If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It
Editors' Note: In mid-December 2012 Vegetarians in Paradise received a response from Costco to our second letter appealing for healthier items in the Food Courts of their stores. Reproduced below is the response to our letter. Although we wrote to the President/CEO both times, the answers came from two different VPs of the company's Food Service.
Costco doesn't need to change its Food Court menu because it works just fine. If it ain't broke, why should they fix it. As VP Alan Bubitz writes, "We sell over 300 million items a year in the U.S., so we feel our members are enjoying our offerings."
Like so many other food sellers in the U.S., Costco mouths the same phrases of other junk food purveyors. Costco says it's the customers' responsibility to make wise food choices and will continue to offer patrons the cheap junk they love to eat. The company will continue to provide unlimited soda refills. Patrons will just have to show restraint. If they don't, it's not our problem; it's theirs.
To make everyone think the company is socially responsible, its representatives cite half-hearted attempts to offer healthier options, but those options have not been embraced by customers. "We have tested fresh cut fruit cups and Baked Potatoes as well as chili topped Baked Potatoes," Bubitz tells us.
But Mr. Bubitz doesn't realize those items don't have the appeal that would compare to flavorful, cholesterol-free veggie dogs, black bean burgers, vegan chicken-steak sandwiches, bean burritos, and veggie wraps among the many meat-free items offered at many baseball parks around the U.S.
"With as limited a menu as we have, we realize we can't make everyone happy," Bubitz writes. Saying that, Bubitz feels we are in a finge minority complaining about their menu. If the company feels there is a sizable number of people who are unhappy with the menu, there will be rapid efforts to make changes. Public demand brought changes to menus at ballparks and could do the same at Costco.
TELL COSTCO WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO EAT AT THEIR FOOD COURT!
December 5, 2012 -- Vegparadise News Bureau
VIP Tries Again
Editors' Note: On October 1, Vegetarians in Paradise sent a letter to the President/CEO of Costco to ask if they would consider adding healthier options to their Food Court menu. Because the courteous form response to our initial letter left us with an empty, unsatisfied feeling that Costco was not interested in making any changes in its food offerings, we decided to make another appeal to the CEO of the company. Our letter appears below:
December 5, 2012
Mr. W. Craig Jelinek, President and CEO
Dear Mr. Jelinek:
Thank you so much for directing Tom Fox of your Bakery-Food Service to respond to our concerns related to items served in your Food Courts.
We know Costco is a socially responsible business. Your company is widely praised for its treatment of employees, suppliers, and customers. Your employees are paid better and have health care and other benefits that far exceed those of your competitors.
Like many of your customers, we are generally pleased with our Costco experiences. Your warehouse stores offer quality merchandise at bargain prices. The service provided by your loyal employees could not be better.
Because of your keen social awareness, surely you know how serious the obesity problem is in this country. We feel the time is right to introduce a few new items into the Food Court menu that may guide customers into choosing healthier options.
As we mentioned in our October 1 letter, "What we would like to suggest is that your Food Court post some new menu items that are not loaded with fat, salt, and sugar. Perhaps a vegetable and bean chili, a veggie burger on a whole-wheat bun, a roasted veggie wrap with salsa, or baked potato with veggie chili might be options to consider. Each of these items would be lower in calories, fat, and sodium and would contain no cholesterol."
Even vegans like us might pause and nibble if we found nutritious, animal-free items like those mentioned above.
We plead with your sense of social responsibility to suggest that you take this step forward. You might be pleasantly surprised by the acceptance of these items and the good will you create by offering them. You could even announce, "Costco is doing its part in fighting the obesity epidemic."
And while you're considering these possiblilties, how about rethinking the unlimited refills of soda?
Zel and Reuben Allen
November 8, 2012 -- Vegparadise News Bureau
Costco Responds to VIP Letter
Editors' Note: In November we wrote to the CEO of Costco expressing our disappointment with the food sold in the Food Courts at all of their stores. We received an answer from Tom Fox, AVP of the company's Bakery-Food Service. His response and our original letter are printed below:
November 1, 2012 -- Vegparadise News Bureau
Cheap Food at Costco Is Making You Fat!
Editors' Note: Vegetarians in Paradise has written a letter to the President/CEO of Costco chronicling the disappointment with the current menu offered at the Food Court in the stores. The editors challenge the company to provide some more healthful options.
Below this letter we are printing a chart with information derived from the Costco Food Court Nutrition Data on the company's website.
October 29, 2012
Dear Mr. Jelinek:
We have been members of Costco for more than 20 years and enjoy our shopping experience at your Northridge store. We are consistently pleased by your variety of offerings and low prices.
But we never eat at your food court, even though it attracts large crowds of customers. Anyone eating at the food court regularly would be among the two-thirds of Americans who are overweight and obese.
We know that your organization takes great pride in offering a hot dog or polish sausage and a 20-ounce drink with refill for $1.50, the same price for the last 27 years. That offer is very attractive for people who want a quick lunch while doing their Costco shopping.
Any dietitian examining the nutritional data available on your website would be quite alarmed. The hot dog and polish sausage measure in at 540 to 570 calories. There are approximately 240 calories in a 20-ounce soda. Get a refill and the meal will add up to over 1000 calories. Add some French fries that clock in at 870 calories and you've eaten a day's worth of calories in one meal. And people wonder why they're gaining weight.
Your other sandwiches (Chicken Bake, Italian Sausage, and Turkey Wrap) are all calorie loaded with the wrap taking the grand prize totaling 810 calories.
We read that Costco is the fifth largest retailer in the US and one of the largest pizza selling chains. Those eating pizza at your stores don't fare much better health-wise with a slice of pizza between 620 and 700 calories.
Both pizzas and sandwiches are sodium bombshells. The Combo with 1540 mg slightly exceeds the 1500 mg daily-recommended intake by health authorities. The sandwiches are even higher with champions like Turkey Wrap at 2570 mg and Italian Sausage at 2230 mg of sodium.
Those who feel they can do better with a salad will be surprised when they look at the numbers for the Chicken Caesar Salad. They might hesitate when they learn it has 670 calories and 2680 mg of sodium. The Baked Potato with Chicken Chili tops those numbers with 840 calories and 2580 mg of sodium. Your nutrition table recognizes the sodium in the Baked Potato as 131% of the daily- recommended value. Many experts would readily disagree with your 2400 mg as the daily recommended value, yet the potato exceeds even that amount.
We could proceed with more numbers extracted from the Food Court menu, but the information would only prove that what you are serving to the public is quite unhealthful. Your company is one of many fast food operations that has lured people into purchasing cheap junk food that is making them fat and unhealthy.
We are certain that you are aware of these numbers. What we would like to suggest is that your Food Court offer some options that are not loaded with fat, salt, and sugar, options that might make dietitians squeal with delight. Even vegans like us might pause and nibble if we could find something animal-free and nutritious. Perhaps a vegetable and bean chili, a veggie burger on a whole-wheat bun, a roasted veggie wrap with salsa, or baked potato with veggie chili might be options to consider. All of these items would be lower in calories and sodium and would contain no cholesterol.
And, for heaven's sake, stop offering unlimited refills of your sodas!
We are writing this letter as a challenge to you and your organization to do your part in the war on obesity by including healthier items on the menu. We are printing this letter in Vegetarians in Paradise, our online newsletter that reaches over 12,000 subscribers. We will be happy to print your response.
Zel and Reuben Allen