Food’s Misfits Find a Home at Salvage Grocers
By Tom Ryan
Much like the
Island of Misfit Toys in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,
the food industry also has its place for misfits. With several hundred
across the country, salvage stores have become the end destination for
many of the dented tomato cans, crushed cereal boxes, and bottles of salad
dressing past their “best before” dates.
The stock at
salvage stores are usually items returned by traditional supermarkets to
their warehouses. Many have been either dropped or somehow punctured in
transit. Some are past their sell-by dates although the dates indicate
when something tastes best rather than when it’s safe to eat. In some cases,
manufacturers overestimated demand (such
as with a cereal box promotion tied to a movie launch).
promised savings of between 30 percent and 70 percent. According to an
article in the Denver Post, consumers
who frequent salvage stores do the bulk of their food shopping at traditional
grocers, which offer greater selections, especially in dairy and produce.
But one appeal of a salvage grocer trip is that it offers a “treasure hunt” because
many items are there for a limited time.
not optimal, the food is edible. Just like traditional grocers, inspectors
check that facilities and products are clean and that cans are not severely
damaged, Patti Klocker, assistant director for the Consumer Protection
Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, told The Associated
assortments, the downside of salvage stores for consumers is that many
are open only a few days a week (typically Friday and Saturday), many are
located in remote areas, and many feature a bare-bone, warehouse-like look.
According to The Associated
Press, prices at salvage stores have also been
creeping up over the last year due to greater demand for close-out product.
In fact, some staples, such as cereal and salad dressing at a Friday Store
in Denver, were less expensive at a nearby Wal-Mart.
But the savings
on many items are apparently sizable enough that consumers in this economy
are going to salvage stores to buy in bulk.
“In this economy,
we need to learn to save the food we buy,” Malena Perdomo, a Denver registered
dietitian, told The Denver Post. “If
people are really short with money and go to these places, I’d suggest
that as soon as they get home, they portion out the big quantities into
plastic bags, and freeze everything but a week’s supply.”
Question: Are salvage grocers a viable way for grocers to liquidate out-of-date,
damaged or otherwise tainted-yet-edible food? Are salvage grocers an
aid or a possible threat to traditional grocers? Is there a growth opportunity
in salvage grocers?
- At end of
food chain, salvage grocers thrive – The Associated
Press/The New York Times
- Salvage grocers
offer shoppers deep discounts – The Denver
Discount & Salvage Grocery Store Directory – Anderson