Auntie Anne's is going green!
Your favorite pretzel is now helping save your planet.
Auntie Anne's is now taking steps into a greener direction. The company, founded in 1988, has made changes in their lighting, packaging and equipment to ensure a greener and more energy-efficient business for the local community.
Who is Auntie Anne?
Anne and Jonas Beiler started Auntie Anne's in 1988 when they bought a stand in a farmers market. They had no idea how much they would change the food industry in a few short years. They originally bought the stand so they could fund a free counseling service to local families and couples in their community. On a mishap, Anne and Jonas created the pretzel we know and love today. In fact, Auntie Anne's is the award holder for the 2009 and 2010 Franchise Satisfaction Award: Best in Food Category for the Franchise Business Review and #1 Pretzel in the Entrepreneur's Franchise 500 in 2011. They were ranked #48 overall! (Auntie Anne's Official Website)
Today Auntie Anne's has many stores in many places. As of now, there are Auntie Anne's in 44 states and over 23 countries all over the world. (This year, an Auntie Anne's was established in Poland!) They also have more opportunities for franchise owners to join the “Pretzel Perfect” team. They stay successful because they strive to offer more than just a pretzel. They offer excellent, friendly customer service, clean stores, a fresh product, a positive attitude and the fun behind the hand-rolled pretzel! And to think, they started as a stand in a farmers Market!
Auntie Anne's Environmental Position
Auntie Anne's Inc is committed to being good stewards of our planet. Our goal is to be conscientious global partners by conducting our business in a way that reduces negative impacts on our environment while remaining truthful about both what we are doing well and where we face our biggest challenges. Our interdisciplinary team examines our polices and practices so that we may constantly evolve and continue to keep up with the new technologies and developments that ensure we implement ourbusiness practices that are socially, strategically and, fiscally responsible.
When Auntie Anne's began their environmental movement, a lot of meetings were in order. The different parts of the company had to come together and talk about the route they were choosing to take. These people were the key people of Supply Chain, Construction, Operations, Training, Communications, Leasing, and Marketing.
When other sections learned of this meeting, many of them wanted to be apart of it. When they finally were able to hold this meeting, a lot of things were talked about. Things were shared between departments while other departments listened to each other in order to gain a better understanding. Some departments had already begun to contact more sustainable production systems and test greener processes. They had already begun to take a step in the right direction and were completely unaware of it!
They named a team “The Environmental Awareness Team” so that it would be easily understood and established within the corporation. As the team went on, it was realized that a standard and formal purpose was needed in order to really get this in gear. Other management was called in and meetings were held.
Around the time this was taking place, articles on green efforts were popping up everywhere. Businesses were sharing their tales of efforts and seeking green behavior out when handling their companies. Auntie Anne's wanted to get involved and they wanted to encourage involvement in other areas as well.
When starting this program, they wanted to get two things straight...
- Don't write things off. They didn't want to get stuck in the “We shouldn't do that. It's a bad idea” loop. They wanted everyone to be excited and to not have to worry about their ideas being stomped out.
- They wanted to make sure they had the means of measuring the changes and their progress. Some things were easy to manage: they only had to look at the numbers. Others they had to concentrate on the changes in the long run.
This being said, their greener footprint began.
Let's build something green!
Something that Auntie Anne's is looking to start to build smarter, cleaner stores. They look to do this by using and re-using construction material and recycling the equipment used around.
The material Auntie Anne's uses to build their stores is not always reused equipment. Some of the equipment they use has the capability of being recycled. This puts less waste in landfills and allows old equipment to be refurbished and reused. They also are reusing the existing machinery for plumbing and electrical infrastructure of the buildings.
Although Auntie Anne's reuse a lot of its equipment, they are also looking into purchasing newer, greener equipment as well. They have invested in ENERGY STAR appliances.
What is ENERGY STAR?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) started ENERGY STAR in 1992. The purpose at this time was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The first products to be marketed were computer and labeling process. In 1995, heating and cooling systems were introduced. In 1996, the U.S Department of Energy joined to help with particular products. Now, the purpose is to help everyone save money and protect the environment while using and influencing sustainable practices. The savings have begun to pile in. In 2010, Americans using ENERGY STAR products saved $18 billion dollars in their utility bills. They also prevented enough greenhouse gas emissions to power 33 million cars. Their business programs are also very helpful. Businesses who invest can have almost two times the savings and ENERGY STAR offers guidelines and management procedures in order to further ensure that.
And that is not all...
