Bulk Goes Big

Lakewinds Food Co-op opens third store

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LEE SVITAK DEAN, Star Tribune

June 20, 2014 - 1:45 PM

Can you create community around food? Co-ops have been doing that for more than 40 years.

Lakewinds Food Co-op offers about 300 items in bulk, including vinegar, molasses and maple syrup.

Photo: JOEL KOYAMA

 

 

Consider the bulk bin at the grocery store.  You can find the history of an era in its contents.  Back in the early 1970s, bulk was new. Well, sort of new. It had, in fact, been the mainstay of small markets for decades. (“Mabel, I’d like 5 pounds of dried beans and a half pound of coffee.”) But then it disappeared, left behind when modern convenience — and supermarkets — took over.  Then bulk reappeared, allowing shoppers to take home just the amount they needed, whether it was brown rice, granola or dried fruit. It became the signature method of shopping at food co-ops, which were starting up on sidewalks and small storefronts around the Twin Cities (only later did it find a niche at the supermarket).

What a difference 40 years makes.

On Monday, the double aisle of bulk bins was empty at Lakewinds Food Co-op in Richfield, but not for long. By the end of the day, almost 300 options were ready for shoppers to bag their own, in preparation for the new Lakewinds store — its third — to open its doors on June 28. Five types of quinoa, 25 whole-leaf teas, nine types of flour, 20 varieties of rice, grains, 16 varieties of granola and more. Much more, including 190 bulk herbs and spices.

And it wasn’t just dried foods that were shopper-ready. Customers will be able to pour their own vinegars, oils, honey, maple syrup, molasses and kombucha. Yes, indeed, the bulk aisle has changed, as have those bins, which now include shiny metal containers and kegs for dispensing liquids.  The Lakewinds expansion is one example of the demand — and success — of the now 40-year-old co-op system. Minnesota has more than any other state, according to the National Cooperative Grocers Association, with Wisconsin coming in second.

North Country Co-op in Minneapolis led the way in 1970 and operated for 37 years. The peak for co-ops was in 1982 with 31 stores in the Twin Cities, but that number dropped to 22 by 1985. Today there are 13, from Cambridge to Northfield, some with multiple stores.

While many of the elements of the early co-op days are reflected in Lakewinds’ history, its biggest difference has to do with location. Lakewinds started in the suburbs at a time when most co-ops were opening in urban or rural areas.  Its story begins in 1972 when three women — Edie Green, Helen Davis and Edith Stodola — opened the Minnetonka Buying Club on Green’s front porch, where shoppers scooped their own from bulk bins and cut their own chunks of cheese.  Expansion — and we use the term loosely — led to Davis’ basement, stocked with organic produce from her garden and with eggs from her hens. By 1975, the volunteers had settled into a small building behind St. Luke Presbyterian and officially formed the co-op. More relocations followed before Lakewinds found a home in 1995 at the corner at Highway 101 and Minnetonka Blvd. A second store opened in Chanhassen in 2005.  Today Lakewinds is one of the largest natural food co-ops in the Midwest and has 16,000 active members. New members pay a one-time equity share of $90 to support the co-op. Nonmembers, though, are welcome to shop, as is true at other co-ops.

Dale Woodbeck has been a member since 1990 and general manager since 2010. “I know a number of people who were involved in the co-op’s early days,” he said. “The old guard is in its 70s and 80s now, and one in her 90s.”

Perhaps the biggest change over the years is the number of products available that meet the co-op’s mission about fresh, healthy, local and organic products. “We see better selection today. Shoppers today can use the co-op for one-stop shopping, if they choose to do so,” said Woodbeck. “People are much more aware and interested in spending money on the kind of food we provide. They think more about what we’re eating, what’s in meat or fish or vegetables or fruits.”

“We’ve gone from making little bags of grain out of big bags of grain — it was more like ‘Let’s all buy good stuff in bulk and then split it up into this smaller amounts’ — to shopping being a really robust retail experience.

That means there’s charcoal and water softener at the co-op. De-icer for sidewalks that’s not harmful to plants and animals. Pots and pans with nonstick coating (but not Teflon). The Richfield store also offers a self-service juice machine, a coffee bar run by Peace Coffee, and a meat department that’s not afraid to be visible. “We bring in the whole animal,” said Dale Riley, senior operations manager. “It’s like an old-school butcher shop.”

And then there’s the design, light and bright and modern, with two murals from Adam Turman, a local artist.

Yes, the times have changed. What would Edie, Helen and Edith have thought as they sat on the porch with their bins of grain and chunks of cheese, had someone suggested that a sushi chef would one day be part of the third store in their operation?

   

Natural Evolution for Kroger

May 1, 2014 –
By Monica Watrous

NEW YORK — Evolving with the consumer is a key strategy of The Kroger Co. The Cincinnati-based retailer credits 41 consecutive quarters of same-store sales growth to its willingness to adapt to the changing behaviors of its customers.  “Every five years, we’re a dramatically different retailer,” said Mike Schlotman, senior vice-president and chief financial officer, during an April 29 presentation at the Barclays Retail and Consumer Discretionary Conference in New York.

