Tactics: New Seasons Market claims victory for organic food

| Print |  Email
Friday, August 01, 2008

NEW SEASON, SAME FOCUS


NEW SEASONS MARKET
Newseasonsmarket.com
FOUNDED: 1999, Portland
STORES: nine, with two planned in 2009
EMPLOYEES: 1,800
TOP EXECUTIVES: Brian Rohter, CEO; Lisa Sedlar, president

WEB BONUS: READ FULL CONVERSATION WITH BRIAN ROHTER

BrianRohter New Seasons CEO Brian Rohter embraced sustainability before it was trendy.

PHOTO BY ADAM BACHER

THIRTY YEARS AGO, Brian Rohter and his colleagues in the organic food business were widely considered a fringe group.

“Now you can buy organic food everywhere,” says Rohter, CEO of privately held, Portland-based New Seasons Market. “Some people who have been in organics a long time complain about that, but the way I look at it, hey, we won. It’s a victory.”

Few business leaders are claiming victory in today’s economy, but Rohter has reason to be confident. New Seasons recently announced leases for two new stores to open in 2009, on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard in Portland and at Progress Ridge near Washington Square. That will build the chain to 11 stores with more than 2,000 employees.

New Seasons has pursued a consistent strategy from its debut in 2000 — in Rohter’s words, “create a progressive work environment, focus on customer service, buy local food and give it back to the community.”

If that sounds a tad idealistic, that’s because it is. Rohter and his partners stress a message of pragmatic idealism that sells well in Portland. With “absolutely no plans” to expand outside of Portland or go public, Rohter is free to follow his ideals because his customers tend to agree with them. That support enables him to do things like pull out of trade groups over philosophical differences regarding the minimum wage and country-of-origin labeling, and underwrite farmer’s markets even though they’re competitors. “Putting a face on the farmer is one of the most important contributions we can make,” he says. “Creating that interest and the awareness that there are people behind this food will help develop demand.”

New Seasons is not immune to rising fuel and food prices. But because the company chose to invest early in local farmers, it’s saving money on transport. Its pork comes from 100 rather than 2,000 miles away and its local produce and dairy products are competing better with out-of-state goods because the distribution systems of conventional agriculture are hard hit by diesel prices. This strengthens New Seasons’ position against much larger chains such as Kroger, Safeway and Whole Foods, which recently purchased Wild Oats.

Consumer confidence has taken a hit in recent months, but as Rohter points out, “people still have to eat. Instead of going out to dinner a few times a week they’re making nicer meals at home. We’re benefiting from that.” He’s taking that trend into account in planning the new stores, along with a surge in Internet orders for home delivery among shoppers eager to leave their cars in the driveway, and a general rise in demand for local food.

“We’ve been singing the buy local mantra from Day One, and some people thought that it was quaint or that it was a marketing position or that it was alarmist,” Rohter says.  “But what we’ve seen is this is a food security issue… There is a new awareness of the importance of our regional food system.”                                     

BEN JACKLET



Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

More Articles

Oregon businesses face destruction from future earthquake

The Latest
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
htctthumb1BY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR

An earthquake would completely destroy many Oregon businesses, highlighting the urgent need for the private and public sectors to collaborate on shoring up disaster preparedness, said panelists at an Oregon Business breakfast summit today.


Read more...

Up in the Air

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY ANNIE ELLISON

Portland tech veteran Ben Berry is leaving his post as Portland’s chief technology officer for a full-time role producing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) aimed at first responders and the military. Berry’s AirShip Technologies Group is poised to be on the ground floor of an industry that will supply drones to as many as 100,000 police, fire and emergency agencies nationwide. He reveals the plan for takeoff.


Read more...

6 highlights from the Craft Brewers Conference

The Latest
Friday, April 17, 2015
thumbcbcPHOTOS BY  JASON E. KAPLAN

The 32nd annual CBC attracted a record number of attendees (11,000)  to the Oregon Convention Center.


Read more...

The Green Paradox

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY EMILY LIEDEL

Inside the topsy-turvy world of corporate sustainability rankings.


Read more...

Fighting Fire With Fire

May 2015
Friday, April 24, 2015
BY BEN DEJARNETTE | INVESTIGATEWEST

Timber companies and environmental groups take a stab at collaboration to boost logging and restoration in Oregon fires.


Read more...

Nine lives

Linda Baker
Friday, May 22, 2015
0f4f7bfBY LINDA BAKER | EDITOR

Roy Kaufmann always lands on his feet.


Read more...

Downtime with John Helmick

June 2015
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Live, Work, Play: CEO of Gorilla Capital.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS