Putting the Power of Product Information in Shoppers' Hands

Brandon Kane, 

General Manager

howgoodtagFor over 10 years, Council and staff have endeavored to provide GreenStar's customers and member-owners with various forms of augmented product education in our stores. Our goal has been to assist shoppers in making product choices that match up with their personal values and reflect some of the loftier values of the cooperative itself. The major obstacle to providing substantial product information is the amount of time it would take to do the necessary research and then maintain a database and labeling system on a routine basis. A bustling, independent store like ours simply cannot afford to dedicate the labor to an ongoing project of this magnitude. Which is why it was so intelligent for the founders of How Good to create a product-rating service designed for retailers in our very position. GreenStar Co-op has partnered with How Good to bring this rating system to our own shelves.

How Good seeks to move beyond ambiguous labeling, such as "all natural," and instead examine the actual footprint a product has on multiple levels, including social and environmental. To do this, their team of researchers look into a product's impact using a variety of criteria that align with our Co-op's values: Does the company employ fair-labor practices? Are ingredients locally sourced? What level of processing does the product undergo? Are the ingredients of high quality? What are the growing practices for the ingredients? And the list goes on...

Every product considered is then given a rating from 0-3 — 0 being "not good" and 3 being "excellent." This shows up as a simple, non-invasive symbol adjacent to the product's shelf tag. Because so much research results in only a simple symbol rating, How Good understands that many shoppers will want to know the details about how a product received a particular rating. To this end, How Good provides further information in two ways. People who own smartphones can make use of an app that will allow them to access a database of more than 100,000 products, along with all the details of their ratings. Those without smartphones will soon be able to use an in-store tablet kiosk equipped with this same How Good app.

Read more: Putting the Power of Product Information in Shoppers' Hands


Big Food and The Food Movement

By Joe Romano, 

Marketing Manager

color-of-foodAmericans can eat garbage, provided you sprinkle it liberally 
with ketchup.

—Henry Miller

Warren Buffett, the man who heavily backed President Barack Obama's reelection bid, recently made the largest transaction in food industry history, when he and other investors made a leveraged buyout of H.J. Heinz and Company for 23.2 billion dollars in cash. While this is a massive merger, the trend toward consolidation of giant food companies may not stop here. According to Michael Balaban of Forbes magazine and other industry sources, "Heinz is a stepping stone to a larger food conglomerate ... up next for a mega-deal could be the Campbell Soup Company, or even Kraft." Likewise, CNNMoney is reporting that "merger activity has been hot this year" signaling "that other companies will now want to follow Buffett's lead and look to the grocery shelves for merger opportunities."

We are not talking about farmers or chefs who are toiling to deliver the best quality food possible, instead we are talking about mega-moguls who view food solely as a source of profit. "Big Food merits a fresh look," declares Reuters and New York Times financial analyst, Quentin Webb. "Companies that are purveyors of meals, sauces, and spreads may offer better value than is immediately obvious."

Read more: Big Food and The Food Movement

Corporate Organics

By Becca Harber

IHC International 715 combine, harvesting at sunset, PEI 2008 c

A number of organic food companies, in most cases regional businesses originally, have been bought up by some of the world's biggest agribusiness corporations. These purchases tend to take place very quietly so that consumers won't know that these companies — and their products — are no longer what they were. Many such products can be found on GreenStar's shelves. The Hain Celestial Group, in a joint venture with Cargill, owns no less than Earth's Best, Spectrum Organics (oils), Garden of Eatin', Arrowhead Mills, Health Valley, Imagine Foods and non-dairy Dream brands, Celestial Seasonings, Westbrae, Westsoy, Little Bear, Walnut Acres — and that list isn't exhaustive. Smucker's owns Knudsen, Santa Cruz Organics, and After the Fall juices; Cadbury, Green & Black's; and Nestle, Tribe Mediterranean Foods and Poland Spring, which many communities are fighting, trying to stop them from taking their local water, usually for free. French conglomerate Danone owns both Stonyfield and Brown Cow. Note, too, that non-foods companies that once created pure products have also traded hands. Clorox now owns Burt's Bees, while Colgate-Palmolive owns Tom's of Maine and Procter & Gamble bought New Chapter supplements.

Because the priority for these mega-corporations is their bottom line, minimizing expenses in order to maximize profits, their products' quality, sooner or later, almost always becomes poorer. For example, in 2007 Danone had to recall large quantities of its yogurt after it was found to contain unsafe levels of dioxins. Kashi cereals actually found themselves in a lawsuit because of the large amounts of GMOs and pesticides discovered in their products, according to the Cornucopia Institute's report. Kashi's Heart to Heart Blueberry cereal was found to contain grains coated in residues of many pesticides. Other products were oftentimes found to contain 100 percent GMOs.

Read more: Corporate Organics


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New in Grocery

Happy Holidrizzle

Adam Morris,
Grocery Manager

HolidrizzleGrocery has everything you need to treat your sweetie —vegan chocolates, candies galore, even special holiday kettle corn!

Ready for another Valentine's Day? We sure are here at GreenStar! We've got exactly what you're looking for as a gift for that special someone in your life. As usual, we've got a wonderful selection of Sjaak's organic vegan chocolates — all your favorites, along with some new delectable options. We've added a wonderful selection of Lake Champlain Chocolate assortments as well. If chocolate isn't your thing, we have the complete collection of Tru Joy, Surf Sweets, and candies, gummies, and lollipops from YumEarth Organics. For crunchy and creamy combined, try out the wonderful taste of Angie's Holidrizzle Frosted Vanilla Cupcake Kettle Corn. And, for those of you who find yourselves alone on Valentine's Day, we've got the perfect thing to cure those lonely blues: wonderfully decadent Talenti Gelato! With several flavors to choose from, you'll soon forget the cold, the wind, the solitude, and the holiday.


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