Frito-Lay introduced a biodegradable bag for its Sun Chips line of snacks in April of 2009. Unfortunately, the bag was met with a lot of negative comments about the noise when it opened. Many operators remember the customer comments.
This year, Frito-Lay has come out with a quieter version of the eco-friendly bag. The company is limiting the introduction of the new package to only the original chip flavor and asking consumers to comment about the bag on social media Websites like Facebook. It is not yet available to vending.
customer concern comes in waves
Randy Parks, owner and founder of ProStar Services, Inc. in Carrollton, Texas, finds requests for environmentally friendly products come in waves. “It’s high on people’s social agendas, then it wanes, then comes back even stronger,” he said. He believes it will be rising in the coming months due to the increasing oil prices. He also believes it will be driven by government regulation, much like stricter emissions rules have led to vehicles with more restrictive equipment.
Parks has both a vending business and OCS business, but the vending side has almost no sustainable packaging efforts outside of what manufacturers are doing. He notices most end users aren’t asking for anything beyond a recycling program. “On the coffee side, however, we are selling a lot more paper cups than we were before,” said Parks, “although we still sell more Styrofoam overall.”
Perhaps because it’s the coffee customers driving the environmentally friendly products initiative, many of these manufacturers are racing to make greener packaging. Parks runs a roasting plant and buys film to package his coffee. Recently, there were claims about a recyclable film that could still maintain the freshness of the coffee. “It can do that,” said Parks, “But it doesn’t want to roll and stretch through the machine like the oil-based products.” He admits finding a product that’s green, protects freshness, has printability and “machinablity” is a challenge.
eco-packages worth investment
“I think it’s an opportunity for some vendors who can have products that are recyclable, compostable or made from renewable resources,” said Parks. “There’s a big opportunity for green packaging.”
Parks dedicates a section of his company’s Website to green products. He clearly spells out what the products are made of and whether they are compostable. The products include cups, cutlery and straws. The site includes clear labeling and definitions, which are important when advertising these types of products.
The Environmental Protection Agency and Federal Trade Commission are actively engaged in monitoring green marketing wording so consumers aren’t fooled by claims that mean very little. (See the sidebar on the opposite page.)
Offer products and reports
“Sustainable, in our category, means being able to use a product that’s made in a more environmentally preferable way and disposed of in a more efficient way, and that is also cost effective…(sustainable products) shouldn’t cost more,” said Bianculli of Paradigm.
Additionally, “green” reports such as those showing how many trees the end user is saving are available from Paradigm.
“The decision maker for OCS is usually the same for facility products, so it’s an easy conversion to make and being about to offer similarly priced environmental products is a win-win,” added Bianculli.