In 2019 we finally found a supplier who could offer us an earth-friendly packaging solution for our superfood treats so after years of asking packaging suppliers to bring an earth-friendly material to market it has finally arrived. In earlier years we tried other compostable materials but for various reasons felt the material would not stand up to the requirements needed to reach customers in distant lands.
As the product manufacture, one must consider several important factors when choosing a suitable packaging solution.
In our first tests some years ago I introduced a compostable material for my private online customers, it somewhat worked but in reality, the material was not designed for what I was asking of it. My treats have zero preservatives and cannot be contaminated with moisture after the air drying process; this is an important factor in selecting a material with the correct barriers. We ran with the first 100% compostable bags for some months, we got some positive feedback, but customers lost some of the convenience, plus it involved a lot more work in the packing room, coupled with these issues was the fact that the material was very light and could tear or bust quite easily. So the decision was made after about six months to return to the standard multilayer material.
From meeting different packaging suppliers at trade shows or via samples received the question most nearly always arose; “do you offer an earth-friendly solution” we nearly always got the same answer; no, but we're working on it. It came as a disgusting realization that two of the biggest names in the food/beverage industry had earth-friendly packaging solutions several years ago and yet we're still sitting on the fence to bring these materials to the market, presumably because of the cost factor involved. Consumers need powerful corporations to step up to the mark with regard to ethical issues. It seems to me that the smaller business is more willing, okay, I need to rephrase that, some smaller businesses are more willing.
So in mid-2019, we received samples from a company, the usual mix of printed pouches in various multilayer plastics, however, after talking with them it came to light that they were in the early stages of bringing 100% compostable material to market after the testing phase had been completed. I lost no time in taking this opportunity to the next level, let’s get some sample material and find out the answers to our five questions.
We had three important issues with regard to protecting our packaged products, (a) moisture barrier properties of the material (b) our meat treats are hard with quite sharp ends that could tear lighter material and (c) would the material be stiff enough and offer enough protection during the different phases of packing/shipping/displaying and handling.
Question (a) could be answered fairly easily with the specification from the material supplier, but we still needed to do our own simple testing. Answers to b and c would be arrived at as soon as we had packed some products.
On the day that the new 100% compostable sample bags arrived, I lost no time in putting them through their packing test. I worked in the engineering world for about ten years so I do my own welding and machine building in my small workshop, I know my packaging machine like the back of my hand, it’s quite a simple but effective pouch packaging system I spend about three months building, it takes the pouches from the magazine to the operator opened and then after the operator places the filled pouches in the pucks (nylon carousel) it seals the pouches before they are ejected for placing into boxes. After some sealing temperature adjustments we had perfectly sealed pouches, in fact, the new compostable material withstood the sealing process even better than the multi-layered material which tended to shrink and distort meaning that any print on the sealing area was going to be somewhat distorted, the new material I was happy to discover performed very well. The same packing process thought us that during the hand-filling procedure the pouch window was a weak point and something that we needed to overcome if we didn’t want “broken windows” a simple fix was implemented, no one like broken windows!
Now we had the sample packs filled and sealed it was fairly clear that the material was offering the same if not maybe a little more than the previous multilayer material in terms of product handling protection, the material was indeed stiff enough, and yet at the same time opened at the tear notches without issue, this can be a difficult nuisance especially for older people, likewise, the zip lock worked sweetly to open and reseal.
A couple of sample packs were set aside to perform our own simple moisture barrier test. For this we exposed the sealed packs to damp storage area for 48 hours, now we're not talking about sitting them in water, just an area that was damp and something that we would not expect our products to have to endure during shipping or storage. We performed a before and after moisture test on the product using our Mettler Toledo HG53 moisture analyser, receiving the same reading before and after let us know that, fantastic we had indeed a material with a good moisture barrier to protect our treats which had zero preservatives or mold inhibitors.
This depends and has many factors to include, how it will stand out against competing products more than lightly packed in colourful multilayer material packs. Our pack is quite lightly coloured, we were very limited to the material choice, we opted for a brown with a simple white print, we would have preferred a darker brown material but a bit like Henry Ford’s first car “you can have any colour as long as it back” we had to settle for a light paper brown. We have invested in our own label printing and making equipment and offer our customers labels printed in the language of their region, an important factor when you are trying to convey information that will help the customer understand your ethical and core issues around why your product is “special” plus we wanted to convey a more artisan hand-crafted product, something that is very much is.
Due to the current worldwide COVID – 19 crisis everything has been more or less put on hold, our marketing campaign has been brought to a halt before we started contacting retailers regarding our new 100% compostable solution. We did, however, ship a number of orders to France, Finland, and the Czech Republic just before all hell broke loose, feedback from Finland the first to receive their order has been exceptional, better than we had expected.
Now we just need to wait and see how long the current global pandemic will affect life and business trade, a much bigger picture than our little earth-friendly packaging solution. But life will return to normal hopefully in the not so distant future, and when it does we will have something to offer that will in a small way help fix some of the broken bits in this wonderful world and environment we share.
It has been my goal from early on to produce some of the finest treats in the world for dogs, yes I understand we are a very small company and that seems like a tall order, but not really when you understand the overall quality of treats been sold on the world market for dogs, from very good to really very bad. With my background in the meat industry and after my initial market research I knew I could create something special, something that would blow the competition clean out of the water in terms of quality and at the same time I realised I would never be able to compete on price, but in more recent times I am re-revaluating that opinion.
Finally, we have a packaging material that complements the quality of our functional treats.
What better way to love one's dog, let's love our world.