February 2017

The Spotlight is on:

Red Hy-Vee

Hy-Vee: Company Profile

  • Hy-Vee, Inc. is an employee-owned corporation operating more than 240 retail stores across eight Midwestern states with sales of $9.8 billion annually.
  • The supermarket chain is synonymous with quality, variety, convenience, healthy lifestyles, culinary expertise and superior customer service.
  • Ranks in the Top 10 Most Trusted Brands and has been named one of America’s Top 5 favorite grocery stores.
  • The company’s 84,000 employees provide “A Helpful Smile in Every Aisle” to customers every day.

A Q&A with Hy-Vee Senior Vice President, Non-Foods, Pat Hensley:

Q: How long has Hy-Vee been active in the food waste reduction effort? 

A: While our stores have constantly worked to reduce their food waste through inventory, shelf management and food donations, our food waste diversion program officially began in May 2015, when we partnered with local food recycling companies to divert waste from landfills.

Q: What strides have you made since you embarked on this journey? 

A: When we began our program nearly two years ago, 20 of our stores located in the Des Moines, Iowa, area diverted more than 1 million pounds of food and organic waste in the first four months of operation. We now have 223 stores participating in the program. Together, those stores diverted 17.8 million pounds of food waste from landfills in FY 2016.

We also made significant progress in 2016 when many of our stores were able to complete the recycling loop by offering the compost made from their organic waste as a garden center product for customers to purchase. For our efforts, we were recognized by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad with the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award. Hy-Vee is now being highlighted as a model for the entire state for our leadership in protecting Iowa’s environment.

Q: Are there any new initiatives underway? 

A: Waste reduction is a key component of Hy-Vee’s overall sustainability efforts and while we’re proud of the strides we have made over the last two years, we also know there’s more work to do. Besides maintaining and growing our food waste recycling efforts, our zero waste initiative is a new endeavor that we implemented at Hy-Vee’s subsidiary company, Perishable Distributors of Iowa (PDI). This initiative resulted in 13.8 million pounds diverted from landfills in 2016. At their facility in Ankeny, Iowa, PDI implemented the composting of paper towels from restrooms, lawn trimmings, soiled cardboard and food scraps from break areas. They increased recycling collections of small batteries and in their offices through desk recycling inserts.

We’re proud to report that PDI has successfully reached platinum level certification from the Zero Waste Business Council as a Zero Waste Facility. With that recognition, PDI has become the first entity in the state of Iowa to receive the platinum level, which is the highest designation a company can receive.

Q: What is Hy-Vee most proud of when it comes to your sustainability and food waste reduction program(s)? 

A: The commitment and dedication of Hy-Vee employees to do what they can to help the environment is something we’re very proud of. The success of our food waste recycling program is based on the work our employees do to carry out this task each and every day.

Q: How do you engage employees? 

A: At each of our 223 stores that participate in our food waste recycling program, employees are trained on how to properly sort the waste throughout their work day so it can be collected on a regular pick-up schedule set by our recycling partners. At every level, Hy-Vee employees are constantly working to make our food waste diversion efforts successful.

Q: What is your biggest takeaway or lesson learned since your engagement in this space?

A: According to the National Resource Defense Council, if food waste were reduced by a mere 15 percent, it would be enough to feed nearly half of those who are food insecure in the United States. We understand that supermarkets are often the front lines of food waste, and we have a responsibility in reducing the amount of waste in our nations’ landfills. At Hy-Vee, we believe it’s important to lead the way when it comes to being mindful of conservation and waste prevention and it’s up to us to help show customers how they can also be a partner in our efforts.