Going Green is Not Always Black & White

Although foodservice packaging and related supplies make up approximately 3% of a restaurant’s expenses, these items have consumed a disproportionate percentage of mindshare lately. Bans on certain types of products such as expanded polystyrene (foam) containers, plastic bags, and most recently plastic straws, have been causing headaches. Here are 10 tips to help make sense of the changing landscape of packaging materials, environmental claims, and disposal pathways.

1.      The term biodegradable is often used to market products but can be misleading. For example, an aluminum can is biodegradable…in 200 years. On the other hand, a banana, when buried in a sanitary landfill, will never biodegrade.

2.      Compostable is another term that needs clarification. Products that are BPI Certified compostable must be processed in a commercial composting facility in order to be converted into the nutrient-rich compost material that can be reused in agricultural applications. If a compostable product ends up in a landfill, it remains intact.

3.      All plastics are recyclable however not are all are economically feasible. Polyethylene terephthalate (PETE) is the most commonly recycled plastic in both residential and commercial recycling programs. This type of plastic is used to make many types of clear plastic packaging and bottles and can be recycled multiple times.

4.      Cardboard and paper are recyclable, but must be free of contaminants such as food, grease, and other debris.

5.      There are many alternative raw materials that can be used to make foodservice packaging including bio-based and rapidly renewable materials that may also be compostable, when certified and processed properly.

  • Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on the planet, growing as much as 24” in a day. The material is used to make compostable plates, cutlery, and straws.
  • Sugarcane Pulp, also called Bagasse, is a byproduct of the harvesting process. It is used to make compostable plates, bowls, and other containers.
  • Wheat straw is another rapidly renewable material that can be used similarly to sugarcane pulp, also compostable.
  • Cornstarch, when converted into polylactic acid (PLA), is made into compostable cups, lids, and straws. Although the material looks like plastic, it is not suitable for hot applications.
  • Palm sheaths naturally dry and fall from trees. They are collected and converted into compostable plates, bowls, and containers.

6.      The disposal process may be the most challenging part of the equation. An operator can use recyclable and compostable packaging and supplies, but the consumer must then dispose of the item into the correct collection bin. Cross-contamination of recyclables or compostables will result in the load ending up in the landfill.

7.      For on-premises disposal, using prominent signage including pictograms can help educate staff and customers. Video monitors are another option and may be more attention grabbing than static signs.

8.      Custom-print packaging can convey your sustainability messaging and include instructions for proper disposal, on-site or off.

9.      Although there are many sustainable alternatives, it is still important to ensure that the packaging performs correctly and increases customer satisfaction. Test all options for temperature and humidity control, strength, grease-resistance, and presentation.

10.      Going green is not black and white. Work with an experienced supplier partner to select the most appropriate packaging and supplies for your unique situation.

For more information on Imperial Dade’s Greensafe Program visit our website.
This article first appeared in This Week in Hospitality, a publication of the New York City Hospitality Alliance.

Expert Interview – Sustainable Style

 On a recent trip to New York, I visited PacknWood’s loft showroom in midtown Manhattan. Over coffee, the company’s Founder and CEO Adam Merran explained the company’s product line and commitment to sustainability. 

LC: What makes PacknWood different from the many other manufacturers of foodservice packaging and catering supplies?

AM: We create innovative, high-quality and eco-friendly packaging solutions using many unique materials for all kinds of food applications. We currently have the largest eco-friendly line in the market, launching 80-100 new products a year. That really keeps things exciting for all our customers.

LC: Looking around, I see you do have many product lines which are made from a variety of raw materials.

AM: The natural look of the material is very important. The features, being sustainable and practical, are also important. For example, bamboo is the fastest growing plant on the planet. Our bamboo leaf plates are beautiful with a two-sided design. They have an exotic look. Each plate looks different. The material can hold many types of food for long periods​ of time without losing strength.

Bamboo leaf plate

AM: We also make products from other renewable and compostable materials such as sugarcane pulp, palm leaves, starch, wood, and paperboard. Other items are made with recycled and recyclable plastics.

LC: How do you stay ahead of the marketplace in terms of innovations?

AM: We stay on top of the trends and we anticipate them. PacknWood launched paper straws 8 years ago. We now see the market is ready for them. We happen to have 50 different designs ​available. We also just launched a hard bamboo straw.

