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Sweetgreen Scales Across the U.S. with “Seed-to-Salad” Sustainable Practices

Sweetgreen, a popular salad company recognized for healthy and sustainable food options, is continuing to expand operations across the United States. During 2022, the company opened a total of 39 new stores, including 10 in the final quarter alone, and has also partnered with other businesses to support its mission and growth strategy.

In contrast to traditional approaches to fast-food management, Sweetgreen’s mission is to make healthy food accessible to everyone and to promote sustainability and care for the environment.

Sweetgreen expands

“We’re building a new type of food company and a sustainable supply chain to challenge how we think about real food, explore innovative new retail formats, and elevate the consumer experience,” says Jonathan Neman, co-founder and CEO of Sweetgreen.

Originally founded in 2007 by three Georgetown University graduates, Sweetgreen has become a national brand with 186 sites, operating in 16 states and the District of Columbia. It recently launched two new prototype operations: a drive-thru store in Schaumburg, Illinois, and a digital-only location in Washington, D.C.

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The company's expansion efforts are supported by significant funding and investment from stakeholders. In 2019, it raised $150 million in a funding round led by Lone Pine Capital, bringing its total valuation to $1.6 billion. Sweetgreen has also received support from high-profile investors such as Fidelity Investments and Daniel Boulud.

Sweetgreen’s Commitment to Sustainability and the Environment

Sweetgreen sources its ingredients from local farmers and suppliers who use sustainable and organic farming practices. The company uses 100% compostable packaging and regularly assesses its carbon footprint. It is committed to net carbon neutrality by 2027, which it plans to achieve by cutting carbon emissions by 50% and off-setting emissions that can’t be cut. Sweetgreen also commissions carbon assessments of its suppliers to assure that its partners are equally committed to sustainability. Through these assessments, Sweetgreen computes an accurate carbon footprint for every menu item and has calculated that its plant-rich food mix is already 30% less carbon-intensive than the typical American diet.

In its latest sustainability impact report, Sweetgreen noted that it purchased over 5 million pounds of organic greens in 2022, with 65% of its produce suppliers practicing organic farming. To minimize environmental impact, the company composted or recycled 79% of its restaurant waste. The report also states that Sweetgreen is dedicated to promoting animal welfare, with 95% of its primary chicken sources meeting Global Animal Partnership certification standards.

Sweetgreen restaurant

Sweetgreen’s Community Partners

In 2020, Sweetgreen partnered with Uber Eats to offer delivery services to customers and collaborated with regional businesses and organizations, helping to back community initiatives and promote sustainability at a local level. For example, Sweetgreen has helped fund the work of FoodCorps in schools and cafeterias, teaching kids to eat three times more fruits, vegetables, and other healthy, high-quality foods.

On a broader scale, Sweetgreen is engaging with youthful and athletic influencers like tennis star Naomi Osaka to help communicate its mission. According to Sweetgreen co-founder Nathaniel Ru, Osaka shares the company’s values around “how to create a more positive impact on how the next generation thinks about healthy eating."

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Sweetgreen and Osaka are jointly supporting The Asian American Foundation in its effort to advance equity. On May 26, 2023, 100% of sales from every Naomi Osaka Bowl (a bowl designed to Osaka’s personal nutritional preferences) will go to support Asian American and Pacific Islander-led (AAPI) organizations, increasing food access in AAPI communities.

Sweetgreen salad company
Aubrey Odom x Unsplash

Sweetgreen’s Focus on Technology and Data

Besides emphasizing sustainability and eco-friendly partnerships, Sweetgreen is recognized for its effective use of technology and data analytics to help scale its operations effectively. The company has worked with Watershed, a software platform that helps companies reduce emissions.

Sweetgreen technology allows the company to analyze customer preferences and behavior in real time and use those learnings to improve customer experience, optimize store layouts, menus, and marketing, and inform overall business strategy. Company founders say that Sweetgreen’s eventual goal is to give its customers visibility to the “seed-to-salad journey” of each ingredient in its menu offerings.

Looking Ahead

Sweetgreen continues to open restaurants across the U.S., with two stores opening soon in Orange County, two in Seattle, Totem Lake in Washington State, University Hills in Colorado, University of Wisconsin, Marlton in New Jersey, Aventura in Miami, and Emory Village in Georgia.


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