5 Product Ideas for sweetgreen
See if I can predict the future 😆 Inspired by sweetgreen's Q2 2022 earning call
Create your dishes and save them to the app (even shareable with others) as part of sweetgreen membership
Sign up for push notifications about limited time offer (1-hour before your go-to store close) to further positive social impact
Localization - local healthy snacks and drinks as part of the seasonal menu
Supplier portal - streamlined supplier sourcing, application/registration, onboarding, analytics, etc
Sell “proprietary” products, such as dressings
(Scroll down to read each idea in detail)
I became a casual fan of sweetgreen around 2019 after trying them out for the first time because of a friend raving about how delicious and convenient it is. I wasn’t a big fan of salads because I grew up in Taiwan where there are tons of delicious, COOKED vegetable dishes. Cold vegetables, in my opinion, can never compete with those cooked ones.
However, as I tried out more and more salad chains like Just Salad, Chop, etc in NYC, I was convinced that sweetgreen indeed has the most consistent fresh quality ingredients, the most delicious dressing, and the best design of dishes (my partner and I agree that sweetgreen is the art of salad and we suspect they hire Michelin star chefs to design their menu items).
I downloaded the app and became a frequent officially starting in mid-2021. I still hold my opinion that cooked/warm vegetables are more delicious than raw/cold ones, but sweetgreen has set the highest bar in the raw/cold veggie fast-food industry :)
If you don’t know sweetgreen, it is a fast-food chain that serves salads (check out their story if you’re interested).
Its mission is:
Build healthier communities by connecting people to real food
And the strategy:
…by connecting people to real food and our long-term commitment to being a positive force on the food system while creating a sustainable and durable branded business
From the Q2 2022 earning call, there are 4 strategic initiatives to position sweetgreen for profitable growth:
One, expand and evolve our footprint in new and existing markets to connect more communities to real food; two, enhance our digital experience with a focus on only-digital relationships, allowing us to add new customer channels, drive frequency and increase restaurant volume; three, solidify our brand as the industry leader and inspire consumers to live healthier lives; and four, create 5-star team member experiences that make sweetgreen the employer of choice.
Some information that I collected to brainstorm and refine ideas:
Supplier portal (internal)
B2B (sweetgreen Outpost)
Information from the sweetgreen website
Aims to get to carbon neutral by 2027
Food sourcing: “We work closely with our suppliers to help implement industry-leading strategies for carbon minimization. Our goal is to support farmers and producers who participate in regenerative practices—ones that give more to the land than they take away.”
Menu: “We calculate an accurate carbon footprint for each of our menu items by commissioning carbon assessments of our specific suppliers. These reports illustrate how much carbon is generated at every stage of business, from seed to salad. We use this data to direct our menu and adjust as needed.”
Restaurants: “We optimize our building materials from construction to furniture, investing in clean energy, and industrial equipment to make a minimal impact. Our restaurants are designed to contribute to a more sustainable future by embodying our values in a tangible way while broadening access to real food across the country.”
Some other information
“By midnight every night, the distributor must log into Sweetgreen's proprietary supplier portal and note which stores are getting lettuce from the primary supplier and which are getting it from the secondary supplier so the chalkboard in every Sweetgreen store is up to date.” (Source)
“Distributor Keany Produce helped Jayleaf figure out how to pack its greens more effectively, swapping in a different bag that allowed the lettuce to breathe better and packing fewer bags per box. Jayleaf has also changed its systems so that it can supply Sweetgreen with detailed data. ‘We have to stay on top of our volumes and transfer that info to Sweetgreen,’ Jayleaf COO Henry Catalán says. ‘In the end, it actually helps our sales team understand where the farm is at any given moment.’“ (Source)
“Our new proprietary cold prep tool auto generates a list of what to prepare and how much by incorporating multiple data points in a real-time algorithm to predict future consumption of ingredients. This tool eliminates the guesswork in what to prepare, reducing food waste and ensuring we always have fresh ingredients ready to serve our guests.” (Source)
Five Product Ideas
1. Create your dishes and save them to the app (even shareable with others) as part of sweetgreen membership
Personalization is a product trend that will not go away (in fact, it's shifting from nice-to-have to must-have). As sweetgreen looking to roll out a loyalty program that provides rewards and other perks, one feature I believe would be a differentiator would be customized dishes saved to the menu in-app as a membership/loyalty perk.