AM: I am a foodie and pay attention to foodservice concepts. One of the big trends I noticed 4 or 5 years ago was the popularity of food trucks. So, we developed a product line called Street Eats which is perfect for all kinds of portable food items.

Grab and go

AM: We also import trends from Europe such as our VIP sets. Catering companies often cater in bulk with large catering trays, we decided to offer an alternative with upscale, single-​serving containers.

VIP set.jpeg

LC: How do you make sure your products continue to meet the needs of your customers?

AM: We try to create excitement by continuously launching new products and applications. PacknWood exhibits in at least 10 national trade shows every year and we keep ​in close contact with our end-users to understand what they need. ​This is what drives the product launches and, to be honest, that is what I am passionate about personally. For example, we noticed catering companies were drilling holes in wood planks to hold our skewers. We decided to create a solid ready-to-use skewer stand using beautiful bamboo. Our stadium customers were using plain picks to serve food so we developed a line of sports-themed bamboo picks, which enhanced their guests’ experience.

Sport skewer

LC: Sustainability is obviously a big part of your business model. Tell me about why that is important to you.

AM: It is key to me as I believe we need to be more sustainable every day. I attempt to certify as many of our items as possible. We select renewable or recyclable materials throughout all our new product launches. Two years ago we took the initiative to neutralize our company’s carbon emissions. We are sponsoring projects around the world that offset our emissions. We are looking at going further by becoming a B Corporation.

LC: Tell me more about the B Corporation program.

AM: It is a third-party standard requiring companies to meet social sustainability and environmental performance standards. The certification applies to the whole company across all product lines and issue areas.

LC: What are some challenges that foodservice operators have today and how do your products address those challenges?

AM: Very often, the challenge for an operator is to become a more sustainable business. It can be difficult to fit that goal into their budget. We offer many green alternatives at different prices. What we do is offer a solution that will enhance their food presentation and enhance their brand. That investment makes​ it possible for them to obtain a higher selling price for their menu items, a triple win.

LC: Thank you for inviting me to visit you today and learn more about PacknWood!

AM: It was my pleasure!

For more information about PacknWood’s product offering visit www.packnwood.com or ask your Imperial Dade representative.


Expert Interview – Warewashing, More than just Washing Dishes

An effective warewashing program can ensure kitchenware cleanliness, enhance guest satisfaction, and save money. For this edition of The Expert Interview, I spoke to my colleague Angel Rodriguez. As a Chemical Sales Manager at Imperial Dade, Angel oversees the Environmental Service Program in the Tri-State region. With over 16 years of experience in the industry, Angel has a wealth of knowledge on the topic.

LC: What exactly is warewashing?

AR: Warewashing is the term associated with cleaning and sanitizing any kitchenware used in the preparation, serving, or storing of food. This would include pots and pans, cutlery, glasses, serving pans, and trays. Warewashing can be done by machine or manually. This process is a key factor in ensuring that a commercial kitchen provides a clean and safe dining experience for their customers.

LC: You mentioned cleaning and sanitizing. Can you explain the difference?

AR: Great question! Cleaning removes food and other debris from the surface of an item, such as a plate. Sanitizing is the next step. Sanitizing kills the microorganisms and germs on the cleaned surface, making it safe for food contact.

LC: I think we all have an understanding of manual warewashing. It’s what we do at home, correct?

AR: Yes, but in a commercial environment there are specific steps and regulations. At home you may wash a plate with retail detergent, dry it, and put it away. In a restaurant you must wash the plate with a commercial-grade detergent, rinse, and then sanitize in water that contains 200 parts per million of sanitizer. That last step is the one that causes the most challenges. For example, if the water is too hot, the sanitizer will not be maintained at the appropriate level.

LC: And if that happens, is the sanitizing step compromised?

AR: Yes, and if a health inspector performs a test, it will result in a violation. It is really important to have a proper 3-compartment sink system, use the correct products and follow procedures.

LC: Does using a dish machine make the process easier for the operator?

AR: Commercial dish machines require less labor and, especially in large establishments, are much more efficient than manual washing. But there are still procedures and maintenance that need to be performed.

AR: First, the operator must consider the best type of machine. There are many sizes and configuration ranging from a small under-counter model, which would be appropriate in a bar area or small café, to a large conveyor model used in a hotel. These machines operate at high or low temperatures. Low temperature machines are less expensive and more energy efficient, but require more chemicals. There are trade-offs that need to be analyzed.  Every situation is unique. This is why it is important for operators to work with an experienced supplier, one that will take the time to determine the best system for their needs.