More recently, the chain has adapted to an increased focus on health and wellness by expanding its natural and organic food products. Kroger’s Simple Truth line of products, with clean labels and organic options, has become a major success story for the company since its 2012 launch.  “We continue to expand those offerings inside our stores, for example, and it’s a significantly different presence and approach to merchandising that product than it was five years ago and was almost an afterthought 10 years ago,” Mr. Schlotman said.

Though Kroger doesn’t track the sales of natural and organic items separately in the produce and meat departments, the company said products in the natural foods category have consistently grown by double digits for three years.  “…and we don’t really see any end to that, where we continue to steal space from other departments in different parts of the store to allow more of that product (to) get in,” he said. “We continue to struggle (with) having the right amount of linear feet allocated to yogurt, for example, and continue to rejigger things in the dairy department to try to get incremental space for yogurt.”

Sales of natural products have improved as Kroger has increased awareness of the offerings. While the dedicated organics-only consumer may not choose Kroger for such products, Mr. Schlotman said the retailer’s regular shoppers are adding more items from the category to their carts.

“I think a lot of the sales are otherwise loyal Kroger shoppers who have become more aware of our offering in natural organics and are buying more of that product from us rather than making a second shopping trip,” Mr. Schlotman said. “Five or six years ago when we were getting into it in a big way, we didn’t make it as easy for the customer to understand what we had and how good the product was, the fact that it was readily available, the fact that it was well priced. And we’re doing a much better job of explaining to the customer that we in fact have the product, I think that’s where we’re winning in those categories. I don’t think we’re getting that die hard organic person to come to our store versus some of the true players in that space, but it’s more of the mainstream customer that wants a lot of the products they eat to be organic or natural.”

 

About Trade Fixtures
Trade Fixtures was founded in the early 1980’s and is currently owned by the Marmon Group. Trade Fixtures manufactures award-winning bulk dispensing bins and fixture systems for supermarkets, independent retailers, and foodservice applications. Manufactured in the United States of America and sold in over 45 countries worldwide. Your success is our success!

 
About Marmon
The Marmon Group, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., is a global, diversified industrial organization. Marmon comprises three autonomous companies consisting of approximately 160 independent manufacturing and service businesses. These businesses operate approximately 300 manufacturing, distribution and service facilities, and employ more than 17,000 people worldwide. Revenues exceeded $7 billion in 2012.
   

I Love Sugar

LITTLE ROCK, AR, July 12, 2013 –

Do you love sugar?  We do, and here at Trade Fixtures we have helped many entrepreneurs open their very own candy and snack shops.  Bulk candy and confectionaries is a thriving business with great opportunity for growth and fun.  The array of colors, and the variety of products appeals to customers young and old.  We want to share a testimonial from one of our satisfied customers, and we hope you will stop by their store in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to visit. 

 

"We have been open for about a month and half now and just wanted to take the time to thank you for being a part of our team and help bringing our vision to life. 

I Love Sugar is a hit!

The one of a kind candy wall that we have designed and built has really become a staple piece of I Love Sugar. Customers have been flooding social media all over Facebook and Instagram with photos of this amazing wall that you built.  Attached are some photographs of how I Love Sugar turned out...

Thanks again guys and I look forward to working with you in the near future on the next I Love Sugar store..."

Best Regards

David M. Oaknin
President & CEO

I Love Sugar Bulk Closeup
I Love Sugar Outside
I Love Sugar Inside

 

About Trade Fixtures
Trade Fixtures was founded in the early 1980’s and is currently owned by the Marmon Group. Trade Fixtures manufactures award-winning bulk dispensing bins and fixture systems for supermarkets, independent retailers, and foodservice applications. Manufactured in the United States of America and sold in over 45 countries worldwide. Your success is our success!

 
About Marmon
The Marmon Group, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., is a global, diversified industrial organization. Marmon comprises three autonomous companies consisting of approximately 160 independent manufacturing and service businesses. These businesses operate approximately 300 manufacturing, distribution and service facilities, and employ more than 17,000 people worldwide. Revenues exceeded $7 billion in 2012.
   

Do You Love Bulk Foods?

LITTLE ROCK, AR, March 14, 2013 –

Do you love bulk?  Here is your opportunity to love bulk foods and make a difference.  In April, the Bulk is Green (BIG) Council has set up a website where viewers can sign a digital pledge to "Love Bulk Foods."  To sign the digital pledge, visit: www.lovebulkfoods.com or you can learn more about this opportunity by viewing the following info graphic.

  

infographic-web

  

 

About Trade Fixtures
Trade Fixtures was founded in the early 1980’s and is currently owned by the Marmon Group. Trade Fixtures manufactures award-winning bulk dispensing bins and fixture systems for supermarkets, independent retailers, and foodservice applications. Manufactured in the United States of America and sold in over 45 countries worldwide. Your success is our success!

 

 
About Marmon
The Marmon Group, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., is a global, diversified industrial organization. Marmon comprises three autonomous companies consisting of approximately 160 independent manufacturing and service businesses. These businesses operate approximately 300 manufacturing, distribution and service facilities, and employ more than 17,000 people worldwide. Revenues exceeded $7 billion in 2012.

 

   

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