Dream On, Green World

Welcome to "nouveau monde", sort of a "nouveau genre" newsletter to better understand how to make the world better through the lens of retail. This is already #20!

Let’s talk in nouveau monde this week about how a GenZ brand tries to transform itself in a sustainable way and how supermarket chains are doing in the US regarding their sustainability.

Things move fast in retail and sustainability, we’re really happy to help you get the right tips and be inspired!

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Today's newsletter is 1048 words, a 4-minute read.

Short story of what is it to be sustainable for a GenZ brand

by Phil

Aeropostale is courting Generation Z with new back-to-school denim styles and marketing messages stressing the brand's focus on sustainability, diversity and inclusion. Sales of active and loungewear were on the rise even before the pandemic, and they've continued to gain exposure via channels like TikTok.

Founded in 1987, Aero (the other cool name of the company) “ is an American shopping mall–based retailer of casual apparel and accessories, principally targeting young adults through its Aéropostale stores, that maintains control over its proprietary brands by designing, sourcing, marketing, and selling all of its own merchandise, operating Aéropostale stores in the United States and through its e-commerce site.”.

The company was acquired by Authentic Brands Group, Simon Property Group and General Growth Properties in 2016 after its bankruptcy (following a few legal issues). Selling clothing to young adults means you should fit with their style, right? “Understand how to evolve and become relevant again to the GenZ consumer” was the mission.

Time for a new “top notch” team to stop by. “No core business and also no bottoms business. We also weren’t appealing to the Gen Z customer any longer. Our customer had gotten quite young and there was a negative approach to the brand.”

Aero Oneness was a first answer in 2019, consisting in a platform centered around unity, inclusiveness and the celebration of differences — issues that spoke directly to the target customer. By handing creative control to real people in its Oneness initiative, the brand is leaning on authenticity and social media creators to boost its appeal to younger consumers. This reflects the interests of Gen Z, who are more likely to want to become influencers and trust social media stars over celebrities as brand representatives. Watch the report from Morning Consult in full here.

They the denim, “the go-to bottom for the GenZ consumer” would be chosen as a focus “to make it a signature category for the Aéropostale brand”, showcasing the company’s sustainability initiative, called Aero Impact

Aéropostale is said now working with 75 creators and more than 300 influencers, but these are real people who connect more with the GenZ customer than celebrities.

Their collection of denim is sustainably manufactured with REPREVE® recycled polyester yarns made from plastic bottles, meaning that in order to create innovative REPREVE® fibers, plastic bottles and other post-industrial waste are reformulated into recycled materials reducing waste in landfills and conserving water and energy in the process.

Adjusting marketing and production are quite crucial to maintain a brand on a top position in the heart of its young customers. If not, why to invest so much in the Tiktok or all the Insta of the world?! Aéropostale invested as well in its ability to increase its speed to market, and the company can now design and produce hot products within 16 and 20 weeks.

Aéropostale was a $1 billion business when acquired in 2016. “The business has grown nicely since 2016 both domestically and internationally”, officials politely say.

And the winner is…!

by Anthony

Have you ever been in a US supermarket like Whole Foods or Trader Joe's?

I've visited a lot in the last few years (a little less in 2020 and 2021...) and two things stuck me:

  • product highlighting, the shelves and stands are always gorgeous

  • plastic is everywhere, especially in the fruits and vegetables stand

Those 2 supermarket chains are renowned for the quality and freshness of their products and in my mind, despite the plastic thing, I had a pretty good feeling about their sustainable commitments.

So, when I saw this ranking made by brightly.eco of US supermarket chains for their sustainability.

And the answers really surprised me :-)

Which chain would you rank first ? Aldi or Trader Joe's?

Here is the list of the chains tested:

  • Walmart

  • Kroger

  • Costco

  • Target

  • Aldi

  • Whole Foods

  • Trader Joe’s

We'll see the results in a few minutes, but first let's have a look to the criteria, as I think they are relevant to what a supermarket can do to tackle pollution and climate change and be less dependent to fossil fuels.

  • Plastic bags and packaging materials

  • In-store recycling

  • Commitments to reduce waste

  • Sustainable product lines

  • Sustainable energy

In fact, the most important point according to me is the energy : supermarkets are really energy consuming, especially for their refrigerants and these refrigerants have a potential huge impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

So, I wouldn't have put these 5 criteria at the same level to get a score out of 50 points, but anyway the result is interesting.

And the winner is... Aldi! And out of these 7 supermarkets, the worst is Trader Joe's. Exactly the opposite of what my instinct would have said!

Indeed, it seems that in the US, Aldi is really doing a great job around a lot of topics, including ones that enable the stores to make substantial savings : energy, and the use of plastics for instance.

They have a pretty good score on every aspect of the study:

First tier brands like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's have opposite results.

For instance, Trader Joe’s results are really bad on most case, except for the sustainable product line:

They seem to use and abuse of plastic as, the LA Times noted in 2019:

Which means that it doesn't matter what you sell or for what type of customers but how you operate!

Every brand can do it :-)

Quick hits

Once upon a time… well some time ago, Mountain View based Zume Pizza was your best friend to provide you the best pizza at the best price. The company invested in automation to get the product industrialized and delivered at scale. Actually, get a bunch of millions of dollars to do so. A bing bunch. Then, like quite often in Silicon Valley, things are not happening the way they were planned. But when VCs put the quality of the team on the top of their investment criteria, miracles are happening. Now, Zume is tackling the plastic waste problem.

Take 13 minutes and 20 seconds of your time, and watch this video. And let us know what you think.

Bonus track by Anthony

yes, this one is a little bit far-fetched but Aeropostale made me think about this fantastic song, so why not !