“Stand up pouches are quickly becoming the most widely used packaging in the US with retailers demanding them and consumers wanting them” because they are easier to display, lighter to transport and less likely to break or tear than jars and boxes, said Mathieu Senard, co-founder and co-CEO of Alter Eco.
“The problem is there are no recyclable versions of the pouches – just the petroleum-based plastic,” he explained to FoodNavigator-USA at Natural Products Expo West earlier this month.
In 2013 alone, he estimates, 17 billion plastic pouches were made and all of them ended up in landfills. With the continuing upward trend in using pouches, he expects this number to climb to 24 billion by 2018.
So, while Senard didn’t want to be left behind on eye-catching packaging trends that heavily influence sales, he also didn’t want to contribute to waste in landfills.
“Our goal is to be a full-circle sustainable company, which is why we prioritize being Fair Trade, organic and offsetting our carbon emissions. But by using non-recyclable plastic pouches, we were creating so much trash. We couldn’t live with that,” he said.
Compostable pouches for a new generation
That is why Alter Eco created Gone4Good stand-up pouches made from birch and eucalyptus wood pulp, non-GMO corn and printed with non-toxic ink to replace the previous packaging for the brand’s popular Royal heirloom quinoa products.
The pouches, which hit stores shelves in January, are fully compostable within three to six months, and deliver the same convenience of existing food pouches, the company says.
The patent-pending pouch has a few kinks still, including a slightly cloudy window, but Senard is confident the company can successfully address the challenge in the near future.
He hopes that other companies will follow Alter Eco’s lead, if not for the environment than to appease millennials, who Senard says is “a generation that wants things that are real, that are transparent and that wants to know the environment is taken care of that the people who make their products are taken care of.”
Beyond creating the new compostable pouch, Alter Eco also is answering the millennial generation’s call to action by buying only Fair Trade ingredients from small farmers or co-ops that pay a fair wage and price for goods.
In addition, it strives to buy only organic and non-GMO products, and to offset 100% of its carbon emissions it planted an estimated 7,000 trees on the farms in its supply chain so far, Senard said.
An ambitious goal to make business a force for good
Reflecting on all these elements of change, Senard said says he hopes Alter Eco can demonstrate that business can be a powerful force for good for the planet.
“For the past 60 years, the frame of mind in business has been to extract as much as possible from the planet, even if that means destroying the environment or if it means sending farmers into poverty. But we want to show that you can build a successful, profitable business while respecting higher standards,” Senard said.
He ambitiously and optimistically added: “We hope that we are showing consumers that meeting these higher standards not only is possible, but should be required so that in the next 50 years businesses can help solve all the gigantic problems, like climate change and poverty,” rather than contribute to them.