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How Upcycled Brands Are Making Sustainable Packaging a Priority

As you walk up and down the aisles of your grocery store, you’ll find that single-use packaging fills the shelves. It’s everywhere you look. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to not spot it. How did we get here?


Single-use packaging has become a staple of consumer culture since they were introduced just 60 years ago. These standard “conventional” flexible films are fossil-fuel derived, landfill-bound, last forever, and harm life outside of landfills. While conventional packaging creates long term future-trash, it is also effective at maximizing shelf-life, cheap, and easy to work with, which leads to most companies in the packaged foods space today choosing conventional (read: wasteful) packaging, rather than opting for more sustainable solutions.


Image Credit: ReGrained


At ReGrained, we decided long ago that zero-waste packaging was a non-negotiable value for us. We were first to market with compostable wrappers and had packed exclusively this way for years. For products packaged in flexible films, like the bar wrappers and chip bags we use for our products, conventional materials are the easiest, and most cost effective, choice for brands. Not only that, but viable recyclable and compostable packaging options don’t exist in this space. Too often, they are less effective and more expensive.


In 2018, we were faced with this reality as we watched our compostable packaging materials lead to stale-tasting products in stores. Our extensive testing hadn’t prepared us for this unexpected plot twist. Why did this happen? In layman’s terms, our compostable wrappers were able to break down because they were made of less “stuff” (plants, not petroleum or other synthetic inputs). However, that same “less stuff” also invites in more air and lets out more moisture than traditional landfill-bound packaging. This interview covers a deep dive into the issue.


Ever since this pivotal moment in ReGrained’s story, we haven’t backed down on our goal to only use zero-waste packaging. If anything, this was a springboard for us to dive deeper into the research and development of compostable packaging materials that actually work. We joined forces with OSC2 Packaging Collaborative to develop a new generation of high barrier compostable packaging. We’re leading a Redefining Flexible Films innovation project around distribution testing, and frequently speak out within the industry. Just like with Upcycled Food, we know that to create impactful change in packaging, we need all hands on deck. This means retailers, brands, distributors, and yes, especially you consumers!


At ReGrained, we are committed to our goal of creating zero-waste packaging that works. Our promise to you is to remain transparent and honest during this process. Please follow along at The Upcyclist with us as we document our progress and be in touch with any questions, concerns or intrigue!


Author Bio: Dan Kurzrock

Dan Kurzrock is the co-founder and CEO of ReGrained, founding member and executive board officer of the Upcycled Food Association. Dan created ReGrained out of his hobby for homebrewing, where he first discovered that so-called "spent" grain could be given a delicious second life. He is now obsessed with better aligning the food we eat with the planet we love through edible upcycling.

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