For now, consumers who want to buy well to do good are paying for the privilege."
Sustainability is on the top of everyone’s minds. The buzzwords are all around: “eco-friendly,” “recyclable,”’ “compostable” and “biodegradable.”’ But the move toward sustainable packaging has been slow. And consumers are getting impatient.
The overwhelming majority of consumers believe in the benefits of sustainable packaging and are eager to support it. Sixty percent of respondents to a survey by Packaging Digest said they want non-plastic packaging options. Almost one-third said their concern about the negative impact of plastic packaging is as high as it can possibly be.
The belief in sustainable packaging to make a difference runs deep. Nearly 90% of consumers surveyed said they have faith recycling can have a positive impact on marine debris, for example.
To set new standards across categories and industries, progressive brands that embrace sustainable packaging design must be successful long term. Unfortunately, despite the growing demand for earth-friendly packaging, the perceived higher cost of production is a barrier most brands have been unwilling to tackle.
For now, consumers who want to buy well to do good are paying for the privilege. It’s up to brands to push responsible packaging into the mainstream so that sustainability can be an equal opportunity endeavor.
It can be done. Many manufacturers have the misconception that sustainable practices add to product cost. But sustainable practices can reduce packaging costs. Do we need products packaged with a tray, a plastic bag, a sleeve and a box? Eliminating frivolous packaging elements can reduce waste and cost.
Last year, a grocer in Thailand replaced processed plastic packaging materials with banana leaves to bind loose produce. This move was so disruptive, it rippled through the zeitgeist. Of course, banana leaves are found in abundance in the tropics, and the inventive use of naturally occurring biodegradable resources is a genius and beautiful way to strive for a cleaner planet, but the solution doesn’t have many practical uses for retailers or brands with multinational supply chains and global distribution. It certainly doesn’t leave much room for thoughtful and disruptive design, either.
Still, during a trip to Denver, I came across a grocer who merchandised single bananas on pressed-foam trays, wrapped in plastic. Why?
At Hatch Design, we’re fortunate to work with entrepreneurs pushing the boundaries of sustainable design. When Blue Evolution, maker of seaweed-based pasta, came to us in 2017, they knew exactly who they were and they refused to shy away from it.
“As our name suggests, we are about continual improvement. And while we’re extremely proud of our pasta and all the doors it has opened for us, we wanted to up our game with regard to visual appearance and messaging,” according to Beau Perry, founder and CEO of Blue Evolution. “In keeping with the ethos of Blue Evolution, where the visual was centered around the earth’s gift of seaweed, we wanted [packaging] that maintained that connection to earth and wouldn’t harm or pollute the marine life that gave us these gifts.”
Blue Evolution came to us requesting eco-friendly packaging and a design that screams “Seaweed!” Inspired by the natural brilliance of seaweed, we designed a vibrant package that would stand out on the shelf and wouldn’t hurt the environment in which seaweed flourishes, using 100% compostable packaging including a plant-based, biodegradable “plastic” over the box’s cutout — all as durable as traditional packaging.
The cost implication? Little, if any.
A client’s desire to use recycled and recyclable materials doesn’t have to limit creativity. At the intersection of design and planet, it’s up to brand builders and designers to see the challenge as an opportunity for innovation.
Our client Joolies, a deeply planet- and eco-conscious company, encouraged our team to unleash our creative potential. Tasked with building a lasting identity for Joolies that is extendable as the company expands the line of Medjool dates, we took the ancient superfood and immersed it in a visual identity that draws on the company’s Coachella Valley roots, with a current, vibrant Southern California vibe. The cool turquoise hues and bright sunburst colors differentiate the products throughout the line.
Joolies’ packaging is a sustainable innovative system. With the Joolies team, we explored new frontiers of materials, inks and forms and used recycled cardboard and compostable inks. The package also includes a built-in compartment to responsibly discard pits.
At the end of the day, sustainable design means more than designing on material that can be composted. It’s about inspiring others to explore the harder path, to acknowledge that brands need to be a part of change, to be disruptive and to create cost-effective packaging as beautiful and functional as conventional packaging.