The Price of Pioneering Zero Waste Packaging

by Dan Kurzrock December 05, 2018

The Price of Pioneering Zero Waste Packaging

 

The Great Packaging Problem

Today’s packaged foods companies enjoy abundant excuses to opt for conventional (read: wasteful) packaging. For products packaged in flexible films, like bar wrappers and chip bags, landfill-destined materials are the easiest, and seemingly only, packaging choice.

Viable recyclable options don’t exist, and current compostable options are not only more expensive but also don’t work as well. To draw a parallel, choosing compostable packaging is like hiring an employee for how gracefully they will retire rather than for how well they'll do their job. As a logical result, most packaged food companies end up, by default, in the future-trash business. 

 

ReGrained’s Solution

Between bad practices and bad packaging, we chose bad packaging. ReGrained is committed to investing in the long-term solution, even if it comes at the cost of short-term practicality. As such, we’ve always considered zero-waste packaging a non-negotiable value—but to be perfectly candid, we’re a bit insane for it.

As you may know, from day one, we chose to pioneer a compostable film for our first product line, the ReGrained SuperGrain+ Bars. With our choice, we’re saying we care most about what happens after each wrapper’s career comes to an end.

Our package is more expensive in spades and has a truncated shelf-life compared to its conventional counterparts. Upstream, it suffers from exceptionally long delivery times and causes problems for packaging machines. By most objective measures, it is bad business—but values are inherently subjective.

We are so passionately committed to our values that we see no alternative to embracing our role as leaders. We are proud of our courageous adoption of cutting-edge regenerative packaging but are also suffering the pioneer’s plight as a result.

 

The first 4 iterations of ReGrained's compostable packaging.

 

Our Solution’s Problems

Recently, we’ve experienced our product unexpectedly staling out months before the “Best By” date.

We were totally blindsided by this. How could this happen?

In layman’s terms, our package breaks down into organic components because it is made of less stuff. ReGrained’s compostable wrapper is made of plants, not petroleum or other synthetic inputs. However, that same “less stuff” also invites in more air and lets out more moisture out than traditional landfill-bound packaging.

When subjected to extreme conditions (like the climate of a delivery truck container in summer), this process is accelerated and product quality is compromised. A fresh product exposed to heat in a compostable wrapper will thus taste stale.

Standard shelf-stability tests conducted during wrapper development missed this. Our results indicated that the shelf-life of a ReGrained bar was 9-12 months. About half of the standard for conventional wrappers, but still a totally workable freshness window. So, we pushed forth, and have been steadily increasing distribution into hundreds of stores ever since. To our dismay, we began to find our own product on the shelf feeling and tasting stale. 

 

What We’re Doing About It:

Since this discovery, we’ve been running around finding and replacing product that does not meet our quality standards. But this is about as easy as collecting scattered confetti after a parade. Our efforts to predict which stores have compromised product is a massive guessathon. Even with our sole salesperson dedicated to this effort full-time (bless his heart), we can’t catch it all.   

Which brings me to my apology and appeal to your values. If you are a customer that bought compromised product before we got to it, we are sincerely sorry. We stand behind our product, but can only do so when you give us the opportunity. Write to us! We’ll make it right by sending a replacement straight from our ReGrainery. Just don’t forget to compost the wrapper after you’ve enjoyed it.

 

What’s Next  

We’re back to the drawing board with a new packaging film structure on the way, which we hope to launch in January. It will still be compostable but will have a new look. We’re also making some tweaks to optimize our recipe for moisture retention.

 

How You Can Help  

We’re not asking you to forgive us, just to give us the opportunity to make amends.

Our bars are crafted to showcase big, bold flavors. If you find yourself with something that tastes bland or stale, the compostable wrapper has struck again! Please let us know where you purchased that bar from. We will send you a fresh replacement and visit that store to ensure future customers receive top-quality product as well. 

Thank you for supporting a future that better aligns the food we eat with the planet we love, one bite at a time.

 




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.


1 Response

David Jaber
David Jaber

December 13, 2018

I have yet to experience the problem, FWIW. Thank you for your willingness to innovate, lead, and even experience setback in the name of integrity.

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