« November 2008 Table of Contents
Green Packaging: Inside the box
Seafood companies explore sustainable packaging options
By Lauren Kramer
November 01, 2008
When Specialists in Business Information conducted its last
report on sustainable packaging in 2005, the market research
publisher predicted that sustainable packaging for the food and
beverage market would surpass $42 billion annually by 2010. At
the time, the firm, a division of Rockville, Md.-based
MarketResearch.com, reported the sustainable or "green"
packaging market exceeded $37 billion, making their projection
a modest 10 percent increase.
In the three years since then, many companies have jumped on
board the green movement, some inspired by a wave of concern
for the health of the planet, and others motivated by the
demands of retail chains like Wal-Mart, which implemented an
initiative this year to measure its 60,000 worldwide suppliers
based on their ability to develop sustainable packaging and
conserve natural resources.
Starfish in Mukilteo, Wash., has switched from packaging
containing 10 percent post-consumer recycled content to
packaging with 100 percent recycled content.
"Before, we couldn't get a box sufficiently strong to hold
up in the freezer, but now the technology has improved enough
that it will," says Bob O'Bryant, Starfish's general manager.
"Our ultimate goal is to get as much post-consumer content in
our packaging as possible, and we're constantly looking for
packaging that will take us to the next level."
In August, Starfish launched a new, gluten-free product to
add to its repertoire of battered cod, halibut and haddock and
its other gluten-free frozen seafood that uses the new
packaging supplied by Georgia-Pacific. Starfish also moved from
an oil-based ink for printing to a soy equivalent.
"It's a little more expensive, but it's more ecologically
friendly than oil-based ink, and you cut down on the use of
petroleum," he says. Starfish is presently looking for more
environmentally friendly products to replace the plastic bags
used in its frozen seafood line.
At Ian's Natural Foods in Lawrence, Mass., those bags are a
thing of the past, says Clair
Sidman, marketing manager.
"Today we use a coded internal box with no bag inside. We've
reduced the packaging element and the box is 100 percent
recycled post-consumer content," says Sidman. "But the box is
more expensive than what we were using before, so we're not
exactly saving money by not using the bag."
A couple of years ago, the company was using 40 percent
recycled cardboard on the master cartons containing its product
Taking steps toward more environmentally friendly packaging
is not an immediate money-saver, agrees Frank Dulcich,
president and CEO of Clackamas, Ore.-based Pacific Seafood
Group. The company began working with Georgia-Pacific two years
ago to develop more sustainable packaging, and has replaced 90
percent of its packaging with the
Greenshield® line of
recyclable, corrugated solutions that contain a proprietary
moisture-resistant coating. The cost, however, is 15 percent
higher than previous packaging solutions of polystyrene foam
and wax-coated boxes.
While the Greenshield® line provides the insulation
properties and water resistance required to maintain seafood's
integrity, each box can only be used once before it goes back
"We're still looking at other alternatives to lessen our
impact on the environment even further, by using reusable
shipping containers to our direct store delivery and warehouse
customers," says Dulcich. "When we implement our new packaging
containers six to nine months from now we'll be able to reuse
them between 30 and 50 times."
Since some suppliers are still requesting Styrofoam
containers, Pacific Seafood invested in a machine that breaks
the packaging down for reuse, to avoid sending large quantities
of Styrofoam to a landfill.
"This machine breaks down the foam from 50 boxes into a
small block container that is melted and sold to moulding and
picture frame manufacturers to use in their product," says
Dulcich. "What was once five to seven truckloads going to the
landfill, as of January 2008 we have no truckloads heading to
the landfill. It doesn't compensate for the higher cost of the
Greenshield® product, but in time we hope it will."
Pacific Seafood also entered into a joint venture with
Converted Organics in Eureka, Calif., in March. Through this
partnership, the company's seafood waste is processed into
fish-based organic fertilizer that prevents millions of pounds
of fish by-products from entering a landfill.
"Again, it's too early to tell if we'll make money from
this," says Dulcich. "But hopefully, it will work as a
combination of an environmentally friendly initiative and also
Contributing Editor Lauren Kramer lives in British