Perdue Farms sells chicken and other meats, but when the company recently launched an ecommerce channel, it turned to plant-based foam to boost its sustainable packaging game. Made from non-genetically modified organism (non-GMO) cornstarch, the foam in Perdue’s ecommerce shippers provides product insulation and can be disposed of via composting or dissolving in water.
KTM Industries Inc. supplies Perdue Farms with the insulating material, called Green Cell Foam.The foam can be commercially or residentially composted—or, it can be dissolved and washed down a kitchen drain. Consumers can even place the foam in a bucket of water, let it dissolve overnight and then use the mixture to water plants.
To further reduce the carbon footprint of its ecommerce operation, Perdue makes a donation to the Arbor Day Foundation for every order it ships. Consumers also receive a reusable grocery bag and a pollinator seed packet with each order. The company’s corrugated shippers are recyclable, as well.
A reusable tote is also sent to Perdue's ecommerce customers.
Some early reports from mainstream media about Perdue’s sustainable ecommerce packaging implied that the company is using the dissolvable foam for meat trays, but that is not the case.
“We use the water-soluble, compostable Green Cell Foam as insulation inside the cardboard boxes,” says David Zucker, senior vice president of ecommerce and new ventures for Perdue Farms. “The base ingredient of this foam is cornstarch. It replaces what would normally be a Styrofoam cooler commonly used in perishable shipping.”
He adds, “The actual packaging around the products is our standard packaging that meets United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requirements for food safety. The cardboard box is packed with the Green Cell Foam as an insulating liner, then the products go inside it with dry ice or frozen packs to keep the products at the appropriate temperature during shipping.”
Zucker answers additional questions from Packaging Digest about Perdue’s new ecommerce operation and packaging.
When did Perdue’s ecommerce site launch?
Zucker: We conducted a soft launch late last year and a full launch to the general public on Mon., Jan. 6, 2020. Consumers who sign up for email alerts from PerdueFarms.com will receive 10% off their first order!
Are the ecommerce products all shipped frozen?
Zucker: The site will initially offer a selection of about 100 items across some of our most popular brands, including Perdue, Niman Ranch and Coleman Natural, with plans to add additional offerings over time, as demand increases. All products are shipped frozen.
What types of primary packages are shipped in the ecommerce shippers?
Zucker: Product packaging for our ecommerce items is the same standard, food-safe, USDA-approved packaging that you’d find in retail.
Are all the ecommerce packaging components recyclable or compostable?
Zucker: The shipment packaging for our ecommerce orders is all recyclable or compostable. The cardboard box is recyclable, and the insulating foam is compostable or dissolvable. The actual packaging that encases the products themselves is our standard, USDA-approved, food-safe packaging, much of which is recyclable.
Each order from our ecommerce website will also arrive with a recyclable, reusable shopping tote and a packet of bee- and butterfly-friendly seeds for consumers to plant in their yards or elsewhere around their communities to help the local pollinator population flourish.
Additionally, with each sale through our website, we will make a donation to the Arbor Day Foundation to help offset our carbon footprint that will equate to removing more than 70 pounds of CO2 from the atmosphere (the equivalent of 4,250 smartphone charges).
How is Perdue communicating to consumers how they can recycle or compost the packaging components?
Zucker: Each recyclable material is indicated with the standard marks to indicate its grade of “recyclability.” We also have information on our website that describes the Green Cell Foam in particular.
Did the ecommerce site’s launch mark the beginning of Perdue’s use of compostable, dissolvable foam?
Zucker: Yes, our ecommerce channel is the first place we are using this compostable foam insulation for shipping.
Does the consumer need to remove the plastic film encasing the foam prior to dissolving or composting the foam?
Zucker: Yes. Since the foam is water-soluble, the thin plastic around it protects it from any moisture from the products, weather or other packing materials in the shipment.
[Note: According to KTM Industries, the low-density polyethylene (LDPE) film is recyclable with #4-coded plastics.]
What are the sustainability impacts of using water to dissolve the Green Cell Foam in the home? Does it take a lot of water to dissolve?
Zucker: The foam can be either rinsed down a sink or composted. A video showing how it can be washed down a kitchen sink can be found at the bottom of this web page.
Is Perdue looking at ways to use Green Cell Foam for retail sales, either in shipments to retailers or possibly in primary packaging?
Zucker: We’re constantly seeking new and better ways to reduce our environmental impact as a company. As we get traction with our new ecommerce site, we’ll certainly have learnings and will explore if there are opportunities to expand the benefits even further across our supply chain.
How have consumers reacted to Perdue’s sustainable ecommerce packaging, particularly the Green Cell Foam?
Zucker: We’ve received many positive comments from consumers regarding the use of this compostable foam insulation.
We have specific targets that we’re constantly working toward as a company, one being our goal to reduce our greenhouse gas intensity by 30% by 2022. The decision to use recyclable material in our ecommerce shipping materials, including the compostable foam insulation, is one of many steps we’re taking throughout our supply chain to help us achieve these targets.