said Kluger. Pasadena's Whole Foods didn't carry bin spices, but it has plenty of variety. Kluger also said singles to big families can buy just a little or a lot.  Some of the best bin bargains are grains and legumes.  Comparing bins to major store brands, we found long-grain brown rice a dollar cheaper per pound in bulk versus packaged.  The lentils were 80 cents cheaper at the bin. Bulk black beans cost 99 cents per pound, compared to packaged at $2.19.

Oatmeal's a bin bargain at 69 cents per pound compared to $2.92 if you opt for a name brand. But not all foods are cheaper.

"Coffee is a decent value, but a lot of times now, packaged coffee is around the same price as bulk coffee," said Kluger.  Breakfast Blend bin coffee was $12.99 per pound, as opposed to generic packaged blend, which was $10.65 per pound.  Peanuts and trail mix, both packaged or bulk, cost about the same.

But beyond cash, bin foods can help save the planet.

"The WRAP study looked at bulk bin shopping versus package shopping and found that you had a 96 percent environmental savings of reduction of packaging," said Kluger.  When you think about the environment, you also might think about food safety. There's the issue of germs for bins where people can open up and put their hands in. You might consider only using those bins with foods that you could cook.


(Copyright ©2011 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

Tags: , ,

by Admin on Sep 27, 2011 at 11:04 AM
Filed in

The Bulk is Green National Bulk Foods week (October 16-22) is less than a month away, and already many retailers have stepped up to participate.  
To find out who is participating, we have put together a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.

If any of these retailers are in your area, stop by, shop, and say thank you for supporting National Bulk Foods week! 

BIG List 2011.xls (97.00 kb)

Tags: ,

by Admin on Sep 26, 2011 at 10:59 AM
Filed in

PORTLAND, Ore.—The Bulk is Green Council (BIG), a national organization dedicated to increasing awareness of the environmental and economic benefits of shopping in the bulk organic and natural foods aisle, is issuing an invitation for retailers to take part in National Bulk Foods Week 2011. National Bulk Foods Week is scheduled for Oct.16 to 22, 2011, with the goal of educating consumers about the eco-friendly and affordable nature of buying in bulk. Members of BIG are also offering special incentives and price promotions for retailers to be a part of this fun and free promotional opportunity.   More...

Tags: , , ,

by Admin on Sep 25, 2011 at 4:40 PM
Filed in News

The following states have issued proclamations declaring National Bulk Foods Week.  



-New Hampshire
-Rhode Island


by Admin on Aug 10, 2011 at 10:00 AM
Filed in News

Catherine Conway,
London, England UK -- 8/10/2011

Unpackaged is an organic refill grocery in London, UK. Since we opened in 2007, our aim has been to sell fantastic products and help our customers shop more sustainably by offering most of our products in refills. We encourage our customers to bring their own packaging to refill and make it easy for them to do so.

Rather than have a separate refill section within a conventional grocery store, we take refill as our central concept and are working towards being able to offer every product we sell as a refill.
Our policy is to sell high quality, organic & environmentally sustainable products, sourced seasonally & direct from local producers. Working directly with local producers means we can extend our philosophy of packaging reuse both up and down the supply chain.
I see our refill concept holistically – it is about how we deliver food from producer to customer, from farm to fork, taking into account all the social, economic & environmental impacts in the journey. I truly believe that Unpackaged is a sustainable, competitive answer to some of the key modern challenges our food supply chain faces.
So, in a nutshell, this is why we do what we do:

1. C0²e reduction from less packaging - There is an average 48% reduction in emissions each time a product is refilled from Unpackaged  compared to the same product bought in traditional packaging. This figure will only increase as we grow and improve our systems.

2. The reduction of material waste from landfill & incineration – Taking an average shopping basket of 10 products refilled across the year, 118 pieces of packaging are saved from landfill . This represents a significant environmental saving, as well as a cost saving to local government who are under strict reduction targets to reduce landfill waste due to increasing European legislation. Failure to meet these targets will result in financial penalties passed on to householders through increased local taxes.