LC: Okay, once the correct equipment is chosen and installed, what are the steps to make sure the program runs smoothly.

AR: Scheduled preventative maintenance is crucial. A technician will change chemical lines, squeeze tubes, and dilution tips to make sure that the proper amount of detergent and chemicals are being used by the machine. These items can wear out, and if neglected can shut down the system. This can cause a major halt to a kitchen while waiting for an emergency service call.

AR: Using the right detergents and chemicals for the machine type is another important factor. The warewashing system components operate together so substituting or leaving out products will cause problems and can result in health code violations.

LC: Sounds like there is a lot more to a warewashing program than simply washing dishes.

AR: It is a very important process, however when set up and maintained correctly, it will free up kitchen staff and managers to focus on their menu and their guests’ satisfaction.

LC: Thanks, Angel!

Angel Rodriguez, as well as Imperial Dade’s team of Chemical Managers, are available to consult with foodservice operators on warewashing systems. Angel can be reached at arodriguez@imperialdade.com.


Expert Interview – Creating Buzz-worthy Social Marketing

On a recent visit to New York, I had the chance to have lunch with Marcus Byrd, Marketing Manager at Dos Toros. Originally from California, Marcus heads up the marketing department for this rapidly growing fast-casual restaurant concept with locations in New York City and Chicago. 

LC: Wow, this food is fantastic! Tell me about this place!

MB: Dos Toros is a fast-casual taqueria that was founded by two brothers, Oliver and Leo Kremer, from California with a simple dream, to bring the best of the San Francisco taqueria experience to the rest of the country. We proudly cook our recipes from scratch using the finest ingredients and naturally raised proteins. Working together, our terrific and talented team strives to deliver uncompromising excellence, one burrito at a time.

LC: As Marketing Manager, what is your role?

MB: I head up marketing for all of Dos Toros’ 16 locations. I’m also from the Bay Area and share the distinct passion of bringing best-in-class flavor to the rest of the country. I lead the company’s press, brand and influencer relations, as well as development of in-store, digital and social content strategies, new restaurant opening strategies, and social corporate responsibility initiatives. Over the years I’ve been at Dos Toros, we’ve seen hockey stick growth, just opening our 16th location this month.

LC: You wear a lot of hats! How big is your team?

MB: Our team is lean! We have a Senior Designer and a Marketing Coordinator.

LC:  What are some of the most effective methods you’ve used for promoting Dos Toros?

MB: Some of the best tools for promoting Dos Toros have been our Community Partnerships and our New Restaurant Opening strategy. At Dos Toros we firmly believe the product speaks for itself and encouraging first-hand experiences is paramount to converting new customers. Community events such as partnering with local high schools and colleges, tastings with local businesses, and promoting corporate social responsibility are all ways we can showcase Dos Toros to potential guests. Additionally, our new location launch strategy has been very effective in spreading the word among potential guests who are hyper-local to our spaces. We host a $1 Burrito Day for every store opening, which immediately creates a seismic buzz in the surrounding neighborhood. We serve upwards of 2,000 guests on our opening days. The influx of carry-out bags printed with the Dos Toros logo is perhaps the most effective in terms of word-of-mouth!

LC: I love your Instagram posts. How big a role does social media play in your marketing programs?

MB: Social media has been incredibly cost effective in developing avenues to reach guests in their natural environments. By integrating ourselves into our communities’ Instagram and Facebook feeds, we strive to create valuable touchpoints to incite future purchasing behavior. We also work on encouraging mentions in daily media outlets, via PR and partnerships.  We have really treated Instagram as our go to platform for Dos Toros news because of the highly visual nature of the food industry, and our appetites! New store openings, new products, discounts and promotions are all premiered on Instagram first. While we also utilize Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter as well, Instagram has emerged as our highest engaged platform due to the craveable nature of the food we sell and Instagram’s incredible rise in popularity among the 18-35 metropolitan crowd.

LC: Well, it works! I am always hungry after seeing your posts. You use lots of images and videos on social media. What is your process for planning the photo and video shoots? Is it very formal and planned out or more spontaneous?

