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For coffee to go, Dutch supermarket Albert Heijn pilots voluntary higher prices that cover hidden costs

Albert Heijn, the largest Dutch supermarket chain, is piloting a true pricing initiative at three of its 'AH to go' convenience stores.

When customers buy a self-service cup of coffee in Groningen, Wageningen or Zaandam, they'll see two prices: the standard retail price and the true price. The latter factors in CO2 emissions, water use, resource consumption and labor conditions related to the production of coffee, cow's milk and oat milk. For example, the regular price for a double espresso is EUR 2.25; when priced using the True Price methodology, that same jolt of caffeine comes to EUR 2.33.

Notably, after years of paying a premium for alt-milks, customers actually pay a lower true price for oat milk than cow's milk, courtesy of oat milk's smaller environmental footprint. Albert Heijn developed the pilot in partnership with independent organization True Price to promote sustainable choices by revealing externalized social and ecological costs throughout a product's supply chain. All extra revenue generated by the experiment will be invested in Rainforest Alliance projects.

List of regular and true prices for coffee at an AH to go store

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Critics may argue that Albert Heijn, a subsidiary of retail behemoth Ahold Delhaize, is shifting the burden of addressing hidden costs and the responsibility for sustainability onto consumers, without taking significant risks itself. This contrasts sharply with the bold move announced by preserved vegetable producer HAK in January 2023. HAK, which supplies Albert Heijn, is transitioning all of its Dutch products to organic, aiming to become a leader in sustainable food production.

Nonetheless, Albert Heijn's true pricing coffee pilot serves as a promising exploratory step towards integrating the concept into its broader business model. With its extensive reach, the supermarket chain has the potential to raise awareness among consumers about the existence of hidden costs and the wider implications of their purchasing decisions. As such, true pricing initiatives can drive home the message that choices made in the grocery aisle impact not only individual health and wellbeing but also broader social and environmental concerns.

Related: Organic grocer raises prices to reflect hidden social and environmental costs

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Spotted by: Reinier Evers