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2020 Outstanding Independents, Sustainability: PCC Community Markets

Gina Acosta, Progressive Grocer
2020 Outstanding Independents, Sustainability: PCC Community Markets

PCC Community Markets has a deep and long history of environmental responsibility. Last year, the Seattle-area grocer and largest community-owned food market in the nation became the first grocery store in the world to pursue Living Building Challenge (LBC) Petal Certification, the most rigorous green-building standard. The retailer also became among the first to launch compostable deli containers, thus removing 8 million pieces of single-use plastic from the waste stream annually.

Yet while PCC is perhaps best known for its environmental work, it’s also a formidable competitor within the grocery industry, consistently raising standards across all aspects of its business.

In 2019, that included:

  • Made-From-Scratch Innovation: PCC is among a dying breed of grocers that still insist on making all of their prepared foods from scratch every day. Each of its 13 stores runs a restaurant-quality kitchen producing 300 made-from-scratch items from original PCC recipes in each store daily. In 2019, the co-op added two new concepts to its already vast array of prepared offerings (i.e., pizza, taqueria, hot bar, soup and full-service deli): self-serve grain bowls and a seafood-forward fast-casual restaurant offering made-to-order dishes from PCC’s sustainably sourced seafood case, paired with local wine, beer and cider. Both have outperformed expectations and provided valuable learnings in operations, customer experience and labor models.
  • Fresh at the Forefront: Walk into the Ballard, Wash., PCC and you’re immediately enveloped in a 98% organic produce department, with no checkstands in sight. Flanked by an organic Fairtrade coffee bar featuring freshly baked pastries, the produce department leads into what feels like an open-air food market with cheesemongers, butchers, wine experts and chefs practicing their crafts at the highest level. Here, the center store is no longer the central focus. Instead, fresh is at the forefront.
  • Private Label Prominence: PCC’s private label program is an expression of the co-op’s values: the highest standards, locally sourced and premium quality. The result is a private label program that continues to see double-digit growth year over year. Not only do PCC’s private label products lead and lift their categories, they also create an outlet and opportunity for the small and midsize producers that are celebrated on each package.
  • Community Impact: As a community-owned enterprise, PCC strives to continually increase its impact on the communities it serves. While data wasn’t yet available for 2019 at presstime, in 2018, PCC contributed 50% of its after-tax earnings to its members and its surrounding communities. The co-op donated 430,000 meals to food banks throughout the city, and gave to more than 600 community organizations and schools. 
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