You are welcome to share your thoughts on this article written by Rochelle Fainstein, the Digital Marketing Manager at Sterling Brands, New York
Potato Plastics and Packaging That Does Something
Having recently read an article on bioplastics and the latest effort to create both new sustainable packaging as well as sustainable jobs through Potato farming and innovation, I felt driven to reintroduce the topic of packaging that does good for the planet– and who’s doing it.
Potato is the newest frontier in natural starch-based plastics, which was braved over twenty years ago by corn farmers and continued more recently by consumer giant Procter & Gamble with their exploration of sugarcane. Delving into potatoes is yet another important step toward bringing another hearty starch into heavy demand and creating work for farmers around the globe. The result for brands is a new choice in packaging that is made from renewable materials, fully biodegradable and above all, a responsible choice that consumers will seek out.
Sustainable Packaging and the Potential Impact on Perception:
Like any new product feature, sustainable packaging must be accompanied by messaging. To say that overhauling your packaging structural system is expensive is only half the story– don’t forget to factor in the substantive marketing cost! Change doesn’t come easy, and it certainly is expensive. But beyond packaging, building a brand with an earth-healthy message is an excellent opportunity for brands to connect with consumers on an emotional level and establish a new, reciprocal consumer culture.
Imagine, for instance, creating an ongoing nationwide competition for the Most Compostable city, with an award that supports public works. This type of marketing is engaging and cyclical, therefore fundamentally in line with the recyclable nature of your product. Plus, there’s nothing like a little competition to get the juices flowing.
Ultimately, the brand that teaches reuse is one that regenerates sales.
It’s often difficult for brands, even global ones, to maintain a consistent message across multiple markets, which is why beginning with a focus is key when introducing a sustainable message. Because changing consumption and disposal habits is so incredibly difficult, it makes sense to use test markets until an established method of introduction and adoption has been set in place — then spread this method worldwide.
Major foods brand Frito-Lay has been changing its manufacturing and delivery practices over the past decade, creating LEED certified facilities, implementing an electric truck fleet, and even trying a fully-compostable chip bag. The bag was rolled out and tested in the United States with the hope of making a sweeping dent in snack-time packaging waste. Unfortunately, the bag was too noisy  and recalled, but this gave Frito-Lay time to go back into the lab and try again. Now they may finally have it.
Testing is crucial and so is getting it right for the planet, but time is of the essence: The reputation for setting an industry standard (being first) could result in great brand loyalty.
Don’t forget this is your chance to differentiate! Because packaging is the most tangible marketing method and so often our purchase decisions are made at the shelf level, packaging that communicates a strong, new message is one of the most powerful ways to grab hold of the consumer one-to-one.
There has been a lot of discussion, and it continues, about green washing and the importance of authenticity in brand messaging. The best way to prove greenness on a massive scale ironically fits in the palm of one’s hand. What’s more, while other brands are busy convincing consumers to buy products they don’t need, you can give them a valid, easy choice. This is your chance to occupy permanent headspace for your category.
The moment is rapidly approaching when, regardless of our desire for convenience, we’ll be forced to change consumer culture, literally breaking the packaging mold. You can make promises or you can try potatoes. Any way you say it, the future is now.
About the Author
Rochelle Fainstein is the Digital Marketing Manager for Sterling Brands and doubles as a market researcher and writer on special projects. She has worked professionally in PR, Marketing and Advertising since 2003.
Sterling Brands is a brand strategy and package design firm, founded in 1992 and boasting an all-star roster including design guru Debbie Millman and innovation rockstar DeeDee Gordon. For more information, follow us on Facebook, @sterlingbrands on Twitter, or on the Sterling Brands blog.