One of the fastest growing categories in the food industry is the organic foods sector. According to the Organic Trade Association (OTA), sales of additive-free foods surged 11.5% in 2013, to $35.1 billion, representing the sector’s strongest sales in five years, and the OTA is estimating at least 12% growth in 2014.
While organic items used to be limited to upscale vendors like Whole Foods and other niche retailers, the products have gone mainstream in recent years. Many supermarkets now feature them as part of their house brand lineup, and marketers continue to work diligently to further position their brands and associated packaging as eco-friendly.
Consumer awareness and understanding of organic products has grown hand in hand. Shoppers have become more attentive to organic products as well as packaging, taking note of packaging materials that can be recycled or composted to minimize the generation of greenhouse gasses, primarily carbon dioxide (CO2).
As a result, it is no longer enough for organic consumer brands to speak to environmentally-friendly products and corporate initiatives promoting sustainability. They must continue to reaffirm their commitment through ongoing actions to demonstrate a deep-rooted and cultural obligation toward safeguarding the environment. These actions don’t stop at the factory door; they extend to include external supply chain packaging and other partners who support and enable the brand’s existence from inception to market.
Increasingly, an important consideration for organic brand marketers in selecting and working with packaging manufacturers is how that partner company’s sustainable practices influence the overall global footprint made by the packaging they produce. Having cultural alignment between brand and packaging provider with respect to environmental responsibility becomes a stronger influencing factor.
There are a number of practices that packaging manufacturers can implement to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions. These include:
- Use of renewable energy such as solar or wind generation to fully or partially replace electricity generated by coal or natural gas.
- Conversion to solventless lamination, which not only reduces VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) emissions, but also improves worker safety by eliminating potential exposure to dangerous solvents.
- Establishment of a nationwide network of warehouses to reduce the number of miles driven by pollution-emitting diesel trucks.
- Replacement of heat-absorbing black roofing with white TPO (Thermoplastic Polyolefin) membranes to reduce building cooling costs by increasing reflectivity.
- Institution of an aggressive waste management program to recycle 100% of all paper and polyethylene film waste.
Eco-Friendly Packaging Supplier LPS Industries has demonstrated its concern for the environment by adopting not only all of these practices, but also several others as well. For example, the company installed a rooftop solar panel system that will produce 825,000 kWh (kilowatt hours) of electricity while eliminating over 1,100,000 pounds of CO2 emissions annually. According to the Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator provided by the US Department of Environmental Protection, this is enough electricity to provide power to almost 70 average homes for one year, and the equivalent of taking 105 cars off the highways.
The company also purchased 825,000 kWh of wind generated power, eliminating an additional 1,100,000 pounds of CO2 emissions annually. In conjunction with its solar installation, over half of the company’s annual power consumption now comes from renewable sources.
By converting to solventless lamination, the company not only reduced its greenhouse gas emissions, but also eliminated the need for disposal of dangerous solvents. Conversion also eliminated the need for a temperature controlled curing room, reducing overall power consumption.
Finally, LPS is reducing the amount of material sent to landfills by continuing to offer packaging products that are made from recycled and natural materials, as well as items that are recyclable, biodegradable or compostable. The company also actively works with organic brands to redesign flexible packaging with fewer layers, or co-extruded films, while maintaining performance characteristics to reduce material output.