Our Compostable Packaging Plan

by Dan Kurzrock February 14, 2019

Our Compostable Packaging Plan

It is with both a heavy heart and an optimistic spirit that I share this update on ReGrained’s sustainable packaging program:  

Despite a significantly higher cost and other challenges, ReGrained was first to market with and has packed exclusively in compostable wrappers for years. Unfortunately, that material failed in the wild, leading to many instances of stale-tasting product in stores. This unexpected failure came at a terrible time for us – right as we rapidly expanded to thousands of new retail locations. We recently highlighted some of the challenges here as the catalyst for a very difficult decision.

To ensure that our customers get the best and freshest-tasting product, effectively immediately, ReGrained will temporarily phase out our compostable material and switch to packaging used conventionally by the industry. Our goal is to be back in a fully certified compostable structure within one year that we will open-source so it can be available to and widely adopted by the industry.

We have lost a lot of sleep over the irony of the situation: in our effort to prove that waste can be designed out of the food system, we began to create waste through staling product. We were at risk in a number of areas, including the erosion of trust with our trade partners and consumers, the cost of damage control, and the maintenance of a failing status-quo. Without change course, we would have compromised our solvency and thwarted our primary mission: fighting food waste.

On a personal note, I struggled deeply with the question, “How could I justify softening the hard line I had so consistently and so publicly drawn the issue of packaging?” Faced with a proverbial fork in the road, while I wished that I could be like Yogi Berra and just “take it,” a hard choice was necessary. In other words, we were in crisis and faced with determining the lesser of two evils. Slowing down to speed up is unquestionably the right strategic move for the business, trade partners, consumers and shareholders; however, as a mission-oriented chief executive, it was the most challenging decision I have yet had to make. 

At ReGrained, we try to do the right things in the right way at the right times, and I believe wholeheartedly that we have made the right decision. You could say that I’ve come around to seeing the glass half-full. Sustainable packaging is still a non-negotiable value, and we are doubling down on our efforts with OSC2's Packaging Collaborative to pioneer a better compostable packaging structure (with a better moisture barrier) that will solve the problems we experienced. Now, we invite YOU to help us fill the glass and bring ubiquitous sustainable packaging to fruition!

Here is our packaging call to action:

If you are a…

  • Food Brand that uses flexible films: a) test your products in the latest and greatest structure. We have every reason to believe the new high barrier layer will solve the product freshness issues, but there is only one way to find out if it works for your products. There are a number of us already within the Packaging Collaborative, and we want you involved. If the material performs for your products, b) make the commitment to switch and get on a path to extricate yourself from the future trash business. 
  • Distributor: We noticed our performance issues once our wares left our warehouse. We need to know with confidence that the new structure we are testing will perform after traveling in your trucks, sitting in your storage facilities, and generally being exposed to a variety of temperatures and conditions. Carve out some space at a marginal cost to help us put the future of compostable packaging through the supply chain ringer to confirm it works. 
  • Retailer: a) Frankly put, we know our sales performance has suffered on account of our packaging creating stale product. Please allow us the opportunity to turn things around. b) Begin asking your suppliers about their efforts to reduce their contribution to the packaging problem. If more brands know that you care about the issue, they are more likely to invest in making improvements. c) Consider partnering with the sustainable packaging community to promote the adoption of these materials through cause-related merchandising and other programs. Let’s (literally) reach across the aisle and collaborate.
  • Waste Management: You are the critical last link of the packaging value chain. a) What do you think of compostable materials, and are you willing to be involved in this effort? b) How can we make sure that you can identify this material so you don’t pull it out of your system as a contaminant? c) How can we improve the material science or provide other incentives for you to work with us on this?
  • Consumer: Hello human! Vote with your wallet. Make your values heard. Advocate for the change you want to see. Stay tuned for ongoing recommendations on how. The business community and policy makers are listening!
Bottom Line:

If we are going to solve the packaging problem, we need to do it together. The time has come for less talk and more action. 

I commit ReGrained to open collaboration and radical transparency on this matter indefinitely. Who is with us?

Does any of the above resonate with you? Say so in the comments or email me directly: dan@regrained.com.




Dan Kurzrock
Dan Kurzrock

Author

Dan is the Co-Founder and Executive Grain Officer of ReGrained. His bike is fueled by eating beer and burritos.


7 Responses

Megan Hosterman
Megan Hosterman

August 01, 2019

This should be a ted talk

shawn wade
shawn wade

June 03, 2019

Best example I have read of an honest, candid, and emotionally resonant message from a company leader. A great example of how honest communications can lead to long-term loyalty.

Chuck darsey
Chuck darsey

March 29, 2019

2/20/19
Great comments Dan. I feel your pain. I am on the board of the DARSEY FAMILY FOUNDATION whose purpose is to educate about Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. I applaud your efforts. This is not a failure, merely a bump. You either win or you LEARN.
I’ll be happy to be a taster for your future developments.
Focused but not finished………..
Chuck

Leslie Harty
Leslie Harty

March 29, 2019

I have plastics that are compostable in backyards and landfills. They do not have any issues with heat or moisture. Great for someone looking for good OTRs. If that sounds like something you’d be interested in check out my website for more info and I can send you a few coffee bag samples to try out. (Just ignore the degassing valve.)
Leslie

christienne de Tournay
christienne de Tournay

March 29, 2019

I would add that the consumer make an effort to get their wrapper to a compost bin, not take the easy way out if a store does not readily provide one. Berkeley and San Francisco have city-wide compost pick-up service, though sadly, many food/grocery establishments don’t necessary provide an in-store bin. But for something as small as a wrapper, the consumer can put it in their pocket or backpack, take it off-site, and be assured that there is probably a bin somewhere around a corner or at home. It takes action all the way down the line, to the green bin. Add that to the list for what consumers can do.

Geralyne
Geralyne

March 29, 2019

Thank you for your determination and efforts to finding a solution to the packaging dilemma.

Eric Quick
Eric Quick

March 29, 2019

Dan, Great recap. Have you spoken with anyone at OSC2? They’ve been pioneering new compostable packaging over the last 5+ years with Alter Eco’s compostable pouch. Some good learnings along the journey that will hopefully help get you to your goal of compostable packaging.

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