Caring for communities

Boasting 59 full-service drugstores throughout the Dakotas, Iowa and Minnesota, Lewis Drug Corp is a family-owned business built on trust

When John Griffin, George Fredrickson and Jesse Lewis opened Lewis Drug Corp’s inaugural store in 1942, the trio sparked a special relationship between customer and retailer that has lasted almost a century. From the company’s initial site in Sioux Falls – South Dakota’s first full-service drugstore – the business has grown into a network of 58 locations across four states, offering a vital, valued service at the heart of many local American communities.

Success for Lewis has never come without risk. Launched midway through the Second World War, the company battled against war-time restrictions and major economic challenges to make its first store a triumph Buoyed by their achievement, John Griffin and George Fredrickson decided to follow up the first location with a risky 35,000 square foot second store - in a cornfield on the edge of town. At the time, the decision made the pair a laughing stock in Sioux Falls, but just months after opening, John and George’s gamble paid off. The second store was another huge success and acted as a prototype for many more to come.

Today, Lewis’ footprint reflects its first two stores. Along with its original site in Sioux Falls, the company operates 48 similar 6000 to 7000 square foot drugstores in small, rural communities in the northern United States. Lewis’ second site paved the way for the company’s larger 15,000 to 35,000 square foot stores, which offer everything from pet food to snowboards. Speaking to Retail Merchandiser, CEO Mark Griffin, son of Co-Founder John, discusses Lewis’ position in the present-day market in more detail.

The trust factor
“In 2021, I would say we are still a drugstore-based business - we are still very active on the pharmacy side of things - but we also have an incredibly strong front-end retail offering,” Mark explains. “What makes us unique is that we are placed in towns that are kind of an inbetweener in the US. CVS and Walgreens won’t go into our rural markets because they are too small. In some of the mid to large communities like Sioux Falls, which is about a 300,000-person trade area, we have a Walgreens across the street but we continue to perform well. We like to think that we offer 70 per cent of what Target offers in a smaller footprint.

“Through the years, I think a lot of our success has come down to the fact that our business is built on trust,” he continues. “On the pharmacy side of things, we have a dominant market share in every market we are in, and the trust factor we have earned there transfers into the front-end retail side as well. We are convenient, we are quick, we are easy and we are trustworthy. All those factors weigh in.”

The trust factor Mark alludes to has been particularly important throughout the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the obvious difficulties associated with the crisis, Lewis has continued to perform well and its important role within local communities has become amplified due to the challenging circumstances. Mark believes that the company’s workforce deserves the lion’s share of the credit for the firm’s enduring success.

“We rightly hear a lot about front line staff in hospitals and places like that, but we have front line people too - they are our pharmacists, technicians and cashiers that deal with people every day,” Mark declares. “Our employees don’t know what a customer’s health condition is when they walk up to the counter, but they serve them anyway. They are brave people and they are the unsung heroes of this pandemic. We have such respect for our staff and think most highly of them.”


Community support
As a way of thanking its employees for their dedication and hard work over the past year, Lewis recently launched a number of new bonus plans for both full-time and part-time staff, including extra bonuses at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The company’s family-oriented, values-based culture felt by its workforce also extends to the wider communities in which it operates. In Lewis’ hometown of Sioux Falls for example, the firm annually hosts events to help the homeless population during the cold winter months.

“Many homeless folks in our area don’t have the right clothing for the winter in South Dakota,” Mark says. “A few years ago, my daughter heard about a lady in Sioux Falls who lost her life after spending the night outside and so she proposed that we start planning and organizing coat donations for underprivileged people during the winter We now have five of these events where people can buy or donate clothes, coats and gloves at our stores for the homeless. It’s just one of the things we do to give back.”

‘Guerilla’ retail
The support Lewis offers its communities has been a major factor in the bond the company has forged with its customers over the last 75 years. Though the firm is looking to develop an ecommerce channel in the future, Lewis’ core focus at present remains in-store where it aims to help customers through the remainder of the pandemic. As part of this effort, the business has been designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a provider of the Covid vaccine upon release.

