Lotus Sustainables has produce in the bag
Farzan and Jennifer Dehmoubed are on a crusade against plastic and they have taken their fight to one of the epicenters of plastic bag use: the retail produce department.
Consider that every time a shopper buys apples, zucchini and most items in between they tear off a bag from one of the ubiquitous dispensers spread throughout the produce department, it adds up to a lot of bags.
“The average family uses 1,500 plastic bags a year, and the average lifespan of a bag is 15 minutes,” said Farzan Dehmoubed. “It adds up quickly.”
The couple founded Lotus Sustainables, a company that offers reusable and washable produce bags, with an eye toward reducing and eventually eliminating plastic bags at retail.
The Dehmoubeds, who are based in Carlsbad, CA, said one driver for the founding of the company was the state’s ban on single-use plastic bags, which was signed into legislation in 2014. In 2017, they introduced the Lotus Trolley Bag system, which features reusable bags that fit into shopping carts, making it easy for consumers to organize and tote food from the store to their car to their homes.
“Within eight days of our debut of Trolley Bag, we sold out of four months’ worth of inventory and became the top seller [in the category] on Amazon,” he said. “The reviews started rolling in and we knew we had something special.”
He credits the smart design and high quality of the Trolley Bags for their runaway success.
“We wanted to create an all-in-one solution,” he said. “So we included specialized pockets that can hold various items such as eggs, wine and flowers, and we also included an insulated bag for refrigerated and frozen foods.”
Eighteen months after the introduction of Lotus Trolley Bags, the Dehmoubeds added the Lotus Produce Bags to their offerings. Again, they relied on intelligent design and high-quality and environmentally friendly materials to help them stand out from competing reusable bags.
“A set of our Lotus Produce Bags comes with three different size bags,” he said. “Unlike other reusable bags, ours are BPA-free, plastic-free, washable and reusable hundreds of times. They are strong and durable and made from 100 percent organic cotton. They are also color-coded according to size, making it easier for shoppers to identify which bag to use. The quality and the features really resonate with consumers, which is evidenced by the thousands of positive reviews we have received.”
He said part of the success is the relatively low price point of $5.99 for a set of three bags. “People have an opportunity to try them out at the low entry point, and then when they see how good they are they realize they need to buy more, so we’re seeing multiple purchases from the same consumer.”
He added that people often buy them as gifts for family and friends, and people use them for things beyond toting produce, such as to organize and store toys, as travel bags or even to wash delicates.
Dehmoubed relies on keen marketing practices to help promote the Lotus Produce Bags, which have become so popular that they now account for 50 percent of Lotus Sustainables’ business.
“We merchandise them in the produce department next to traditional plastic bag dispensers,” he said. “We almost guilt shoppers into trying them, and once they do, it is almost certain they will come back and buy again.”
Dehmoubed also has benefitted from a buzz in mainstream media. He said Lotus Sustainables was featured on Good Morning America for Earth Day, and last year the Today Show ran a segment on the company. “Ellen Degeneres also featured us on her show and bought 75,000 sets to include in her Be Kind boxes.”
But consumers are not the only ones celebrating Lotus Sustainables, according to Dehmoubed. “Retailers are also embracing our products because they can turn a cost center into a profit center because they no longer have to purchase plastic bags, and they make money on selling Lotus Produce Bags,” he said.
He added that they continue to roll out at retailers large and small. “Ralph’s was one of the first chains to offer Lotus Produce Bags, and it did well in all stores,” he said. “They are also now carried in Gelson’s and Albertsons, and Natural Grocers is launching a floor display unit that will have product on all sides. “We’ve never conducted a test with a retailer that hasn’t gone storewide,” Dehmoubed said.
“At the end of the day, we wanted to create a win-win-win situation with our Lotus Produce Bags,” he said. “For retailers, it’s a win because they have a new profit center and can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability. For the consumer, they get high-quality bags that are reusable and sustainable. And for the planet, we are reducing something that has a negative impact on the environment. In fact, we just celebrated a milestone of eliminating 500 million plastic bags from circulation.”