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Find out what our team has been up to.
Find out what our team has been up to.
Alter Eco switches from a previous, plastic non-recyclable structure to a “Gone4Good” backyard-compostable stand-up pouch made from non-GMO (genetically-modified organisms), plant-based materials.
The new compostable stand-up pouches replace previous packaging for the brand’s popular organic Royal heirloom quinoa products, including Rainbow, Pearl, Red, and Black.
"Sustainability is the core of our business, and as a leader in the space we’ve worked tirelessly to pioneer the first non-GMO stand-up pouch made with compostable materials that will truly revolutionize the food industry,” says Mathieu Senard, co-founder and co-CEO of Alter Eco, who responds to our questions about the compostable stand-up pouch structure, vendors and challenges of this innovative packaging introduction.
Please describe the before and after packaging.
Senard: Our previous packaging was a mixed-material film laminate (PET/ink/adhesive/LLDPE) stand-up pouch. Like all stand-up pouches with this similar structure, they were not recyclable so eventually would end up in landfills. Prior to our development of this new stand-up pouch made with compostable materials there was really no better alternative to the plastic, unrecyclable format. Approximately 17 billion plastic pouches were made in 2013 and not one of them was recyclable or compostable. In the United States alone, 30 million tons of plastic is generated annually and only 7% is recycled.
We reduced the size of the stand-up pouch from 14 and 16oz pouches to a 12oz stand-up pouch. The decision to decrease the size was made in order to offer more competitive pricing in a category where prices have increased in the recent years. Consumers clearly prefer the stand-up pouch format and now Alter Eco is offering a stand-up pouch you can feel good about.
What’s the specific stand-up pouch structure?
Senard: Our new “Gone4Good” stand-up pouch is made from Innovia’s NatureFlex laminated to a Novamont Mater-Bi product. The NatureFlex is made from Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified birch and eucalyptus wood pulp, and the Mater-bi is made from non-GMO corn starch. The stand-up pouch is printed with certified commercially compostable non-toxic ink. We’re proud to be able to offer the first-ever, renewable, non-GMO and plant-based stand-up pouch available nationwide. In our own trials, we have found that it disintegrates in about 3 to 6 months.
Why was this structure and these vendors selected?
Senard: Both Innovia Films and Novamont have a strong commitment to making environmentally friendly packaging materials that is backed by years of research as well as certifications. Not only do these suppliers support sustainability, but they responsibly source their materials and guarantee quality performance and safety. These core values align with our vision to bring full-circle sustainability to life throughout our all of our products. In order to do this, creating a better stand-up pouch package was an initiative we knew had to be done. This good-for-the planet innovation is extremely important to us as a brand. We feel it will pave the way for other companies to follow and enable consumers to eliminate the massive amount of waste currently being produced by standard plastic stand-up pouches.
Can the stand-up pouch converter be credited?
Senard: We worked closely with our printer, converter, and laminator partner Associated Labels and Packaging in Coquitlam, BC, Canada, via our manufacturing partner Elk Designs in Los Angeles, CA. Their openness, drive and belief in the project was key in how we were able to work through the inevitable challenges in working with these new materials.
Were any packaging performance aspects reduced with the change?
Senard: As far as production, the stand-up pouch performs similarly as a standard PE stand-up pouch during printing, converting, laminating and filling. There was definitely a learning curve with the lamination process using various materials and some adjustments had to be made on the equipment. We tested the stand-up pouch extensively for shelf life impact as well as transportation tests. As the material inherently wants to break down, it’s important that it is not stored in high humidity environments, which will start the process of disintegration. Our supply chain will need to be managed a bit more closely than usual to ensure that both temperature and humidity are kept consistently low. A grocery store environment is the sweet spot of both these measurements.
How is the sustainability messaged on the pouches?
Senard: We feature the compostable benefit at the bottom of the pouch, highlighting our new tagline for our compostable packaging movement, “Gone4Good,” which perfectly communicates what we intended this pouch to do: a pouch made with compostable materials that will disintegrate and not add to the estimated 17 billion pouches made in 2013 that will end up as waste in our landfills. We are excited to highlight this new packaging, and will continue to feature our dedication to full-circle sustainability.
In addition, the stand-up pouches display our promise of “organically grown, fairly traded and hand-cultivated,” and highlights our promise to the farmers we work with on the back of the packaging. Each of our products is crafted to not only taste delicious, but to have a positive impact on the environment as well as the farmers who help cultivate and produce our products.
Is any compostable certification information printed on the pouches?
Senard: Our own information appears on the stand-up pouch front as seen above, though we plan to add our compostable certification, which is in process now, to the packaging within a year.
Who is your typical consumer?
Senard: Our classic consumer is passionate about the environment, the food they put in their bodies and feed their families, as well as the impact their purchasing decisions have on the world socially and environmentally. All Alter Eco foods are produced with this consumer in mind, based on the concept of full-circle sustainability to make a positive impact on people and the planet in every bite. As a commitment to this promise, all our delicious chocolate bars and truffles, Royal quinoa, heirloom rice and unrefined sugar are all USDA Certified Organic, Fair Trade Certified, Carbon Neutral Certified, Non-GMO Project Verified and Certified Gluten-Free. Consumers are increasingly seeking more from their food, as knowledge and education about commercial food systems and how they affect local communities and eco-systems continues to spread. We’re grateful to deliver foods for this globally conscious community of shoppers, who realize there is power in numbers and together we have the ability to spark positive change not only in our own homes, but around the world.
How strongly will this new stand-up compostable pouch resonate with those consumers?
Senard: When we announced our truffle wrappers made from compostable materials in 2013 the response was overwhelming positive, and so far our Gone4Good packaging has had a similar response. Once people understand that the pouches on grocery store shelves everywhere are not recyclable and end up in landfills, they realize the problem and want to be part of the solution. Plastic packaging makes up more than one sixth of the waste in U.S. landfills, and many of our consumers are passionate about supporting a shift in this reality toward a more sustainable future.
What was the biggest challenge in the switch?
Senard: One of our biggest challenges was finding the right converter (Associated Labels and Packaging) and supplier partners who were aligned with our vision, and who were willing to take risks with us. We needed to make sure we ended up with a package that printed and looked as good as our current pouch, performed as well in distribution, and of course protected the product. We had a goal of making sure all inputs had compostable certifications, as well as the materials themselves being non-GMO and from sustainably managed forests. It was truly a reach and very much a gold standard goal. Our partnership with Innovia Films and Novamont successfully helped us achieve our ground breaking goals.
What’s next? Are there plans to roll this packaging out to other products?
Senard: Yes – sustainability is the core of our business and our vision is to eventually accomplish compostable packaging across all product lines.
Associated Labels and Packaging has always been at the forefront of cutting edge technology. Our recent recognition further pushes our capabilities to unexplored areas of the industry. Our team of professionals will work with your company to ensure that we deliver the finest product. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for any information or if you wish to propose collaborating on a project.