MB: Our photography style is a healthy mix of both ad hoc and formal.  We have a content calendar with certain events and holidays planned out 2-4 weeks in advance to ensure we source the appropriate content, however part of the beauty of social media is its spontaneous and viral nature. For example, we try to leverage the current cultural zeitgeist by paying attention to the trending memes and putting a @DosToros or @PintoTheBurrito spin on it. Likewise, our Instagram stories garner thousands of views and have proven a great way to report live from the kitchen or charity event, as the case may be.

LC:  What are some tips you can share with other restauranteurs that want to amp-up their marketing programs?

MB: I’m always focused on our two core audiences, our guests and our internal team, and how we connect with them. The internal impact on our Dos Toros team of big marketing pushes is a big consideration in the way we game plan incoming promotions. Secondly, I think marketers need to be adventurous but also realistic in how their customers receive information. A traditional email list may work better for some brands than putting a heavy emphasis on social media. Marketers should always be analyzing and assessing what the right tailored approach is, and that comes from a keen understanding of exactly who their audience is.

LC:  Can you share any plans for Dos Toros in the coming year?

MB: Dos Toros is headed for a record year in 2018! We just opened our 16th location and 2nd in Chicago at 300 S Wacker. We have another slated to open in the market this summer as part of the Wells St. Market food hall. We have tons of things up our sleeve, so you’ll just have to follow us on social media to see how the rest of 2018 rolls out, pun intended.

LC: Thanks for taking the time to share the Dos Toros story and your marketing expertise.

MB: My pleasure! And, I’m glad you enjoyed your lunch!

To learn more about Dos Toros visit www.dostoros.com or follow them on Instagram @DosToros.






Expert Interview – The Internet of Things for Facilities Management

There is a great deal of excitement these days about IoT, the Internet of Things, and how it can improve productivity in the workplace. IoT revolves around increased and instant machine-to-machine communication, cloud computing, and data-gathering sensors that provide critical information. For this edition of The Expert Interview, I spoke with April Bertram, Business Development Director for SMARTLINK™ Solutions at GOJO, a global leader in hygiene solutions.

LC: Tell me about your role at GOJO.

AB: I’ve been with GOJO for almost ten years. I started in product management and then moved into a role where I managed the entire product development process and the company’s innovation portfolio. In my new role as Business Development Director for SMARTLINK™ Solutions, I focus on building and testing new IoT technology platforms and business models to meet the needs of our healthcare and commercial building markets. My role also focuses on partnership development for future technologies and platforms.

LC: What is the SMARTLINK™ platform?

AB: The SMARTLINK™ platform has multiple capabilities, from monitoring hand hygiene in a healthcare environment at a group or individual badge-based level, to an integrated observation app that streamlines and digitizes the direct observation process. We know that behavior change requires more than just access to data, so we provide clinician-based consulting services to assist with program implementation and hand hygiene improvement plans.

AB: Our newest addition to the platform is Service Alerts that provides all types of facilities, across commercial building and healthcare environments, the ability to monitor restroom traffic, soap and sanitizer refill and dispenser status.

LC: What changes have you seen take place in the industry over the last several years?

AB: Changes in the industry have been significant, from industry consolidation to new technologies emerging that will have an impact on everyone across the value chain. Digital disruption is occurring, and we are working closely with our customers to ensure they are on the leading edge, having the right knowledge, products and technologies in place.

 LC: What are some of the challenges our mutual customers face and how do your IoT systems provide solutions?

AB: It can be a challenge for larger healthcare and commercial facilities to proactively keep up with dispenser servicing, always ensuring product is available for occupants and patrons, especially in high-traffic environments. Many times, product is discarded early in effort to avoid an outage or reduce complaints. Our Service Alerts platform gives them insight on which dispensers require refills and when, reducing excess waste and consumable refill costs. Our technology partnerships have enabled us to deliver predictive analytics and we can provide our customer with the exact date that the product needs replaced. This aides in creating better service routes and ordering the right levels of inventory at the right time.

AB: Service labor is always a constraint in the commercial building industry, and today, the industry is faced with a retiring workforce, a changing skillset, rising labor costs and government regulations, which all can impact the ability to effectively service a building. This leaves many looking for ways to build efficiencies. Our dispenser data combined with restroom traffic information enables them to operate more efficiently and deliver a higher level of satisfaction with the same resources.

LC: That is truly a value-added solution! Reducing waste and increasing efficiencies are excellent benefits for many types of facilities.

LC: What new innovations are you working on now?