“Once a vaccine has been rolled out, we can figure out how big of a game changer Covid has been for retail. At the moment, we don’t know for sure if we will be going back to our old ways of doing things or if Covid has altered that,” Mark reports. “Our main focus is always going to be on what is important to the consumer and how we can make that happen within our stores. What we do know is that, to a large extent, Lewis is an impulse company; you can’t ignore the fact that the bulk of product bought in this country is bought on impulse. Ecommerce is good and serves a purpose, but I don’t think it is the only retail success story as you still need to have foot traffic and impulse sales. It’s certainly a balancing act, but it is one that we are in a strong position to manage.”

Although some things are bound to change at Lewis in the future as the company grows and adapts, the firm will continue to benefit from what Mark describes as ‘guerilla retail’. The size of Lewis stores means that the firm has far superior buying flexibility with suppliers compared to major retailers like Target and Walmart. This capability has been particularly useful for products such as cleaning wipes and hand sanitizer over the last 12 months.

“You name it, we’ve stocked it better than the big guys!” Mark proclaims. “It’s all because we can buy short-form from different sources, bring it in quick, and we don’t have to order three months ahead of time. If we need something, we can put in an order three days out and send our trucks to go and get it. It’s a system that works.”

As 2021 begins, Mark hopes the year ahead brings with it a stability that was missing in 2020 - both in the retail industry and in the political world. The effect of politics on pharmacies and pharmaceuticals in the US continues to be significant, and Lewis is hopeful that the impact of the new administration will be a positive one.

To secure its future growth, Lewis recently partnered with Sioux Falls-based Sanford Healthcare Systems, the largest rural hospital chain in the country. As part of the collaboration, Lewis is working with the healthcare firm to build clinics adjacent to its stores, allowing for a better connection between doctors and pharmacies. The partnership, along with the continuing popularity of its stores, is likely to yield a host of new opportunities for Lewis in the future.

“We are cautiously optimistic about what lies ahead,” Mark states. “We expect the economy to remain strong, even with a new administration - as evidenced by the stock market - and we expect consumers to retain their confidence in us.

“Looking forward, I think the focus on home environments triggered by Covid will benefit retail for the foreseeable future, and on the pharmacy side, I think healthcare has become more of a priority than ever. People are realizing how important it is to take care of yourself and maintain your health - not just deal with it when something goes wrong. In order to stay healthy, you need to get your pneumonia shots, your shingles shots, your flu shots, and soon we will have a seasonal Covid shot that is going to continue indefinitely. All those things are important for Lewis’ future, but also for the industry’s future as a whole.”

Always Getting Better

A trusted source for integrative wellness solutions, Pharmaca is combining modern ecommerce with vital in-store expertise as it increases its presence across the USA

Pharmaca was the USA’s first integrated pharmacy when the company launched in June 2000. Now, in 2021, as the largest integrated pharmacy, the business operates 28 retail stores across six states, as well as two compounding centers and a highly-sophisticated ecommerce offering.

Pharmaca stores, which include traditional pharmacy services alongside the sale of a variety of natural and wellness health solutions, have been increasing steadily across the US for a number of years, but up until the mid-2010s, the company’s online business had not fared so well. In 2016, Pharmaca launched an overhaul of its ecommerce operations, led by Vice President of Marketing Laura Coblentz. Backed by significant investment, the upgrade saw the firm add ecommerce specialists to its team and resulted in a site that is more informative, more responsive and more profitable.

Today, ecommerce is a key piece of Pharmaca’s three-pronged approach to business. Pharmacy services account for just over half of the company’s total revenue, with retail making up the remaining 45 per cent. Of this 45 per cent, ecommerce accounts for over one-third – an increase of 40 per cent since March 2020.

“Developing our ecommerce channel was a really important landmark for us,” Pharmaca CEO Richard Willis explains. “Back in 2016, we decided that our site needed to have the same experience as our stores, so we set about turning it into a helpful, educational site. Laura Coblentz really set the tone for us on that front. I think her knowledge of our stores and why they work was invaluable. She took that and imprinted it on a website that is now a third of our sales, whereas it was around five per cent back in 2016.

“When we changed the focus of the site, it actually declined in revenues the first year, but we knew it was the right thing to do, so we stuck with it and we were proved right. Not only does it contribute to sales but it is also a great place for us to test products to see if they will work in stores, or alternatively, if a vendor partner needs some help moving a product, we can do that quickly and efficiently through ecommerce too. We continue to invest in ecommerce and recently we upgraded to Yotpo, a highly-advanced content marketing platform.”

