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Stew Leonard's has offered reusable canvas bags to customers since last year, but its new crop of bags, introduced this week, reflects consumer preferences in materials and design.
To find our what those preferences were, c.e.o. Stew Leonard Jr.'s youngest daughter, 13-year-old Madison Leonard, surveyed over 600 shoppers about what they wanted in a reusable shopping bag, including what materials and designs appealed to them.
"Overall, customers told us they wanted a fun design," noted Madison. "Their favorite was actually the cow-print bag, which is ironic, because it was the one design my grandfather originally told me to take out of the survey. Good thing we listen to our customers. Another winner was the 'Eat Right, Eat Healthy' design because it was a favorite among both kids, who liked the design, and parents, who liked the nutritional message."
The three designs eventually settled on were a black-and-white cow motif; an illustration from Stew Leonard's nutrition storybook for kids, "The Healthy Way," on a white background with lime-green trim; and a golden-yellow bag imprinted with a subtle Stew Leonard's script logo background pattern, with a prominent "kid and cow" logo in the center.
The grocer worked with Commerce, Calif.-based Earthwise Bag Co. to develop the bags, Stew Leonard's spokeswoman Meghan Flynn told Progressive Grocer.
Selling for $1.29 each both at Stew Leonard's stores and online, the bags are made from over 50 percent recyclable materials. The inside core is a material made from recycled plastic bottles, while the outside film is a water-repellent polypropylene material can be easily wiped clean. The bags are the size of a standard paper bag, but are more durable than plastic or paper, since they can hold as much as 40 pounds and be reused numerous times.
Additionally, customers who spend $200 get a free bag with their purchase. As a further incentive, shoppers who use reusable bags instead of plastic or paper are entered into a monthly drawing to win a $50 Stew Leonard's gift card.
The Norwalk, Conn.-based grocer has also rolled out a promotion that publicizes its new reusable bags while building on its "Bags Around the World" wall concept, a longtime customer favorite. Previously, customers received a $3 gift card for sending in creative photos of themselves holding a signature Stew Leonard's bag. Now customers who send in a photo of themselves holding one of the reusable bags will receive a $5 gift certificate.
Since the introduction of reusable bags in 2007, the stores' overall plastic bag use has gone down 15 percent. So far, over 80,000 reusable bags have been sold, with a sales increase of 300 percent over last year.
Between all four Stew Leonard's stores, the company uses 18 million plastic bags a year. Since January, the company has recycled nearly 50,000 pounds of plastic, which translates to about 2.6 million plastic bags.
"We hope that by providing functional reusable bags in a choice of fun, colorful designs, customers will be more likely to use them in place of plastic and remember to bring them in every time they shop," said Stew Leonard Jr. "We can all make a difference by reducing our use of plastic, one bag at a time."
Stew Leonard's operates locations in Norwalk, Danbury, and Newington, Conn., and Yonkers, N.Y.