This week, Kroger, the largest U.S. grocery-store chain, announced that it plans to purchase Harris Teeter for $2.5 Billion. While the deal is not set in stone, it appears likely that it will go through. However, the question for us eco-conscious seafood shoppers is “how will our oceans be impacted by this deal?”
After all, in our last “Carting Away the Oceans” report that ranks grocery stores on their seafood sustainability, Harris Teeter and Kroger are worlds apart. Harris Teeter came in 5th place out of twenty retailers, and Kroger clocked in at a dismal 18th place. Why the huge disparity?
While Harris Teeter has fallen short of a “good” ranking, it has certainly been on a positive trajectory. It trumped all retailers in the area of transparency and openness to customers on exactly what it sells, and features an unprecedented level of information to consumers on its online seafood information database. In 2012 it publicly called for the protection of the ecologically-rich Ross Sea in Antarctica, also known as “The Last Ocean.”
Kroger’s “belly-up” performance in this year’s rankings mirrors the impact that it has on sea creatures worldwide. For the second year in a row, the retailer sold the most red list (unsustainable) species out of any other retailer evaluated. It fares poorly in its level of transparency (particularly in relation to Harris Teeter), and has a downright regressive seafood policy when it comes to its canned tuna offering.
Nonetheless, there is room for optimism and an excellent opportunity for Kroger to grow. Kroger is aware of this discrepancy in the seafood arena. Acquiring Harris Teeter’s talent, supply chain, and level of customer transparency means that it can use these strengths to its advantage, and begin to scale up Harris Teeter’s commitment to Kroger stores nationwide. Kroger could even double-down on Harris Teeter’s legacy by combining these strengths with both a public call to protect the Ross Sea and a discontinuation of the sale of critical keystone species, like orange roughy.
Imagine a wholesale, rapid change towards protection of our oceans from the nation’s largest grocery-store chain. Now that scenario would be something that both seafood shoppers and our finned friends could applaud!