Double-digit growth
Not solely focused on its online business, Pharmaca also recently made substantial investments into the retail side of its operation where IT has been a major area of focus. In order to be suitably prepared for future growth, the company opened up a colocation facility to help handle up to $4 million worth of new IT systems. At the same time, Pharmaca relocated its warehouse and fully upgraded all processes previously in use.

“We have built the business up to be ready to handle at least 100 stores in the future,” Richard states. “As we start to acquire more and more pharmacies, we wanted to ensure we had the infrastructure in place to support them when the impact of that growth really kicks in.”

The upgrades Pharmaca made to its website and wider retail infrastructure helped the business achieve double-digit sales growth towards the beginning of 2020. However, just a few weeks later, the company was facing a new and unexpected challenge – Covid-19.

“On the West Coast, where most of our stores are located, Covid-19 restrictions were strict, but we were really fortunate in that whatever we lost in customer traffic in stores, we just about picked up on the ecommerce side of the business,” Richard says. “Most of all though, we were incredibly lucky to have such great staff.

“People have always been the heart of the company, but during the pandemic they selflessly put themselves on the front line every day, helping our customers at a time of need. The same goes for other areas of the business; we couldn’t have recorded 60 per cent growth in December in ecommerce, as well as have the fulfillment of our stores, without our distribution center team members and the team at our home office. Thanks to them, we haven’t had to close any store for even an hour throughout the crisis. I am just really grateful and appreciative of everything our people do.”

As well as proving themselves to be some of the industry’s most dedicated and resilient workers over the last 12 months, Pharmaca employees are also among some of the sector’s most highly qualified. Around three quarters of team members in Pharmaca stores hold some form of further education degree or certification and the company’s workforce includes pharmacists, herbalists and naturopaths. The knowledge and experience of its team means that Pharmaca is qualified to sell a wide number of professional brands and high-level products that many of its competitors cannot stock.

“Most of the time, the professional brands we hold can only be sold through doctor’s offices, but because of the education level we have in-store, we are one of the few retailers that can sell them,” Richard points out. “Manufacturers want to make sure that somebody is there to explain their product and ensure it is the right product for the consumer, so we are very fortunate that we have got the right people in our stores to do that. Those specialist professional products have been a big area of growth.

“Up until Covid-19, we were experiencing a lot of good growth in natural and organic health and beauty aids too,” Richard adds. “Owing to our strict quality assurance guidelines, people know that when they come to Pharmaca they can trust what is on the shelf. Since March 2020, the beauty trend has switched to fighting Coronavirus and so we have seen an uptick in masks, sanitation products and vitamins instead.”

Growth strategy
No matter what consumers need from their local Pharmaca, they can be sure that they will receive the same high quality in-store experience every time they visit. When it comes to populating the company’s retail workforce, Pharmaca covets people who want to help others and those that are curious to learn. Building on this trait, the firm has created a company-wide, customer-centric culture that is all about ‘doing right by the consumer.’

“At Pharmaca, we help over 10,000 people a day make good wellness decisions for themselves and their families, either in the pharmacy or through our retail operation. As a result, it is vital that we have people who wake up in the morning and go to work excited in the knowledge that somebody is going to come in and they are going to be able to help them,” Richard declares. “We don’t have drive-throughs because we want to talk to people. For example, if you or your child is taking an antibiotic, a probiotic is a really good thing to take at the same time. A lot of people don’t know that, but if we are having that conversation with you, we can suggest it as something you might want to do.”

Though its dedication to customer experience won’t change, Pharmaca’s national footprint is likely to increase dramatically across the next five years as the company looks to grow through acquisition. Pharmacies that are already established parts of their respective communities, such as a recently purchased site in Santa Monica, California, remain a key strategic target.

At present, around 60 per cent of Pharmaca’s online sales come from states where the company does not currently have a physical presence, and around two thirds of the firm’s sales come from places more than 50 miles away from their nearest Pharmaca COMBased on these statistics, the company believes that the North-East, the South-East, and the Washington DC area could all be potential areas for growth, as well as filling in the Chicago market.

“Over time, we have found that in places like LA or the Bay Area or Seattle, where we have got multiple stores, it is easier to handle business and any issues that result. Consequently, the ideal situation over the next 12 months would be to find an area or two with the right demographics for us to grow into and then try and get five or six pharmacies in that metropolitan area,” Richard reveals.

