- Organic egg brand Pete and Gerry’s debuted a reusable egg carton at the Hanover Co-op Food Stores of New Hampshire and Vermont, according to a release from the company.
- These cartons, which retail for $2.99, are made from recycled BPA-free plastic and are refillable from a display of loose eggs that are discounted from a standard dozen to allow consumers to compensate for the initial investment in reusable packaging.
- "Reusable cartons are a logical next step in our ongoing commitment to sustainability, moving consumer behavior from recycling to reuse. We plan to expand this program in 2020 to reach even more consumers and amplify the program's impact with major retailers clamoring for this type of sustainable innovation," said Pete and Gerry's Organic Eggs CEO Jesse Laflamme in a release.
Sustainability is a big point of consideration for consumers, and data shows consumers are willing to pay more to support brands that reflect their values.
Pete and Gerry’s has taken this trend to heart with its reusable egg cartons. While it could initially be cumbersome to convince consumers to bring yet another reusable package to the store for a refill, the organic egg company has ensured it is financially beneficial for customers to make that investment. Although the discount for unpackaged versus packaged eggs is small, it adds up over time.
A reusable container is not only a commitment for the consumer, but for a retailer as well. For retailers to make such an investment, they will have to be certain there is demand for the reusable option, and that sales will compensate for the time and money associated with a separate display of cartons and loose eggs. Fast Company reported the company has sold 500 reusable cartons across the four stores where it is running its pilot program. Laflamme told Fast Company response to the initiative has been better received than the company initially imagined.
Customers have proven to be sufficiently interested in sustainable and reusable packaging, so many big brands have responded with updates. SaltWater Brewery of Delray Beach, Florida, is using a biodegradable and compostable six-pack ring design made from wheat and barley instead of plastic. Danish brewing giant Carlsberg is now in the prototype phase on its initiative to produce a sustainable, bio-based, fully recyclable beer bottle called the "Green Fibre Bottle." General Mills' Oui yogurt line from Yoplait uses glass jars instead of plastic cups.
And more big packaging changes are on the way. Experts predict that eco-friendly packaging will be one of the top five food packaging trends for 2020, and brands are already making big announcements. Next year, Coca-Cola plans aluminum bottles for Dasani, as well as a 20-ounce HybridBottle made with up to 50% plant-based renewable and recycled PET plastic.
Although trendy, upgrading packaging to be sustainable can be costly. Production costs for sustainable options are about 25% more than traditional packaging. Other downsides include questions of sanitation and durability. Pete and Gerry’s cartons are intended to be washed at home, and it is unclear if the company will be responsible for any pathogens contracted from insufficiently cleaned containers that carry its eggs. As for durability, the cartons are designed to be sturdier than the brand’s conventionally used thin, recycled plastic.
Even if not all egg buyers participate in this new approach to purchasing eggs, they will likely approve of the impact it can have on the environment. According to the American Egg Board, each American consumes an average of 287 eggs per year. Doing the math, that translates to nearly 24 cartons worth. Even if only the 500 participants from the pilot continue to use reusable packaging, that is 12,000 plastic egg cartons per year that will be saved from the landfill.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation found the global share of plastic packaging increased from 17% to 25% between 2000 and 2015, with volumes expected to quadruple by 2050. Couple that with the fact that only 9% of all plastic discarded since 1950 has been recycled, according to a new study by the Center for International Environmental Law, and it is clear that companies need a plan B if they want to help save the planet.