K Group is the 2nd biggest grocery retailer in the Finnish market. They’ve been celebrated for being the most sustainable trading sector company in the world by World Economic Forum and are the only Finnish company to have made it on the list every year since 2005.

Despite this achievement, K Group has struggled to communicate the responsibility they’ve taken around their business practices to consumers. In this conversation, we speak with Customer Insight Director Heidi Jungar to explore how Kesko has approached this challenge including what sustainability in retail means to them, how they are taking responsibility, and what grocery shopping will look like in the future.

  • 11:00 K Group’s sustainability and conservation programs
  • 14:25 Insights around what drives consumer buying decisions towards sustainability
  • 19:10 How K Group gives customers their data back
  • 21:10 K Group’s vision for the future grocery store
  • 36:00 Vision for future food system

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Check out more Nordic FoodTech Podcast interviews on how big corporations like Chr. Hansen, Arla, Maersk, Paulig, K Group and more are innovating and collaborating to create the future of food here.

Key Minutes and Show Notes

1:46 What is K Group?

2:58 What is your role?

3:22 What does sustainability in retail mean to you?

Sustainability means consistency.

5:30 How did your sustainability work begin in the 80s?

In Finnish, the word for sustainability is responsibility. For us, those two terms go hand in hand.

7:45 How has sustainability driven your competitiveness?

9:00 What have you learned about consumers and enabling them to make more sustainable choices?

To touch people’s hearts, we need to collaborate with them and exceed their expectations. Many times, the things that make the biggest different are adjustments to behind the scenes innovations that are not obvious to communicate.

11:00 What programs do you have focused on sustainability?

Recycling plastic bags and then paying back to farmers to support local agriculture.

12:12 How does the payback program work and how does it make business sense?

It’s very important for us to keep Finnish produce on the shelves. Currently, 80% comes from Finland. We need to maintain a local agricultural ecosystem to make sure we are not vulnerable as a nation.

13:25 What conservation efforts do you have?

We have a program focused on helping fish mate by cleaning out the river. This has helped to secure some endangered species. The program brings together customers and employees to participate.

14:25 From you research, what drives customers decisions?

30% of Finns said that would rather do no grocery shopping if it was possible. For many years, the Nordics have been talking about value for money and lowering food prices, but that factor is not what’s bringing people into the store.

16:45 How do you position sustainability to customers?

17:40 What role do retailers have in enabling sustainability?

19:10 What is the giving back data program?

We provide customers with insights on their buying behavior to make more sustainable choices. For example, we share the customer’s carbon footprint and how much Finnish produce they buy.

21:10 What does K Group envision as the store of the future?

1) Grocery divided into two parts 2) Make sustainable choices easier 3) Increase individual choice 4) Doing things by hand won’t disappear 5) Blurring lines between a store and a restaurant.

26:50 How does K Group exceed expectations beyond what the law sets?

We have 5 customer segments who all have a different set of expectations around what sustainability means. Our goal is to make sure that we resonate with all of them.

31:35 How are you working with startups, new food companies, and policymakers?

We’re looking for solutions around logistics and energy. I think there are lots of ways we can be working together including opening dialogue and working across silos. We would love for people to reach out to us as we are reaching out to others.

34:55 How have your actions influenced policy?

36:00 What will the food ecosystem look like in 10-15 years?

I’m hoping for a food ecosystem that people can trust and that we are moving towards an ecosystem without scandals around the safety of food. I hope together we’ll find a sustainable and safe way to feed a growing world population.

37:20 What’s the infrastructure we’re missing to get there?

We’re missing trust in the food supply chain. We need to find a common way of trusting each other.

40:50 How can someone get in touch?