“We strongly believe that in five years’ time we are going to need to be a chain of 50 or 75 stores in order to be able to compete. As more and more independent pharmacies struggle with DIR fees, we can step in and fill voids in local communities as we build towards being a size that can not only survive, but thrive.”


Naturally delicious

Praised by Good Housekeeping magazine, America’s Home Test Kitchen and NBC New York, Wholly Wholesome’s range of organic, vegan and allergen-free baked goods is proof that food can be both natural and delicious

Doon Wintz joined his family’s New Jersey-based baked goods business in 1987. Though the company focused primarily on conventional baked products for supermarkets in the Northeastern United States, the firm introduced the concept of natural foods to the supermarket industry in the late 1970s at the behest of Doon’s father, Bob. As far as Bob was concerned, most natural bakery products on the market tasted ‘no better than the cardboard packaging they were sold in’. It was a sentiment echoed by Doon, and in 1996, they took action, establishing The Run-A-Ton Group and its flagship brand, Wholly Wholesome, which aims to combine the ingredient standards of natural food devotees with the taste standards of foodies everywhere.

“Wholly Wholesome was born from the idea that people should not have to sacrifice taste when they purchase something with natural or organic ingredients,” Doon states. “Okay, you don’t want to put artificial stuff in your mouth, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have any taste buds or taste desires!

“We started by thinking about how we could bring natural foods and baked goods together,” he continues. “Many of the ingredients in conventional baked goods were not in there because they made it easier and cheaper for manufacture, but did nothing to improve the product for the consumer. We went in and cleaned up the recipes, made them natural, and made them so you could produce them efficiently, consistently, and in volume at an industrial bakery. That is how Wholly Wholesome began. It was around the same time as Whole Foods and Wild Oats were coming into existence, so the demand was certainly there, we just had to deliver.”

What started with cookies and pie shells has, over the course of 25 years in business, grown into a huge assortment of desserts and frozen all-natural baked goods at Wholly Wholesome. As part of its mission to craft products that everyone can enjoy, in 2014 The Run-A-Ton Group launched the Wholly Gluten Free brand, offering a natural gluten free baked goods line, headlined by their hugely popular Gluten Free/Allergy Friendly Pie Shells and Pizza Dough Balls.

“The Wholly Gluten Free arm of our business came about when two of our associates, who happen to have Celiac disease, asked if we could make them a gluten free product,” Doon recalls. “As a lot of food allergies seem to go hand in hand, we decided to take things one step further and focus on creating some products that were not only gluten free, but highly allergy friendly.

“After setting up a segregated allergy friendly room with a positive airflow and no chance of cross-contamination from the rest of the bakery, we were able to produce our first gluten free pie shell. Soon, we had requests for pizza dough, and so we began producing a Gluten Free Pizza Dough Ball that has gone on to be a really strong item for us. Later, we added pizza crust that hit a sales benchmark in 12 months that usually takes products 36 months to achieve.

“The rapid growth meant that we had to open up a new facility in 2015 because we had run out of capacity. A year and half later, we had to double the size of that factory, and after another year and a half, we moved into a 35,000-square foot site that we call home today.

“Due to its popularity,” Doon adds, “we decided that this new product range needed a different name so that people could understand that it was a dedicated brand. We went with Wholly Gluten Free because so much of the consumer base is gluten free, but these products are actually about way more than just being gluten free. They are free of the top nine most common food allergens, as well as vegan.”

Both Wholly Wholesome and Wholly Gluten Free are members of the Run-A-Ton Group, a family of brands that produces great-tasting, ingredient-conscious foods. Other brands in the group include Unique Belgique and its range of pearl sugar Belgian waffles, MetaBall Energy Bites and its line of plant-based protein snacks, and Blissfully Better, with its organic dark chocolate creations sweetened only with organic coconut nectar.

