Product Design

Our products fall into two main categories. The GreenStripe® line is made from renewable resources, while the BlueStripe™ line is made from post-consumer recycled content. We offer both platforms to give our customers choices in reducing the environmental impacts of their foodservice packaging.

Several years ago, we identified criteria to guide our approach to new product development and ensure we are staying true to our brand. These criteria still hold true today. For our GreenStripe line, we only design new products that contain 100% renewable resources. For our BlueStripe line, we strive to ensure all of our new products contain the industry-leading percentage of post-consumer content for that product type. To the best of our knowledge, this is true for the items that comprise our BlueStripe line today.

Challenges and Opportunities

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): We know GMOs are a big concern for many. GMO impacts on biodiversity, human health, crop yield, and water consumption are the source of a contentious debate. Much of the corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified. In fact, unless corn is certified organic, it’s extremely likely to be genetically modified. Our partner NatureWorks, LLC uses corn to make Ingeo™, the resin used in our GreenStripe cold cups and hot cups, clamshells, and other compostable products. Currently, it is not economically or technically feasible to exclusively source organic corn for PLA.

Those concerned about the health impacts of GMOs should know there is no genetically modified material in the plastic itself. The genetically modified part of the corn kernel is not the part of the plant used in our products. Nonetheless, it doesn’t feel right to us to call our products “GMO free” since the corn from which our products are derived was genetically modified.

We would love to use truly GMO-free PLA. We recently became a member of the brand new Center for Bioplastics and Biocomposites (CB2) at Iowa State University formed to help drive research and innovation in renewable material science. We are committed to staying at the forefront of materials research and hope that non-GMO feedstocks become economically viable in the near future.

Post-Consumer Content in Foodservice Packaging: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stringent requirements to ensure the safety of packaging coming in contact with food, and for good reason. One of the implications of this is that it can be tough to source post-consumer recycled content that meets FDA criteria. We don’t think changing FDA requirements is the answer; it just means it can be challenging for our supply team to source post-consumer material for our BlueStripe line in substrates other than PET and PS.

Legacy Products

We sell two kinds of products today that are not consistent with our current criteria for new product design. Both products exist because there was a time when we were not able to make high heat compostable products, and our customers needed cutlery and lids to go with our other products.

Plant Starch Cutlery is made with 70% renewable resources. The remaining 30% is virgin polypropylene (PP), which is used to achieve a compelling combination of heat tolerance, full-size length/weight, and price. The big problem is that the 30% that is non-renewable makes this product not compostable. We offer another line of cutlery called Plantware® that is made with 100% renewable resources and is compostable, but in order to achieve acceptable heat tolerance, a second step is required in the manufacturing process that adds cost. Another challenge is that because Plantware is 100% renewable, it has a higher per gram cost than Plant Starch, which forced us to develop smaller than full-size pieces in order to keep the products within reach for foodservice operators. The reality is that Plant Starch can be a good option for customers who understand that it is not compostable and are not sending it to compost facilities with legitimate compostable packaging. Long story short, if we can bring our costs on Plantware down, we may be able to hit a price point that will make it easy to phase out Plant Starch, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do.

In today’s recycling markets we lack reliable access to post-consumer polypropylene. The virgin PP soup lids are so much less expensive than their compostable counterparts that customers using those items who are not composting have demanded that we keep these lids in our catalog. We have honored those requests up to this point in time, but it is growing more and more difficult to justify selling as many non-compostable lids with certified compostable containers as we do in this category. The discussion about whether to phase out this lid is generating a lot of soul searching conversations around our building, so stay tuned.

Product Packaging

Our products need to get from Point A to Point B, meaning they need to be packaged and shipped. Trying to minimize the environmental impact of our packaging is a new area of focus for us, and we see a lot of opportunity.

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In 2014, we will complete an analysis on the opportunities, costs, and implications associated with reducing the environmental impact of packaging used in product distribution.

In 2014, we will actively participate in Iowa State’s Center for Bioplastics and Biocomposites.

In 2014, we will review the business implications of phasing out our Plant Starch Cutlery and our 100% virgin polypropylene soup cup lid.

We use Ingeo™ biopolymer in about 70% of our products. Ingeo is the brand name for plant-based plastic made by our partner NatureWorks. It is also referred to as PLA (or polylactic acid).

Product Criteria

Every new product we bring to market must be:

Made with 100% renewable resources
Made with post-consumer recycled content

Opportunities for Minimizing Packaging

Can the sleeves be made with something other than virgin plastic?

Could the boxes be sized more efficiently?

Could we resize the boxes to fit more on a pallet to reduce shipping impact?