June 14, 2021

Enjoy Local Flavors Your Way with sweetgreen

By Abianne Falla
Enjoy Local Flavors Your Way with sweetgreen

sweetgreen opened in 2007 with a simple goal. Offer healthy, sustainable fast food. This goal became a revolution and an example of what the fast food industry could become.

Co-founded by Nicolas Jammet, Jonathan Neman, and Nathaniel Ru, sweetgreen offers a variety of simple, seasonal, nutritious, healthy food. Each day, fresh produce, dairy, and meat ship to the stores where they are then prepared in-house. Individual store offerings vary based on locally sourced produce. Throughout the seasons, their menu offerings shift to reflect the most in-season produce. As Jammet says, "the idea that food tastes different in different parts of the country at different points of the year, is kind of the promise." Though they have some universal favorites, such as avocados and kale, that they may source out of state. These items are popular enough to source year-round from areas where they grow prolifically.

Photo Credit: Brooke Schwab

From their beginnings forging friendships at farmer's markets, sweetgreen has supported small farms. Many small farms can't always work with large commercial demands. Various obstacles inhibit their participation. The organic certification process is time-consuming and costly, inhibiting many who would otherwise meet its requirements. And some farms need runway to build up to the high volume demands of a commercial business. sweetgreen collaborates with its local sources to develop a win, win situation. They work with about 500 farms nationally to provide each restaurant with a unique menu.

Beyond seeking local sources, they incorporate local inspiration into their very stores. They find locations with interesting history, preserve the building's structure, and feature local artists. On the walls, chalkboards feature the local sourcing for the particular restaurant. All their kitchens are open as well, to improve transparency as they prep the daily food.

They're also invested in improving their sustainability efforts. Currently, all their consumer-facing products (bowls, cups, forks, straws, etc) are certified compostable. And they recently committed to being carbon neutral by 2027. This involves halving their current carbon emissions then utilizing resources to offset the rest. Jammet explains, “We know that real change doesn’t happen overnight - it’s all the steps in between, the little moments that can lead to a big impact. That’s why we’re making this commitment.”

Their online ordering app has also garnered significant attention, especially in the last year. They won the 2020 Webby Award for Food and Drink app. Not only does the app allow for customization of orders, it features chef recommendations. sweetgreen has collaborated several times with celebrity chefs. These chefs would craft salads and bowls featuring unique menu items. In 2020, sweetgreen introduced a new ordering feature, "Collections", rolled out in 2020 which offers suggestions based on dietary preferences and restrictions. As part of the introduction of "Collections", sweetgreen collaborated with chefs to craft salads off regular menu items. Chefs including Michael Solomonov, Kwame Onwuachi, and Nancy Silverton crafted their salads using regular sweetgreen ingredients.

As sweetgreen expands, they seek to inspire greater change in the food industry. They hope to encourage change in larger companies, such as McDonald that have more power to change the way that people eat than we do" as Jammet explains. By increasing interest in healthy eating options, they aim to lower their prices while still fairly compensating employees and sources. Even as they have shifted the industry, they recognize they still further to go.

And their impact work goes beyond the restaurant. During COVID, they launched Impact Outpost that offered healthy, free sweetgreen meals to hospital and frontline workers. They've also created and support sweetgreen In Schools. This partnership with FoodCorps aims to reimagine school cafeterias and introduce healthy eating habits for kids. Also, on each store's opening day, 100% of the proceeds go to support local organizations. One area they're looking to continue growing is providing food in lower income neighborhoods and food deserts. These are areas where fresh food and produce isn't readily available for miles. sweetgreen's fresh offerings can help alleviate this in communities. For sweetgreen, "impact is not an arm of our business, it is our business".

And now, in sweetgreen across the country, you'll find a new community favorite. Yaupon is entering sweetgreen's roster of delicious, locally sourced delicacies. The next time you get your favorite sweetgreen salad, grab a refreshing glass of yaupon too!