With industry-first reusable egg cartons, Pete and Gerry's Organic Eggs proves that small companies can develop breakthrough sustainable packaging.
Packaging professionals don’t really need to know whether the chicken or the egg came first, but they should know that the industry’s first reusable egg carton is here and came from Pete and Gerry's Organic Eggs of Monroe, NH.
In joining major brands like Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Nestlé and Unilever that have developed reusable packaging, Pete and Gerry’s proves that you don’t have to be big to implement big ideas.
Made of recycled, durable, BPA-free plastic which can be washed at home and reused repeatedly, the new plastic egg cartons are currently in pilot at Hanover Co-op Food Stores in New Hampshire and Vermont.
It’s a notable accomplishment considering the frequency of use: the average person in the U.S. eats approximately 279 eggs per year or about 23 cartons worth that, projected over a lifetime, would save more than 1,800 cartons per person, according to Pete and Gerry’s.
"While we are confident in the sustainability of our current carton, which is made from 100% recycled plastic and has less environmental impact than the [expanded polystyrene] or molded pulp cartons used by conventional egg brands, we continue to challenge ourselves to find even better ways to improve our environmental stewardship," says Jesse Laflamme, Pete and Gerry's Organic Eggs CEO. "Reusable cartons are a logical next step in our ongoing commitment to sustainability, moving consumer behavior from recycling to reuse.”
Laflamme informs Packaging Digest that the pilot began in December 2019 and since then the brand has received “really positive feedback from retailers and consumers. We plan to expand this program in 2020 to reach even more consumers and amplify the program's impact nationally with major retailers clamoring for this type of sustainable innovation."
Laflamme discloses that the reusable plastic carton is made from durable, recycled BPA-free polypropylene. The rest of the interview follows.
What prompted this “outside the egg carton” idea?
Laflamme: As a Certified B Corporation, we take great care in how our business practices impact the environment, our workers, the wider community and are always working to improve on the current practices in place. While we are confident in the sustainability of our current carton, we wanted to challenge ourselves to find an even better way to improve our environmental stewardship—and ultimately, we recognized that reuse is even better than recycling.
With reusable shopping bags now the norm, we thought, why not do the same for our egg cartons? That’s how the idea for the project came about that’s currently in pilot.
How is this different from the brand’s standard, single-use plastic carton?
Laflamme: The key component is that the new reusable egg carton has been designed with durability in mind and can be washed at home and reused repeatedly. While the current rPET carton is great because it’s made of 100% recycled plastic and is one of the most widely recyclable materials, this new carton moves up the Reduce-Reuse-Recycle hierarchy.
Any special challenges or considerations?
Laflamme: An initial concern of ours was transporting, protecting and presenting the loose eggs. Additionally, convincing retailers to supply the space for the educational display that houses the reusable cartons was a hurdle. However, this was perceived as very exciting innovation in a category that has traditionally been starved for innovation.
What input did Co-Op Food Stores have in the packaging and project?
Laflamme: Mainly, we worked with the Co-Op Food Stores to ensure that it would work from a store operations standpoint.
Please comment on the new in-store bulk container (shown below) from which consumers select eggs to place in the new carton.
Laflamme: This item was custom designed to fit on an egg shelf. It has a tearaway front that enables consumers to easily access the bulk eggs. We designed it so that it fits in the facing of a traditional egg carton. This item is made of recycled cardboard corrugate which is recycled by the stores after use. Eventually, we would like to make all aspects of this program reusable including the egg shipper.
What are the benefits of the program for stakeholders?
Laflamme: Like many other major consumer packaged goods companies, we recognize that reuse is even better than recycling, and we’re proud to be at the forefront of this growing movement to help reduce the impact of packaging on the planet. Additionally, from a cost perspective, we sell the loose eggs at a discounted rate, allowing the reusable carton to pay for itself over time, further incentivizing shoppers to participate.
About how many roundtrips for consumer payback?
Laflamme: The refill eggs are priced so that the savings pays for the one-time carton purchase over six trips.
Who's the target consumer for this?
Laflamme: Everyone! Eggs are one of the most widely consumed, affordable and nutrient-dense foods on the market. The more people we can convert to choosing reusable cartons to lessen our environmental impact, the better. Until then, we encourage consumers to recycle their cartons or participate in our carton Take Back Program.