I have noticed that most people in the city of Albany have not even heard of Wegmans Food Markets. Or, that someone has heard of it, but is unsure of what it is. Wegmans is a privately owned grocery chain. It is a family owned business that emerged out of my hometown, Rochester, New York. It has grown into a 74-store chain in the mid-atlantic region. Wegmans was named "Best Grocery Store" in 2007 by the Food Network, and was ranked the top large grocery chain the the U.S. by Consumer Reports. I myself have been an employee at Wegmans for about 5 years and have noticed firsthand large progessions the company has made.
The reason why I am introducing Wegmans Food Markets to everyone is because of its local support and its growing environmentally-friendly movement. One of the most important aspects of the company that many customers tend to overlook, is Wegmans' "Locally Grown Program". As you can probably tell by the name, Wegmans' produce is obtained primarily from small, local family farmers. These family farmers are able to bring large selections of fresh fruits and vegetables to Wegman’s customers, going directly to the stores and bypassing distribution centers and warehouses. That means, consumers can purchase fresh produce within hours of being picked. In an interview discussing this Locally Grown system, the president, Danny Wegman stated: "Such an initiative is good for the environment because it reduces fuel costs, which helps the grocer offer competitive prices to shoppers”. One might think that as an employee I have an inside scoop on Wegmans' operations and where they obtain their produce. But in fact, I, and every other customer can learn more about Locally Grown Sustainable Produce on our company website (Wegmans.com). Here, customers can learn more about the actual growers in each region. So in turn, there is no barrier between the company and the customer, which seems to be the case in most large grocery stores (coughWAL-MARTcough).
Wegmans is also in the process of going green, and conserving. As an employee, I have noticed firsthand this transformation and extra steps to reduce any further stress put on the environment. One of my favorite characteristics of all Wegmans stores, which most stores lack, is that next to EVERY trash can, is a recycling bin. Many stores, I have noticed, have numerous trash cans throughout the store while their recycling bins are in remote places. Another characteristic of Wegmans that is environmentally-friendly, is their Reusable Bag movement. 2 years ago, Wegmans began producing larger, and stronger reusable bags that cost $0.99. Advertisement for these bags was enormous. Many stores, including my own, had contests to see which store could sell the most reusable bags. These reusable bags were created to replace the not-so environmentall friendly plastic bags. Since 2007, production of plastic bags has decreased by nearly 30%, while production of these reusable bags has increased by about 50%. Many Wegmans stores, I have heard, are beginning to charge customers if they want to use plastic bags, in an effort to promote reusable bags. I have also heard that intensive meetings have been held with Wegmans representatives and local farmers. Wegmans is requesting that these local farmers seek certification in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), which sets standards on the use of water, fertilizers, manure, and pesticides. Local farmers have also been encouraged to either use recyclable cardboard boxes to deliver their produce, or sturdy, washable and reusable plastic boxes. They have also been encouraged to deliver to a number of Wegman’s stores in one day to save fuel and time.
This is only the beginning for the advancement of Wegmans and their local and environmental movements. Wegmans has continued to grow, creating new stores and supporting more and more local family farmers. I have heard that there is a possibility of a Wegmans appearing in Albany within the next few years. When this happens, customers will stray away from Wal-mart and shop at one of the most customer-friendly company's in the country.