Since opening its first store in April 2020 at the height of the pandemic, re_grocery has grown to three Los Angeles-area locations.
OPINION: EDITOR'S NOTE
What does it mean to be a sustainable grocer? While many large and small grocers featured in this special “Earth Month” issue of Progressive Grocer are making big strides in sustainability, a small operator in California is trying to redefine how grocery stores think about going green.
Re_grocery, in Los Angeles, is a “refill your own container” grocery store; there’s no plastic packaging to be found. Shoppers are encouraged to bring their own containers for dry grocery, oils, vinegars, honey, and a select number of fresh dairy and other perishable products. The store offers 100% post-consumer recycled paper bags for use, and reusable glass jars/bottles and cloth produce bags for purchase.
I visited re_grocery while I was in town for Natural Products Expo West, and I was impressed not only with the assortment of dry grocery, but also with the shopping experience. Re_grocery offers more than 500 refillable bulk goods, and the company strives to source only the highest-quality organic, non-GMO and clean products, all plastic-free. The store offers items such as bulk grains, pasta, dried fruit, nuts, dried herbs, psyllium seed husk, protein powders, matcha, coffee, tea and much more. It has a wall with pour-your-own white wine and red wine vinegars, olive oil, sesame oil, coconut oil, canola oil, avocado oil, sunflower oil, manuka honey, agave, and tamari. There’s also a kombucha tap. The refrigerated case allows customers to serve themselves yogurt, tofu, butter or cream cheese out of glass jars. Re_grocery even has a beauty department featuring “closed-loop skin care” products — that is, items whose packaging can either be refilled, composted, or returned to the store for refilling and reuse. The store also stocks reusables and zero-waste accessories.
At re_grocery, shoppers fill their containers — whether it’s almond flour or toothpaste or cheese — write the product code on a piece of paper, weigh their containers at the self-checkout station at the front of the store, and pay through a fast and easy process. There’s also a human cashier and other employees ready to answer questions about products or the checkout process. Re_grocery accepts SNAP and offers free next-day delivery on orders of more than $150. There’s a $9 delivery fee on orders over $50; orders under $50 are charged a $15 fee.
Re_grocery might seem niche, but since opening its first store in April 2020 at the height of the pandemic, when fewer consumers were shopping in stores, the retailer has now grown to three locations and is attracting scores of consumers that every survey says are looking for more sustainable products and shopping options. “It feels more important than ever to reconnect with each other, with our food and with our planet. Our glass is always half-full. And refillable,” the grocer’s website says.
Re_grocery’s rapid expansion proves that grocers don’t have to choose between sustainability and revenue growth. Consumers want to see grocers innovate more on these issues, and they will reward those retailers that do with their loyalty.