3. Less food waste as customers can buy just the amount they want - 8.3 million tonnes of food is thrown away by households in the UK every year, which equates to roughly 1/3 of the food that consumers buy – a criminal waste. It is also the equivalent of 20 million tonnes of C0² emissions every year , we show that small changes to consumers’ buying habits can have big environmental impacts.

4. Positive behaviour change - We help our customers consume more sustainably. 60% of customers said that since they started shopping with Unpackaged they do not buy over-packaged products in other shops . We know that the simple act of thinking about bringing containers down to refill helps customers change their behaviour in a positive way, and positive associations are more likely to lead to lasting change because consumers can see the benefits in their own lives.

5. Economic benefits across the supply chain:
    Producers: Producers gain better margins on bulk products
    Customers: Save money by not spending on packaging (the annual extra packaging cost for the average UK family has been estimated at £470 ; by buying only what they need rather wasting
    food, a family can save an additional £480 )
    The Community: Research carried out into the sustainability of  SME’s (small and medium sized enterprises) and the health of local communities shows that the act of reusing and refilling
    products made locally keeps money in the local economy . Local multiplier effects show that £1 spent with a local supplier is worth £1.76 to the local economy whereas the community only
    benefits from 36p if it is spent with a chain store . The more local shops we can encourage, the better for each community - socially, economically & environmentally.

However, there is always a danger when people, or organisations, think theirs is the only way – we fully recognise the need for a diverse range of solutions to the complex problem of food related climate change. We’re part of the solution and just trying to be the best at what we do.

Unpackaged will celebrate its fourth birthday in November 2011, testament to our fantastic and committed customers who share our vision for a more sustainable world, and a nice chat over the counter as they shop!

We’re brimming with ideas of how to replicate our model to make it available to many more communities and increase our social impact.

Our vision is a world with less wasteful packaging and we’re achieving it one customer at a time!

[1] Unpackaged Giraffe Innovation Greenhouse Gas Assessment 2008
[2] Internal estimation
[4] Unpackaged 1st anniversary customer survey
[5] Women’s Institute Packaging Campaign
[6] Ibid WRAP
[7] Hawken, Paul. The Ecology of Commerce p144 - 145

Tags: , , , ,

by Admin on Mar 4, 2011 at 4:57 PM
Filed in

March 4, 2011

Dear Valued Retailer,

In recognition of National Bulk Foods Week, October 16-22, 2011, the Bulk is Green Council (BIG), is calling on respected food retailers such as yourself to take part in a fun and free promotional opportunity.  Founded in 2008, BIG is a research and advocacy organization dedicated to increasing consumer, retailer and grocer awareness of the environmental and economic benefits of buying natural and organic food in the bulk aisle of the grocery store.

BIG would like to provide you signage and other collateral material to use in your store during National Bulk Foods Week.  This material will highlight the environmental and economic benefits of shopping in the bulk foods aisle.  If you opt to take part, we’ll also include your store name (and images – if you send them) in the public relation efforts we use to secure media coverage about the promotion at no charge.  Last year’s National Bulk Foods Day promotion was mentioned in trade media such Progressive Grocer and consumer media such as, to name a few.  Additionally, you’ll get your store in the running for BIG’s newest industry recognition – the 2011 Best Bulk Food Retailer of the Year.

In a tough economy, your customers are paying close attention to what they buy at the grocery store.  Shopping in bulk offers them the opportunity to save anywhere from 35 to 96 percent, reduce food waste by buying only a pinch or a pound, and decrease their carbon footprint by consuming limited packaging.  Additional information and resources are available at

What:  National Bulk Foods Week
When:  Saturday, October 16th through Saturday, October 22nd
Where: Grocery stores and co-ops throughout the United States
We look forward to hearing back from you and we hope you will participate in our National Bulk Foods Week promotion!  For more information, please contact me as listed below.

Best Regards,
Bart McKnight
On behalf of the Bulk is Green Council
[email protected]