Fresh Produce for Profit

Fresh Thyme

2. Zero Hunger 3. Good Health and Well-Being 12. Responsible Consumption and Production

Overview

Fresh Thyme reduces store waste and food waste with its recycling and composting initiatives, as wells as the donation of foods to food banks and local charities. Fresh Thyme also offers the communities it serves access to affordable fresh, organic, and locally sourced produce.

Authors

Wyatt Mowery

Wyatt Mowery

Corryn Leonard

Corryn Leonard

Kristof Nieschwitz

Kristof Nieschwitz

Jarred Raab

Jarred Raab

School

The University of Toledo

The University of Toledo

Professor

Gary Insch

Gary Insch

Innovation

Fresh Thyme contributes to UN Sustainability Goal #2, Zero Hunger, by offering fresh, organic foods to families at a low price, improving nutritional value in their foods and promoting locally sourced products and sustainable agricultural practices. The goal of offering locally sourced, natural and nutritious foods has been a part of Fresh Thyme from the beginning and has attracted customers who share the same values. The majority of products sold are free of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. At peak seasons Fresh Thyme stocks more than 900 items for customers to choose from. Each store also produces fresh 100% juice blends and infused water daily for customers to have the best fresh quality beverages and the butcher section also boasts grass-fed beef and all natural chicken and pork that are born and raised in the US with no artificial ingredients.

In addition, Fresh Thyme contributes to UN Sustainability Goal #12, Responsible Consumption and Production, through various recycling and waste policies. When asked about Fresh Thymes' sustainable operations, Jeff had a long list of actions the store has implemented to decrease the store's waste. Their most ambitious effort is to recycle the large amounts of plastic coming in and out of the store. This includes plastic wraps being used by incoming delivery trucks, as well as plastic shopping bags that account for the majority of Fresh Thymes plastic use. This goal was achieved by setting up a customer drop box in the store to collect the shopping bags and have them picked up to be recycled. Meijer, a partial owner, has offered and encouraged customers to utilize drop boxes since 2014. One source of plastic that is already being recycled is the Cafe to-go boxes and utensils that customers purchase at the Fresh Thyme cafe. The soups and salad containers as well as the utensils are all made from recycled plastics. The used plasticware is then collected in store and recycled to be used once more. In addition to the plastic, Fresh Thyme recycles the cardboard accumulated in its stores. These actions help reduce the amount of plastic and cardboard waste being taken to landfills and the amount of new plastics and cardboards needed to be produced.

Another operation the store has is geared towards reducing its food waste. Fresh Thyme currently gathers excess food close to its sell-by date and donates it to local food banks and churches. Cherry Street Mission in Toledo is one example of where this extra food may go. The food is then distributed to those in need of meals. To additionally decrease their food waste, Fresh Thyme discards food that is past its sell-by date in a compost bin which is picked up weekly by a company in Bowling Green, Ohio. This reduces the amount of food waste going to landfills and instead repurpose it into something that can be more useful. Not all Fresh Thyme locations have a composting plan to discard expired produce. The decision to introduce composting to a store depends heavily on its location. Jeff was interested in implementing composting because of the additional benefits it would bring to the area.

Fresh Thymes' work in both recycling and reducing food waste is replicable by other stores and is almost guaranteed the same level of success if it is well managed. Most communities have a recycling center that they can rely on. Businesses can reach out and set up drop off or pick up schedules to ensure their plastic and cardboard waste is being recycled. In addition to the recycled goods, many local churches or organizations will accept food close to the sell-by date for people in need.

Fresh Produce for Profit

Inspiration

Founder Chris Sherrell, who was no stranger to supermarket operations, founded Fresh Thyme in 2012 while in the position of regional VP at Meijer where he oversaw operations for almost 50 stores. The store's original purpose of catering to customers following vegan, paleo, keto, vegetarian and wheat and gluten free diets soon grew to encompass fresh locally sourced foods. Sherrell found his inspiration to start this store from a similarly operated store on the West coast. He thought that the small store he saw had great potential and saw an opportunity to make it a reality in the Midwest in the form of Fresh Thyme. Sherrell grew the company which now operates 70 different stores across the United States employing roughly 5,000 people to assist customers and keep business running smoothly. Fresh Thyme’s gross revenue rose to $6.3 billion during the 2019-20 financial year and is projected to grow.

Overall impact

Fresh Thyme benefits the environment by preventing further degradation due to their recycling measures. This also saves money and energy that would have gone into producing more of these materials. It is also more sustainable to source their produce locally because there is no need to transport the food long distances. This reduces carbon emissions and energy consumption.

Fresh Thyme benefits the communities they serve by offering immediate access to healthier food options. Products are free of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. This helps build up a healthy and stable community environment. In addition, because Fresh Thyme donates food to food banks and local charities, like the Cherry Street Mission, it helps insure community members in need have the meals they need.

Fresh Thymes actions benefit the company by seeing an immediate increase in instore profit because they sell the plastic and cardboard materials to the recycling plants. This makes recycling an important part of their day-to-day business. Because they are involved in sustainable practices, and support different customer diets with their fresh, organic foods, they gain a loyal customer base and potentially generational customers.

Business benefit

Fresh Thymes' actions have a positive effect on itself as a business because they are able to bring in some money selling the cardboard and plastic to the recyclers. The short-term benefits of this transaction are being able to meet financial goals by taking positive environmental and social action. The long-term benefits are that the extra money generated through selling recyclables can be put into future sustainability measures and plans.

Social and environmental benefit

Fresh Thymes actions have a positive effect on the environment. By recycling plastic and cardboard, these materials are used again and again as opposed to being discarded into a landfill. Fresh Thyme also offers reusable bags to customers to help eliminate plastic bag usage. By properly recycling, short-term negative impacts on the environment can be avoided such as increased amounts of litter which can affect surrounding areas. By setting up places for customers to drop off their old shopping bags, they are helping to keep the community clean. The long term benefits of recycling are an improved overall quality of life and the reduction in the strain of resources. By recycling materials, there is less need to produce more plastic and cardboard using raw materials and sources of litter can be avoided which would also save or reallocate resources being used to protect environments from litter.

Fresh Thymes' actions have a positive effect on the Toledo community through donations of extra food to charitable groups such as Cherry Street Mission and others. This gives those who are not fortunate enough to have meals everyday relief and support in times of need. The short-term benefits of donating and composting food items is that it reduces the amount of food waste the store produces, while contributing to a good cause. The compost helps regenerate rich fertilizer for local farms to continue producing fresh produce. This would eliminate the use of extra resources used in the transportation of these goods. Locally sourced produce is a big part of Fresh Thyme.

Interview

Jeff Van Pelt, Staff Director

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Fresh Thyme

Fresh Thyme

Toledo, OH, US

Business Website: https://www.freshthyme.com/

Year Founded: 2012

Number of Employees: 1001 to 5000

Fresh Thyme prides itself on providing fresh, organic, and locally sourced produce to the communities it serves at an affordable price. In peak seasons they stock over 900 products for customers following many different diets. Along with the food they offer Fresh Thyme stays environmentally conscious by recycling and composting to reduce food waste.