Natural indulgences
Doon, who as CEO of Run-A-Ton works across all brands, suggests that Blissfully Better, Wholly Wholesome and Wholly Gluten Free share many similarities in that the brands continue to find delicious, natural alternatives to the norm. “Sugar has become a pariah of sorts because some people are concerned about what it does to your weight or are concerned that it is a toxin, so at Blissfully Better we use organic coconut nectar to sweeten chocolate instead of traditional refined sugar,” he explains. “Whilst coconut nectar is a sugar, it is among the most healthful sugars out there because it’s low glycemic, scoring only 39 on the glycemic index where 55 is deemed low, and has more vitamins and minerals than most other sweeteners. What that means is that it burns much more slowly in the body, so we get people who are diabetic looking at the product’s nutritional panel and saying, ‘Wow, I can have this.’

“We really try and stay away from things that are faddish or fakish, like sugar alcohol, which is a way to deliver sweetness without calories but is really still not what many would consider a wholesome food ingredient. We enjoy putting something out there that has five or six ingredients and tastes great,” Doon declares. “None of the stuff we do across our brands is the foundation of anybody’s trendy weight loss plan, but we are about wholesome, natural indulgences, and we believe that if you make something taste really good, with quality ingredients, it can be a great part of a balanced lifestyle.”

Delicious products
For Wholly Wholesome, the success has continued throughout 2020. Covid-19 has led to a rise in demand for frozen baked goods and pizza, two areas in which the company is heavily involved, and thus the pandemic has, in this rare case, acted as a catalyst for triple digit growth. Though the firm is climbing Nielsen/IRI data charts packed with mainstream groceries, Doon argues that Wholly Wholesome’s success can actually be measured in a different way altogether.

“More and more people are starting to say, ‘Hey, this is the best pie shell I’ve had, and it just happens to be organic’ or ‘it just happens to be natural’ or ‘it just happens to be kosher’. That is the real win for us, when people eat our products and say, on a primary level, this is good, and on a secondary level, it is also vegan or organic or gluten free,” Doon says. “Our goal was always to produce natural baked goods that taste as good, or better, than what is available conventionally. We are proof that it is possible to make delicious food without conventional sugar, hydrogenated fats, artificial flavors or preservatives, and all those things the industry has convinced us are necessary to make something taste great.”

Product development
In the years ahead, Wholly Wholesome is hoping for more strong and organic growth as it introduces new products that people can rely on and enjoy. As more consumers begin to covet natural food, and as more establishments understand the need to provide organic or allergen free alternatives, the company’s customer base continues to expand, and Doon expects Wholly Wholesome to expand with it.

“We want to make every part of the business better, from sustainability, to product offerings, to profitability for ourselves, our customers, and our suppliers,” Doon vows. “We truly believe that every single relationship is symbiotic in this business and if we can honor that, and take care of our customers and our people, then we will experience more success.

“The consumer base of people with allergen concerns is growing at a dramatic pace. We want to serve those customers, but even more importantly, we want to make sure that people who aren’t allergic, or don’t have food challenges, are happy to ride along with them. When a family member needs to shop for somebody with a dietary requirement, we want to make sure that they are happy eating that product too.”

In terms of product development going forward, Wholly Wholesome aims to focus on center of the plate offerings, as well as natural snack alternatives. Both ranges are highly suitable for retail settings, where the company currently positions most of its products, but Doon also has eyes for the food service market.

“We have some great food service customers and we believe that, in the long-term, food service needs to be a larger part of our business,” Doon reveals. “Lasting food trends tend to start in retail before eventually being adopted into food service. At present, universities and colleges are beginning to look at the ingredients in their food so that they can take care of the allergy friendly consumer with specific dietary needs. Fast food has also woken up to this demand and many of the market’s big players are starting to understand that consumers want cleaner label, natural alternatives. It’s going to be a long-term arc of change, especially on the fast food side, but slowly and surely the industry is coming around. It’s great news for all of us because big companies drag the whole supply chain along with them, which means natural organic products become more plentiful, and more plentiful means more affordable.”


Sac-isfaction guaranteed

Having grown by over 40 per cent in 2019, US furniture retailer Lovesac continued to innovate and expand in the face of a variety of challenges in 2020

Named as Furniture Today’s ‘fastest growing furniture brand’ in 2019, Lovesac saw no reason to slow down in 2020. Despite experiencing a number of challenges connected with the Covid-19 pandemic, the Stamford, Connecticut-based firm has continued to thrive.“While difficult, the Covid-19 pandemic has, in many respects, been an opportunity for us to learn and grow,” explains Lovesac’s Founder and CEO Shawn Nelson. “We have never had the impetus to close down all our retail showrooms, our pop-up shops in Costco, as well as two fledging shop-in-shop partnerships with Macy’s and Best Buy. Despite having to close all those stores at once and move 100 per cent online, we haven’t lost any topline revenue.”