Users/paying customers, especially those who are invested enough to join the loyalty program, are potential creators. It's commonly seen in (need to research on this - psychological satisfaction stages).
This, as the starting point of the stickiness needed to grow continuously, can expand to include other features to enhance the growth flywheel, specifically retention and engagement. For example,
Share your personalized dish with your friend (who's also in the loyalty program, or, encourage them to become a loyalty program), so they can also order
Encourage sharing on social media of their “creation” - people would love to create once they’re committed and invested to a certain point
Menu creation competition to create virality (similar to Starbuck’s draw-the-cup challenge)
Of course, this requires a certain restriction on ingredients and portions in order to ensure supply availability and product line consistency without incurring extra processes and costs.
2. Sign up for push notifications about limited time offer (1-hour before your go-to store close) to further positive social impact
Similar to the first idea, inspired by Too Good To Go, users should be able to sign up for push notifications as a part of membership perks to access limited-time offers (1-hour before the users’ go-to store closing time), for example:
Discounted scavenger bowls made with fresh ingredients left - no modification allowed, but users can preview what is in the bowls
Option to donate the scavenger bowl(s) to local food banks or people in need
Starbucks just rolled out a beta feature where members can donate their earned stars to charities (e.g. the “Support nonprofits” button where 25-star = $1):
Since it is sweetgreen’s mission to “build healthier communities by connecting people with real foods”, this feature will not only combat food waste (on top of sweetgreen’s precision analytics regarding supplies) but also create a positive impact on the communities by helping more people to have access to healthier foods.
3. Localization - local healthy snacks and drinks as part of the seasonal menu
sweetgreen has produced many great seasonal dishes based on seasonal ingredient availability, which is awesome because it’s better for the environment (fewer carbon footprints), better for the local farms and businesses, and better for the consumers to be more mindful of their food and carbon footprints.
This is a great ongoing effort. But what’s missing?
Locally sourced healthy snacks, drinks, etc
It might be hard for sweetgreen to source, select, and stock (I’ll talk about this more in the next idea), but it is quite important as a “healthy community builder” to localize further and form exclusive collaborations with local healthy snacks/drinks producers/manufacturers.
For example: sweetgreen ➕ Irving Farm New York - fair trade organic coffee, winter edition, great with XXX seasonal menu, only at sweetgreen 🙌
Why and so what?
A dedication to building healthy communities by supporting local businesses - increased brand reputation/image + added product lines and partnerships that boost growth loops
4. Supplier portal - streamlined supplier sourcing, application/registration, onboarding, analytics, etc
According to several news articles, there seems to exist a supplier portal for farms to enter supplies and there will be information on quantity and shipping/delivery to each sweetgreen location. I have no access to such a portal so this idea might already exist.
After the above 3 ideas, I imagine there needs to be a supplier portal that can support the expansion and growth in a meaningful way. For example:
Employees can utilize the portal to source or invite suppliers to partner with sweetgreen
Interested local businesses or farmers can apply directly on the portal to become a partner (for the localization project above)
Registered suppliers and businesses can onboard in the platform and start coordinating shipments to designated locations
Analytics on which item is more popular or needed more than others; provide feedback to suppliers
Some other potentials on this portal might be a B2B tool, etc
This idea might be way out of the line because I don’t really have experience using it or have a better understanding of how it works. But still, I believe this internal tool is very crucial and integral to the whole sweetgreen operation.
5. Sell “proprietary” products, such as dressings
This one is more of my personal (biased) thought. I love sweetgreen dressings and often think if it starts selling bottled dressings I’d be the first to subscribe 🤣
Similarly to how Apple introduced lower-end products/pricings to boost market shares (Apple overtakes Android to pass 50% share of US smartphones), this strategy might further help sweetgreen to expand to more corners of communities. For example:
Whole Foods (or other organic goods chains)
Thanks for reading!
Overall, I’m pretty optimistic about sweetgreen’s future and development. I’d love to continue following its earning calls and progress. And hopefully, one day maybe work at sweetgreen to bring awesome products/features to life 😆
So, this is my first “case study,” and I’d love to hear from you! Any feedback, questions, idea, etc? Leave a comment or message me on LinkedIn!
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