On Friday, BevNET published a report that Raley’s, a conventional grocery chain with 132 stores in California and Nevada, has issued a new set of supplier guidelines that touch on many current issues with regard to ingredient and supply-chain transparency and positioning. Based on information gained from sources close to the matter, BevNET reported that Raley’s has cultivated a list of 83 ingredients, including high fructose corn syrup and sucralose, which would no longer be acceptable to be included in products carried by its stores.
BevNET asked Raley’s for elaboration on its decision, and yesterday the retailer replied. While Raley’s has not confirmed nor denied the report, Nicole Townsen, the director of marketing communications for Raley’s, replied to questions about why the grocer created the list and its potential impact on the company in terms of sales and operations.
Here is the Q & A in full:
BevNET: When did Raley’s decide to make a move to ban certain ingredients in products that it carries?
Nicole Townsend: Raley’s launched select private label products with reduced ingredient lists in the first quarter of 2014. Our elected restrictions only applied to these specific Raley’s branded products.
BN: The banned ingredient list is similar to that of Whole Foods. Who made the list of items to be removed and what was the criteria?
NT: Our team made the determination based on industry trends and customer desires.
BN: How will the ban affect current suppliers? Will they be given a deadline by which they will need to remove the ingredients if the products are to be sold by Raley’s?
NT: If we decide to apply our set of ingredient preferences to some of our private label or branded products in the future, we will let our suppliers know with plenty of time to adapt to the change.
BN: How difficult will some items be for supplier to remove (color additives, antibiotics, GMOs)? Does Raley’s see a drop in variety of products? Will Raley’s lean more on products with its own labels to ensure variety of products with removed ingredients?
NT: As each product is different and each manufacturing process is unique, we can’t speak to the ease or difficulty of changing product formulations. We do not anticipate reducing our variety offered to our customers. We will continue to focus on our Raley’s branded products to offer our customers excellent products with great taste and value with the ingredients and flavors they want, as a complement to our branded offerings.
BN: This is a big decision in terms of strategy and how customers see the store. Is this a re-branding from a conventional/traditional store to a more natural one?
NT: We will continue to remain the trusted neighborhood grocer for our loyal customers in Northern California and Nevada, and we will continue to offer our customers the products they want and more.
BN: This re-branding and re-positioning will attract attention. What message is it sending to consumers? Have customers been calling /asking for the change, or is it coming from Raley’s end (re: a move toward healthier living)?
NT: I think I answered this above.