Recently, they have added instant hot water heaters to some of their stores. Hot water is needed in the recipe for making pretzels and for a while Auntie Anne's was using a coffee machine to brew it. (It was also easy for them to do because they used to sell coffee.)
These coffee machines required a lot of energy to heat up the water and needed to stay plugged in. Now, with the instant hot water heaters, it is used as needed and not at any other time. I work for the company and they installed one of these water heaters in my store. (Park City Food Court) That water is HOT!! Auntie Anne's is also in the process of testing low-flow faucets in the stores to reduce the usage (and loss) of unnecessary water!
Another new product they are placing in stores is an ice machine that produces smaller, nuggets of ice, instead of the large cubes you usually see. This uses less water and energy to create. It also cuts down on the refrigeration needed to maintain the ice. (Less energy!)
Let there be (Greener) Light!
Auntie Anne's has taken it upon themselves to use greener lighting both in their stores and their home office. They started using CFL lightning. This uses 75% less energy than standard incandescent lighting systems. In the beginning they used T12 fluorescent bulbs. These bulbs were not energy efficient. Today, Auntie Anne's offers CFL lights to their stores. They also have the option of installing LED light.
Why should I care about T12 lighting?
T12 bulbs were originally created to be more efficient, but their own making works against them. The bulbs can produce a certain amount of energy by themselves but when paired with the fixtures, energy is lost in the connection. This causes the bulbs to not shine as brightly as they potentially can because of the energy lost. They become duller. Currents in the bulbs cause sputtering of cathodes because of the currents operating in the bulb. According to the article “History and problems of T12 fluorescent lamps “The lamp requires a 60 degree F ambient temperature for proper starting which is at least 10 degrees warmer than the temperature required by the 40WF40 and the 32WT8 lamps.” A final issue is that any costs saved while using the bulb is taken away by the fact that often times, you need more than one lamp to see right.
What is CFL lighting?
CFL or Compact fluorescent lighting has been in the making for about 100 years. They were given different names likes “Circline” and “U-bent” light bulbs. The General Electric Company first created the up-to-date bulbs. They were not mass-produced right away because of such high production costs. It was not until 1980 that Philips released the first mass-produced compacted light bulb. Today, they have been revamped to be better quality, warmer and cheaper than it's predecessors.
In addition to greener lighting in stores, the corporate office has made some greener changes in their energy usage. The Corporate office uses T5 fluorescent lights and a computerized lighting system for its offices. The computer system turns on lights when people open doors to enter rooms using motion detection. The computer also detects the amount of light outside the windows and the amount of light entering the room to dim or brighten accordingly. This saves a ton of energy because lights are only being used when needed and they are only as bright as necessary. When switching to these lights, the payback was significant and the time frame to recuperate costs for installation was relatively quick.
Why is a T5 fluorescent light better?
Introduced in the 1990's, the T5 is currently the most efficient bulb used on the market. It uses a sleep/motion mode to generate more payback for customers using it. It uses less mercury with the same amount of efficiency, as it's predecessors. The T5 is smaller than a T8 or a T12 light but can produce just as much light. (The smaller the number, the higher the energy saving) It may produce a glare, but this is an easy fix. Using this light can save up to 65% on savings costs.
Green Temperature Control
Auntie Anne's also uses a greener HVAC heating/air control. It uses a computer to regulate the temperatures that have been programmed into the system. The office has saved about $2000 a month using this system to regulate temperatures on all four floors of the building.
Green, Eco Friendly Packaging
Auntie Anne's has many branded bags, sleeves and napkins available at their stores. Most of these products are recyclable products. (This does not include the poly-cups. The ink used to print them is biodegradable; the plastic used on the cups is not.) They also use clear plastic cups for many of their frozen drinks. These cups are able to be recycled.
Auntie Anne's has also switched the materials used in making their packaging to a more Eco-friendly option. For example, the bags used for customers with larger orders used to be plastic. They got rid of the plastic and switched to a better, more biodegradable option. These bags still work just as well. They have also switched over to napkins printed on 100% recycled material.
In addition to the recycled material, the have also put the Xpressnap method into effect. This reduces the amount of napkins used by each customer. It also reduced the amount of waste that is transferred into landfills and the amount of money used in buying napkins for each store. After utilizing the Xpressnap system, Auntie Anne's calculated a total of 22% less napkins. Another small step they have taken is changing the aluminum cans used to deliver the jalapenos use in pretzels to a plastic can that can be recycled. They also take up less room.