As Shawn suggests, Lovesac has remained fully stocked and ready to ship its high-quality, technology driven furniture products direct to consumers throughout the pandemic, at a time when many furniture retailers are running short on inventory or experiencing long lead times. With ecommerce providing such smooth success, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that Lovesac might switch its focus to a more online-heavy retail mix in 2021, but Shawn assures Retail Merchandiser that this will not be the case.

“We have opened new retail locations throughout the pandemic and plan to do so for the foreseeable future,” he states. “It might seem unusual to do this at a time when our online sales have exploded – like many home category concepts, Lovesac has been doing very well lately – but as we looked at our showrooming over the past few months, we discovered that our conversion rate is much better in markets where we had a showroom active. While people might have modulated their behavior this year, our products are big ticket items and we believe that showrooming and providing retail touch-feel points are essential to helping people convert comfortably in the long-term.”

Retail partnerships
For Lovesac, retail touch-feel points (locations without inventory that Shawn describes as ‘showrooms for the internet’), traditional showrooms, pop-up shops and shop-in-shops will all have a role to play in the future of the business. Strategic partnerships with major retailers will continue to be a focus too and, in particular, Lovesac hopes to build on its new collaboration with Best Buy. Announced in early 2020, the Best Buy partnership recently yielded the launch of an online Lovesac shopping experience on

“Best Buy and its customer base is surprisingly similar to our own,” Shawn comments. “We know through our own research that the impetus to buy something like a sectional sofa most often occurs when someone is relocating, and a place like Best Buy is somewhere people tend to visit during the relocation process too, so there is a really great overlap.

“Lovesac is one of the few truly proprietary furniture concepts. We don’t distribute through typical wholesale relationships and we only have a small COMhandful of partners like Best Buy, which we prefer to integrate as much as we can and make them important to the business. If someone were to shop on and discover Lovesac, we want the experience to be as seamless as if the customer were to shop in a shop-in-shop Lovesac location, which would be staffed by our people and look and feel similar to our own showrooms. We believe that this is what Best Buy can offer online.”

No matter where Lovesac sells its furniture, demand for the company’s products continues to rise. A true case of ‘less is more’, Lovesac offers two key product platforms: premium recycled DurafoamTM beanbag chairs called Sacs and highly-customizable modular sofas called Sactionals. With numerous patents on the product concept, both in the US and internationally, Sactionals and Sactional accessories make up around 85 per cent of Lovesac’s overall business. Consisting of two components – a seat and a side – customers can arrange and rearrange Sactionals into any couch configuration they wish, while also being able to remove, wash and even change the seat fabric.

“As we continue to grow through Sactionals primarily, there is ongoing innovation on the platform as we look to make it more flexible than ever before,” Shawn declares. “It delights our existing customers to know that they are typically able to use any of our innovations on the pieces they already own, as our Sactional products are reverse compatible.”

New innovations
Among Lovesac’s latest creations is a storage seat with a space beneath the seat cushion to stow items. More recently, the company has introduced a power hub accessory that provides users with easy access to electricity from the comfort of their couch.

“It is a really cool invention,” Shawn says of the latter. “It hides inside the couch cavity that has existed for many years waiting for this innovation and it allows you to sneak one plug out to the wall that maybe you are already covering with your Sactional. With that in place, you can have power anywhere in your couch for a laptop, blender, or smaller USB device. It is invisible and really convenient.

“Both the storage and power hub innovations have driven first purchases, but also purchases from repeat customers. The beauty of our products is that you don’t need to toss out your old Sactionals and get the new ones - you can buy something like a storage seat and use it with the Sactional pieces you already have, re-cover it all to make it look new again, or simply replace that one piece.”

Committed to sustainability
Looking at the year ahead, in 2021 Lovesac hopes to open up to 20 new stores in North America, a figure that will include both standalone showrooms and shop-in-shop partnerships. Aware that new retail locations alone won’t be enough to continue the firm’s current growth rate, Lovesac also expects to launch a variety of innovative new products.

