The Bulk is Green Council (BIG), a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing consumer, retailer and grocer awareness of the environmental and economic benefits of buying foods from bulk bins, is once again seeking retail partners for its annual National Bulk Foods Week. This year’s week, now in it’s third year, will take place October 13-19 at grocery stores and co-ops across the country.
This year BIG hopes to draw particular attention to the role buying from the bulk bins can play in helping to reduce consumer food waste. A recent press release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated that roughly 30 to 40 percent of the food supply in the United States goes to waste. Further, the EPA reports more food goes into landfills nationwide than any other single material in municipal solid waste, and in 2010 alone Americans generated more than 34 million tons of food waste.
However, according to a recent study conducted by the Portland State University Food Industry Leadership Center (FILC), the main reason consumers shop the bulk foods aisle is for the ability to buy the exact quantity needed. As a result, consumers said bulk items were less likely than packaged items to be thrown away, which results in less food waste. National Bulk Foods Week is one way BIG encourages more consumers to be conscious of the waste they produce.
“Pre-packaged foods tend to create high amounts of food waste, and many consumers are already aware that they can cut down on that waste by buying smaller quantities in the bulk section of their grocery store,” said Todd Kluger, vice president of sales and marketing at Lundberg Family Farms, a founding BIG member. “With our third annual National Bulk Foods Week, we are looking to partner with retailers to raise even more awareness around this important benefit.”
During National Bulk Foods Week the companies that comprise BIG offer special discounts on select natural and organic bulk foods to retailers that can then be passed along to consumers. Participating food retailers are also provided complimentary promotional signage and other materials to promote the benefits of foods from bulk bins and attract new bulk foods shoppers. In addition, participating stores will be entered in the running for BIG’s annual industry recognition – the 2013 Bulk Foods Retailer of the Year. In 2012, more than 800 retailers joined BIG in celebrating National Bulk Foods Week.
The benefits of buying in bulk also go beyond just cutting down food waste. The PSU FILC study found organic bulk foods on average are 89% less expensive than their organic packaged counterparts. Buying from the bulk bins also greatly reduces the amount of packaging waste that ends up in landfills.
BIG recently wrapped up a highly successful Love Bulk Foods for Earth Month campaign, which encouraged consumers to take a pledge to purchase bulk foods once a week during Earth Month in an effort to get them excited about the many environmental benefits offered by foods from bulk bins. In all, some 800 consumers took the digital pledge.
Food retailers interested in signing up to participate in National Bulk Foods Week 2013 can do so at BulkisGreen.org.