By using the Ecologo seals and the Green seal, Auntie Anne's has saved a ton of our resources. (The logo can be found on the packaging of the product.) By creating Recyclable packaging paper, using tons of recycled fiber, over half of which is post consumer, Auntie Anne's has saved 5.25 billion gallons of water, 285 million gallons of oil, and 12.75 million trees annually.
How are they Reducing their waste?
Auntie Anne's has taken many steps, in several directions, to try and leave a greener footprint in waste reduction.
Auntie Anne's and the Food Donation Connection
Auntie Anne's and the Food Donation Connection (FDC) started their involvement when a Food Science and technology employee with Auntie Anne's sat down next to a representative of FDC at a conference. They got to talk about the program and all of its benefits. Auntie Anne's thought about it and decided that it was something that they could really help with; so they jumped on board.
There were several reasons why Auntie Anne's wanted to join this program.
- This would result in less waste of the product.
- After 30 minutes, Auntie Anne's disposes of the pretzels that have been in the warmer for that long to maintain their freshness guarantee.
- This was a waste and angered some customers.
- This reduces the amount of food waste going into the landfills around the area.
They started by collaborating with the franchise partners, giving them trials to run. The Food Science and Technology department also worked to test the program. It worked great and they loved it. The slowly started to roll the program into more stores, to see how they would react.
“Before the Food Donation Connection program was adopted at Auntie Anne’s, there was no standardized process for donating surplus products. Franchisees that chose to donate pretzel products were not using consistent donation materials or processes, placing the entire franchise system at risk. Auntie Anne's quickly turned this around and collaborated with franchisees to adopt a process suitable for everyone. Auntie Anne’s tested the Food Donation Connection in eight test stores, and it was a fantastic hit. Soon it started to spread.” Shannon Zimmerman, Senior PR Specialist at Auntie Anne's said.
The program has spread to more stores. The Park City Center food court Auntie Anne's recently started this program and it has been a hit there. It was also pushed during National Food Bank week. (The week of October 16th) The goal was to get more franchisees to catch on and sign up. More news release pitching efforts are coming soon. (November 2011)
What is the Food Donation Connection?
In 1992, The Food Donation connection was started in order to find a way of dealing with thrown away food. Too much good food was being trashed when there were people who needed it. The program originally started in the USA and in Canada. It has grown so much that programs are potentially expanding into places like the UK and Australia.
They are also partnered with the National Restaurant Association to become more involved. The creator of the FDC is a former employee of the NRA. They help to contact businesses interested in donating food and shelters interested in receiving these donations.
What do they do?
The FDC manages services for businesses looking to help donate surplus food that is still capable of being consumed. Many high name restaurants are involved. These include Pizza Hut, Olive Garden and The Cheesecake Factory. (Those are not all the big name companies involved.) In addition to helping aid in hunger relief, participating businesses can mark this as a tax deduction, helping them stay afoot in this economy.
The FDC only coordinates with non-profit hunger relief organizations. They also do not have government funding and they will not apply for it. (These isn't much) Instead, they receive a small amount of money saved on the tax deductions and in exchange they organization the steps and processes for the participating companies.
Auntie Anne’s opened the optional program to its entire franchise system in March 2010 and has since donated more than 2.3 million menu items to the hunger relief cause. Currently, franchise partners across the country donate more than 200,000 pretzel products each month. (2071)
What is in store for the future?
Auntie Anne's has a long and prosperous future ahead of them. They are a very successful and beloved pretzel franchise and they hope to have many years to come. They also have an uplifting, greener future. For example, solar panels were placed on top of City Line, the distribution center for some of Auntie Anne's products, in June of 2011. The installation was completed to soon to tell the overall savings of the building but it is suspected that the savings will be a significant amount.
Another thing they have done is single stream recycling materials. There are blue bins located in the corporate office and the recycling materials are placed in separate bins to ensure they are brought to the right place.
Auntie Anne's is also currently testing biodegradable cleaning products in their stores. Currently, 70% of cleaning chemicals are biodegradable. By doing this, they are using chlorine-free processes and they are using systems that control usage of products. This reduces the waste placed in their landfills. By doing this, they can save 283,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year and it reduces miles of shipping by 1.6 million. Not that impressive? That fuel and those miles is enough to drive around the world 64 times.
While green processes are still newer to the system, Auntie Anne's continues to strive for more. Given their success today, it is of no doubt that they will surely succeed in the future. Not only will you be able to enjoy a fresh product and wonderful service, but you will also be participating in a business that cares about your community. Those are excellent pretzel perks.
Unmarked pictures: Courtesy of Megan Kelley
** Pictures Courtesy of Auntie Anne's CO