“Ultimately, we want to expand further than our current two categories, but we also hope to expand on Sacs and Sactionals,” Shawn remarks. “The Best Buy partnership we now have in place is a very strategic one and as evidenced by the power hub product, which is a pretty simple solution but a very elegant one, signals our entrance into technology. We believe that all of this together can drive high growth rates and that is our aim from a business metrics perspective.”

From a more purpose-led standpoint, Lovesac wishes to build upon its core design philosophy, known as ‘Designed for Life’. More than being manufactured from recycled materials and shipped are built to last a lifetime and designed to evolve so that they never go out of style or become obsolete. It is a core value that Shawn believes will only become more important across the decades to come.

“If you think about it, it is incredibly rare to find a product in any market that can last and grow with you, and change and modulate as your life changes,” Shawn notes. “To that end, we see our commitment to sustainability as greater than any furniture retailer or furniture brand in the marketplace. Customers are embracing the Designed for Life concept and we believe it will not only drive growth, but that the outcome is people will buy less furniture overall and we are really excited about that. As a company, we want to reduce waste and eventually we will build into other categories where we can inspire people to buy less and buy better. That is really what drives this business.”

The choice of change

Famous for its delicious, market-leading range of meat-free ingredients and dishes, Quorn Foods is committing to some bold sustainability goals for the decade ahead

As a leading meat alternative brand in the world, Quorn has always believed that the planet needs a more sustainable diet; one that is healthier for its people and kinder to the Earth.

In 2020, the company reaffirmed its commitment to this belief through the announcement that it would be introducing a new ‘Director of People & Planet’ role, created to accelerate Quorn’s status as a business of the future with an environmental mission at its core. Tongwen Zhao, a former Director for The Dairy Farm Group in Hong Kong, was chosen by the company to be the first person to tackle the role. Alongside a Master’s degree in Environment, Politics, and Society, Tongwen brings nearly 20 years of HR experience to the business.

“I am super excited to welcome Tongwen to the Quorn team as she brings such a wealth of global experience and passion for our sustainability purpose,” Quorn CEO Marco Bertacca declared at the time of Tongwen’s appointment. “The products we make at Quorn are all made with the clear purpose to provide healthy food for people and the planet, and our purpose must run through everything we do. We have created this new role to build an integrated culture, across our global operations and within our people, that will drive progress towards Quorn’s goals across the next decade and beyond.”

Understandably, Tongwen was delighted about the appointment and excited about her new company’s potential to bring about lasting change. “It is an honor to join Quorn Foods and become the first person to undertake this new role,” she remarked. “Living in Asia for much of my life, I have seen the damaging impacts of the climate crisis first-hand and, by encouraging more people to eat sustainable protein, we can help improve their lives.” “My HR experience has taught me that people are inspired by a shared purpose, and to achieve true, sustainable progress we must prioritize the engagement of our team. The Covid-19 pandemic poses serious challenges to the Quorn family, but the way our people are tackling the situation with bravery and dedication has shown me that I have arrived at a special company that is well set to make a difference to the future of our planet.”

At the same time as announcing the new role, Quorn set itself a number of targets against which it will measure its future progress in HR and sustainability. These included:

  • To become a net positive company by 2030
  • To achieve net zero emissions within its own operations by 2030
  • To achieve net zero emissions across its whole supply chain by 2050
  • To serve eight billion meals a year worldwide by 2030 – one for every person on the planet

Carbon footprint

The targets aim to help Quorn build on its history of sustainability achievements. Over a six-year period, the company has reduced its carbon emissions by 38 per cent and its water usage by 16 per cent. Additionally, all electricity used at the company’s Stokesley and Methwold factories is 100 per cent renewable and as much as 80 per cent of Quorn packaging is recyclable. In 2018 alone, Quorn products enabled savings of 200,000 tons of CO2e compared to meat equivalents, with the greenhouse gas impact of mycoprotein, the unique protein in all Quorn products, being 90 per cent lower than beef.

Always looking for ways to increase customer awareness surrounding the environmental impact of the foods they buy - and what the company is doing to help - Quorn recently introduced carbon footprint data on packaging for 60 per cent of its product offering. The ‘Farm to Shop’ data, certified by the Carbon Trust, marked the start of a trailblazing new campaign concentrating on how food choices can impact our climate. With a focus on how products such as Quorn Mince are a ‘step in the right direction’ when it comes to climate change, due to its low carbon footprint, the campaign arrived in a year when studies have suggested that more than 50 per cent of consumers have stated that they eat meat free for environmental reasons.

