In Story Messaging
In Story Messaging

Natural Invention

The image of a light bulb can represent the formation of an idea, illuminating inspiration. In the case of Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, this light was an energy efficient, compact fluorescent bulb.

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market germinated as a way to reinstate the community store—a nearby location that offered everything on shoppers’ lists and didn’t compromise environmental integrity. Fresh & Easy is one of the founding companies in the Institute of the Environment’s Corporate Partners Program. The Corporate Partners Program fosters interactive relationships between companies and UCLA faculty, researchers, students and other firms to explore the latest business opportunities in environment and sustainability, corporate environmental performance and successful eco-marketing strategy. The program strives to encourage green best practices and environmental accountability.

A subsidiary of UK-based Tesco, one of the largest retailers in the world, Fresh & Easy was the company’s first venture in the United States. Four years ago Tesco began conducting research to determine exactly how to design their chain. Their unique approach included going grocery shopping with customers and infiltrating personal kitchens: poking around pantries and cooking alongside their potential audience base. What they learned is that shoppers were looking for convenience without losing quality. They wanted lots of simple, more wholesome offerings.

Based on the insight acquired through hands-on investigation the company built a mock store inside a warehouse in Hawthorne and invited shoppers to test it out. The first store officially opened in November 2007 and the 150th store opened in Burbank in April. All of the stores are on the west coast, in California, Arizona and Nevada.

The relationship with UCLA was initiated by Roberto Munoz, Fresh & Easy Director of Neighborhood Affairs and Communications.

“This is an institution I highly regard. Because our organization is based in the LA-area we wanted to reach out to the University and see if there were any potential opportunities to join forces. I met with IoE Center for Climate Change Solutions Director Paul Bunje and Professor Magali Delmas (who established the Corporate Partners Program at the IoE). We had a conversation and realized we could collaborate. As business leaders there’s a responsibility for us to cooperate with others to find innovative solutions and share that information,” stated Munoz.

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He continued, “this is an appropriate forum for us to do academic research and look at it in a very pragmatic way: as a company we can reduce our carbon footprint, encourage our customers to do the same, and share what we learn with others.”

Fresh & Easy truly is an exemplary model of green business. They have a centralized distribution center in Riverside based on a hub-and-spoke model. Suppliers come and deliver to the center, then filter out to the different stores. This limits the numbers of transportation vehicles, cutting the company’s carbon footprint. A roof-mounted solar photovoltaic system supplies 20% of the total energy used by the facility.

Fresh & Easy is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Volume Certification Program. Inside the store natural light is utilized as much as possible; other areas are lit with LED lighting. Other efficiency measures include display-ready packaging that is reusable or recycled, freezers with top-loading sliding glass doors to prevent air leakage and coolers with night shades that are pulled down when the store closes. Energy efficiency is checked via devices and systems that measure progress and can give real-time energy usage information. Fresh & Easy is also a member of the California Climate Action Registry, which reports greenhouse gas emissions.

These green practices translate to more value for customers: lower prices and high quality, nutritious, delicious items. Some of Fresh & Easy’s customers’ favorites include the chicken primavera steamer, snickerdoodle cookies, acai mixed berry fusion juice, lemon cilantro hummus, boysenberry almond granola and shrimp alfredo.

Fresh & Easy’s future includes plans to expand the chain in Northern California.

Munoz said, “Being good is good business. Doing things for customers, for the community, and for the world, is also helping us develop as a meaningful and personal brand to our customers. And transparency is vital—as a 21st century brand it is important to be open and involved.

He continued, “As a store that can touch thousands of people every day, we are incredibly well-placed to help educate our customers and spread the message of how going green can help customers – and the environment.”