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Consumers make a plea for sustainability

Maggie Hanna, video and social media editor

Now, more than ever, consumers are making a plea for sustainability — and they’re not just requesting more recyclable products, they’re willing to pay premium for them, especially from brands and companies they trust.

“Americans are seeking out and are willing to pay a premium for environmentally friendly products,” according to a recent study from GreenPoint, an environmental technology company. The study went on to state that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of Americans are willing to pay more for sustainable products, but most (74 percent) don’t know how to identify them. According to the study, 78 percent of people are more likely to purchase a product that is clearly labeled as environmentally friendly.

sdf“The consumer is demanding more sustainable packaging options, and has been for awhile now,” stated Jeff Watkin, director of marketing for Sev-Rend, a manufacturer of high-performance packaging for the produce industry. “This has trickled up to the retailer side of the process and they are placing firm timelines in place to achieve these goals.”

A survey conducted by Accenture of 6,000 consumers in 11 countries across North America, Europe and Asia, revealed that, “while consumers remain primarily focused on quality and price, 83 percent believe it’s important or extremely important for companies to design products that are meant to be reused or recycled. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of respondents said they’re currently buying more environmentally friendly products than they were five years ago, and 81 percent said they expect to buy more over the next five years.”

It’s not just retailers and consumers that are concerned about the sustainability of the products they buy and sell; it is becoming a must for brands and company employees as well.

Employees today do not just want to “work for paychecks” (although fair pay is obviously important), but they also want to “work for companies with missions that promote inclusivity and sustainability, not divisiveness and harm to the environment,” stated an article written by Forbes earlier this year.

“Sev-Rend has been committed to bringing true sustainable packaging options to the produce industry for many years now,” said Watkin. “As a packaging manufacturer, we are on the front line of this needed shift and bear the responsibility of bringing real solutions to the market.”

Among those real solutions Sev-Rend offers are recyclable Sof-Net knitted tubular netting, SR-Film, pouches and tags. The company also offers Bio-Able Solutions, which is 100 percent recyclable and formulated to fully degrade in both marine and terrestrial environments, leaving behind no micro-plastic waste. “Sev-Rend sees this as a true solution for the fresh produce industry without sacrificing the positive qualities of traditional plastic packaging,” Watkin said of the company’s Bio-Able Solutions.

Taylor Farms/Earthbound Farm is another company within the produce industry that is just as committed to the future of sustainability.

“As one of North America’s favorite makers of salads and healthy fresh foods, it is our greatest opportunity to create positive, long-lasting social and environmental impact through our products, processes and people,” said Nicole Flewell, director of sustainability for Taylor Farms/Earthbound Farm. “We believe each bag of salad can make a positive social and environmental impact as a result of our practices and investments in how we grow, process, package and ship each product.”

Taylor Farms/Earthbound Farm is able to do this by investing in research development, on-farm management pilots, and new technologies such as remote sensing and crop forecasting. At the facility level, it is pursuing TRUE (total resource use and efficiency) certification for its zero-waste programs.

“We have three facilities platinum-certified with a fourth in progress,” Flewell said. “With regards to packaging, we are looking for solutions across all our segments to reduce our plastic footprint. We are researching and trialing various solutions such as biodegradable, compostable, bio-based, and recyclable packaging solutions. Together, our business model and offerings contribute to preserving a healthy environment for generations to come.”

Cindy Blish, associate brand and communications manager for Inline Plastics Corp., a leader in food packaging with a commitment to responsible manufacturing and reducing environmental impact, agrees that sustainability needs to be top-of-mind for companies.

“Sustainability is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ for retailers and consumers,” she said. “It is truly a ‘must’ if we are to meet the increasing demand for brands that prioritize environmental and social responsibility.”

Blish noted that future generations are already concerned about the environment and the impact we have today, so as the population ages, it only makes sense that sustainability will be increasingly important.

“At Inline, we are making sure consumers know to recycle our products — we emboss our product with ‘please recycle me.’ We feel it is necessary to help inform and educate the consumer and will continue developing our products for a sustainable future.”

For over a decade, Inline Plastics has been using a highly efficient sheet made with the patented process (DPET – direct to sheet PET), which skips energy intensive stages during manufacturing, saving over 60 percent of CO2 compared to its standard PET counterpart. The company also installed solar panels to the roof of its headquarters in 2018, utilizing the sun’s natural resources and generating clean solar power every day. 

“Our latest launch, reborn, is the sheet made in part with advanced (chemically) recycled post-consumer content,” Blish said. “Every single Inline Plastics item is made with reborn.”

Fox Packaging & Fox Solutions, another leader in packaging solutions which services produce customers across North and South America, is also at the forefront of sustainability.

“Forty-percent of all food grown in the United States ends up going to a landfill,” stated Victoria Lopez, marketing at Fox Packaging & Fox Solutions. “Our packaging supports the reduction of food waste by recognizing the individual needs of the commodities we pack.”

Recyclability has been a core feature of Fox Packaging since it began to manufacture consumer-size packs over 40 years ago. In its research and development initiatives, the company’s focus has been on innovative materials and responsible sourcing that ultimately serves in protecting fresh produce.

“That’s the benefit of flexible packaging, it’s convenient, it’s hygienic, and when designed mindfully, packaging drastically supports the lifespan of your produce,” Lopez said. “Our packaging is recyclable, it is reusable, and the features of our bags strongly support sustainability and circularity.”

Fox Packaging offers its signature Fox Fresh Mesh Combo bag, which allows produce to respire at natural rates, creating a packaging atmosphere that supports produce rather than suffocating it.

“When this packaging design was introduced to market, it was exactly what some brands needed to continue to be competitive,” Lopez said. “That bag made a huge impression and is still a packaging design that is in high demand today.”

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