Organic food entrepreneur discusses MOM’s Organic Market’s unique culture, food waste and how the pandemic changed the retail workforce
Scott Nash, CEO and Founder of MOM’s Organic Market was interviewed by SEE Executive Director about his business, environmental waste, and cleaning up now to pay it forward for the climate.
“Organics are the way to go for us because every time somebody buys organic, it’s preventing so many toxic chemicals from entering our ecosystems and our waterways. We saw this product that is inherently good for the environment, and we felt like we could double down, quadruple down on that, and really make a company with purpose in all aspects of protecting and restoring the environment.”
While Scott recognizes that organic food carries a higher price tag, he considers it a bargain when you think about the value, particularly when it comes to better health and environmental impact.
“The price that might be cheap at the checkout counter has a price that’s paid down the line, whether that’s environmental damage or poor health and medical costs, which we all pay later. The chemically farmed foods and all those unhealthy fats and sugars, they carry a huge price tag.”
Nash’s thoughts on reduced animal meat consumption and meeting people where they are on their food journey.
“… the move towards plants is obviously better for everybody – the environment and our health.”
“I feel like people are moving off of red meat, but I don’t have any data. The way I say it to people is we’re all on a journey, and it’s progress not perfection. The red meat we sell is better than the factory-farmed, chemical, hormones antibiotics beef that you would get somewhere else. People are not going from eating Doritos and Coke to kombucha and kale overnight. This is a process and a journey that takes time. Healthy people are moving more towards chicken and fish, which is not as bad for the environment, and then eventually vegetables and fruits and grains.”
Nash, a self-proclaimed hater of wastefulness, on how MOM’s avoids wasting customers’ time and reducing single-use bags:
“Of course environmental waste is horrible. We’re trying to avoid all kinds of waste, including wasting money. We have a pretty powerful brand promise. One of the things we do to avoid wasting time is let people in before we open and after we close. We hate when people come up one minute after we close and turn them away. It’s such a waste of time and gas.”
Plastics: “We hate plastic, so we use paper bags. But even that is single use. We started charging money for bags to get people to stop mindlessly wasting them. We sell our reusable compostable bags below cost to help reduce single-use bags.”
Scott insists that if we want to reduce food waste, we must overhaul our confusing food dating system.
“I’m a huge advocate for intelligent, science-based realistic food dating. The food dating system with best by, expires on, freeze by dates – it’s confusing.”
Scott shared that half of his staff walked off in a week during the pandemic and acknowledged the challenges of operating in a labor market that has been unlike any he has seen.
“I’ve always lobbied to raise the federal minimum wage… and the pandemic has really driven that home. The frontline workers — this has been the toughest three years of my career since this pandemic, and it’s still tough with supply chain issues and safety. Not only are we essential, but you have nurses, farmers, transportation workers, you have grocery workers – we are the ones who have been under great stress, and our jobs have gotten harder. My store workers, they just deserve so much credit for doing the work that they do.”
On MOM’s distinct culture and the “toxic positivity” of staff:
“Our staff is amazing and our culture is very special. I join our new hiring orientation groups and I tell them “You’re going to love your coworkers” and they do, by and large. Our employees and our customers are some of the best in retail.”
Scott continued, “I first heard the term toxic positivity two or three years ago in the context of the pandemic and love that phrase. I feel there’s a big element of denial – not realizing we’re in our comfort bubbles without really looking at the challenges that we face. I love that it has been labeled as such because we at MOM’s are very aware of the urgency. We don’t sugarcoat what’s happening to the planet. We put so much of our efforts into it… focusing on the things that are the hugest threats to humanity and the quality of life on this planet. We focus on climate change and plastics pollution — these are the two things that we put almost all of our energies into.”