Helping People Eat – Doug Rauch’s Noble Experiment

Doug Rauch

In this edition of PLMALive! Len Lewis takes a look at former Trader Joe’s president Doug Rauch new mission: helping poor people eat better.

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Helping People Eat

Two stories seem to appear and reappear in the national media–The massive amount of food wasted in the U.S. every year and the fact that in a land of plenty, 50 million people do not have consistent access to adequate food during the year due to a lack of money or other limitations.

One possible solution has been launched in Dorchester, a lower income neighborhood in Boston where Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s has launched The Daily Table –a non-profit supermarket selling produce, grocery and other items that are either past their prime, nearing their expiration date or cosmetically blemished in some way.  All the food is donated by a large network of growers, manufacturers, supermarkets, distributors and other suppliers, some of which also offer the store special buying opportunities.   It’s been estimated that nearly one-third of the nation’s annual food supply, or about 133 billion pounds, is wasted.   Rauch calls The Daily Table experiment “a healthcare initiative masquerading as a retail store.”

Daily TableItems include tuna for 50¢ a can; blackberries, 99¢; 79¢ boxes of cereal; an 8-ounce package of frozen vegetables for 29 or 39¢.   While half the store is devoted to produce grocery and bakery products, the other half is stocked with packaged meals prepared every day by the store’s kitchen staff, which also puts together freshly made sandwiches at a prep station that was funded by a growing list of donors.

The meals, developed by the store’s executive chef, are priced to compete with fast food outlets, which Rauch believes are major contributors to health issues among lower income consumers.   As such, a ready-to-eat meal of roasted chicken with rice and vegetables costs $1.49.  Salisbury steak and brown rice sells for $1.99 and a large tub of curry broccoli or carrot soup is $1.29.  This constantly changing menu of affordable, gourmet foods and other dishes reportedly accounted for half the store’s sales in the first month in business.

The initial idea for The Daily Table came under the fire from local activists who were concerned that it was simply a way to sell spoiled food in a poor neighborhood.   But Rauch and his team convinced them this was not the case and that items actually meet the guidelines set out by nutrition experts.   In fact, Rauch has said he might even consider carrying expired foods in the future, noting that expiration dates are unrelated to food safety and cause even more good food to be thrown out.   Meanwhile, results have been so encouraging that Rauch is looking for a second site in Boston and he’s not coy about his desire to expand The Daily Table to other cities.

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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.