Peter Harrison, CCO of Quorn Foods, commented on the pioneering development as the company became the first meat free food manufacturer to introduce third party carbon footprint accreditation via the Carbon Trust. “For over 30 years, we have been proudly delivering Healthy Protein for a Healthy Planet. Quorn is proven to provide significant health and environmental benefits and today we’re delighted to offer carbon footprint data to our customers, whom we know are actively trying to find ways to reduce their impact on the planet.

“This is about giving people the information needed to make informed decisions about the food they eat and the effect it has on our planet’s climate – in the same way that nutrition information is clearly labelled to help inform decisions on health – and we’re asking other brands to get on board with us. Currently no RDAs exist for carbon emissions, but we hope that if other food brands follow suit, we will be able to make better comparisons in our shopping baskets.”

Following successful collaboration with Greggs on its sell-out vegan sausage rolls, and KFC on its popular vegan burger, Quorn turned its attentions to football in June, announcing a global partnership with Liverpool FC. The multi-year deal will see Quorn become the club’s Official Sustainable Protein Partner, helping Liverpool contribute to greater food sustainability as part of its Reds Go Green initiative.

During the last two seasons, the Reds Go Green program has had a significant effect on improving the club’s environmental impact, with positive steps made to eliminate the use of single-use plastics and reduce the club’s carbon footprint through sustainable waste management. Quorn will now work in collaboration with the club to provide new opportunities for supporters to choose from vegetarian and vegan foods on matchdays, while also working with the club’s nutrition team to extend the range of healthy protein choices available to its playing staff.

“Our partnership with Liverpool FC is very important to our Quorn vision, which is to provide food that is healthy for our families and the planet,” explained Quorn’s Marketing Director Gill Riley as the deal was confirmed. “We also want to understand the positive impact Quorn’s super-protein can have on elite sports performers, so working with LFC and its world-renowned nutritional experts will be fundamental in the next phase of our sports science research.”

Health benefits
Not only is Quorn leading the way on sustainability, but the brand continues to discover new health benefits offered by its products. Most recently, data published in the British Journal of Nutrition (BJN) has shown that Quorn protein can lower cholesterol levels in healthy adults. The data was drawn from a study at the University of Exeter, which found that mycoprotein, the protein-rich food source that is unique to Quorn products, lowers the post absorptive levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) - commonly known as ‘bad’ cholesterol - more than meat and fish.

Funded by Quorn, the week-long study was conducted with 20 healthy adults, each given a fully controlled diet containing twice daily meals with either meat and fish or mycoprotein as the main dietary protein. Participants’ glucose levels were monitored continuously, and blood plasma samples were taken before and after the diets, in order to track the effects of the different protein sources.

Diet choices
The results showed that there was no significant change in blood sugar levels when eating meat and fish or mycoprotein, suggesting that a diet based on mycoprotein does not increase the risk of diabetes compared to animal proteins. The beneficial effects of consuming mycoprotein came as a result of an increased fiber intake against the meals containing meat or fish. Providing 6g per 100g, mycoprotein provides more fibre than baked beans and brown bread. Previous research has found that the inclusion of fiber-rich foods in a healthy balanced diet can contribute to better health and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

The landmark study builds on the University of Exeter’s body of research into the wider health benefits of mycoprotein, after earlier this year finding that the ingredient stimulated post-exercise muscle building to a greater extent than milk protein. This expanding knowledge provides vital support for mycoprotein as a healthy and sustainable alternative protein and encouragement to people looking to incorporate Quorn products into their diets. As an ingredient high in protein, a complete source of amino acids, high in fiber, low in total and saturated fat, and containing no cholesterol, mycoprotein represents a meat free option that can improve the health of both people and our planet.

“We’re excited to see further scientific evidence of mycoprotein as a healthy alternative protein, and proud that this research has been published in the British Journal of Nutrition,” said Tim Finnigan - Chief Scientific Adviser for Quorn Foods - on hearing the news. “At a time when more people are considering their diet choices, for environmental or health reasons, Quorn is proud to offer a nutritious, meat-free protein that gives people the choice of change.”


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