AB: We are exploring how we can use technology to further support inventory management; for example, automatic ordering technology based on actual usage. This helps to mitigate inventory management inefficiencies and ensures a business is never without soap and hand sanitizer. We are continually advancing our restroom open-platform strategy and building strategic relationships to create a bundle of best-in-class solutions for distribution, building service contractors, facility managers and our end user customers.

LC: What do you see happening in the industry over the next few years?

AB: It’s not a far stretch to assume most devices, in all industries, will be connected in some form or another. However, we really need to see standards emerge so manufacturers and customers alike can simplify the implementation process. Today, there are many ways to connect devices from the protocols to the physical infrastructure required. Each building and customer has different connection and security requirements. This alone makes the selection process a challenge. Once standards exist, everyone will be on the same playing field and it will be easier for customers to select products, install and derive the benefits from them.

AB: I do envision that technology cost curves will continue to drop and customers will be able to achieve a solid ROI on broader IoT implementations. Today, we are seeing smaller scale implementations for learning. While the technology may advance and costs curves may come down, there will still be a challenge with implementation and really changing behavior of those consuming the data. It’s yet to be seen how much organizations will invest to really use the data to rework their processes to become more efficient. I think this will be the single most important factor for adoption in the next five years. I don’t think all buildings will be categorized as truly smart in the next five years, but they will certainly be smarter and on a great trajectory down this path.

LC: That makes sense, as with most technological advancements.

AB: As you can see, the world of IoT is diverse and rapidly changing and an evolution from individual, closed IoT platforms to an open architecture platform will be important to provide customers with best-in-class choices of restroom consumables and deliver a building’s facilities team with broader insights to effectively manage the restroom and building via a single, integrated interface.

 LC: What advice can you share for our readers that want to use new technology to help manage their facilities more efficiently?

 AB: First, determine what problems you are trying to solve. Solutions may have similar broad claims, but facilities really need to make sure the solution, data output and ways to consume the data solve the key problems and don’t increase complexities.

AB: Next, make sure the solutions are scalable if the facility decides to move beyond a pilot implementation. Start by connecting with your IT team. Understand your building’s security requirements and the right questions to ask once you start evaluating solutions. If the facility is using this data to make real-time decisions, they need to better understand data accuracy requirements to accomplish their objectives. Any margin of error rate defeats the purpose of installing the system.

AB: Most importantly, expect that the facility will not only need to train staff on the technology, but change processes and workflows. This is probably the hardest part of implementation. Time for continual training and coaching is required.

LC: I’m really glad you pointed that out. Internal communications and employee engagement are so important to the adoption of any change.

LC: Hand hygiene is crucial in healthcare. What is the most important thing a healthcare facility can do to improve their protocol using an IoT solution?

AB: The primary reason for implementing an electronic hand hygiene monitoring system is that it allows for the collection of robust data that is statistically significant, unbiased and actionable. In a recent study, we found that visual observation was capturing .02% of the hand hygiene opportunities that were monitored by the SMARTLINK™ system. If hospitals are only seeing a fraction of what’s going on, they can’t identify when and where there is risk to patient safety.

AB: The data analytics are used to identify a performance baseline and to measure the impact of interventions and behavior change techniques. Customizable reports allow for the data to be sliced and analyzed from many different angles. For example, performance data shown hourly can provide insights for nurse managers that could lead to reminding the staff to perform hand hygiene during the busiest hours of the day.

AB: Education is a large factor in the success of an electronic hand hygiene monitoring system. As I mentioned earlier, we offer Clinician-Based Support, a service where expert clinicians help with the education and roll-out of the new system. They conduct on-site, in-servicing of the technology to ensure the staff understands their hospital’s hand hygiene protocols and how the system works to measure performance against those protocols. These clinicians work to debunk myths and to provide just-in-time coaching to ensure staff is complying with the hand hygiene guidelines.

AB: Hospitals should understand how the system works and how hand hygiene performance rates are generated. Educating on how the system works to capture the hand hygiene events and opportunities leads to greater acceptance by all.

LC: Thanks, April, for taking the time to share how the Internet of Things is impacting the facilities maintenance and healthcare industries. This is fascinating information!

AB: Thank you for the opportunity to participate.

For more information about GOJO® SMARTLINK™ technology and the healthcare study referenced   visit www.GOJO.com/SMARTLINK




Expert Interview – Catering to your Customers’ Needs

Catering is the fastest growing segment in the foodservice industry and is currently a $55 Billion marketplace with average annual growth between 4% – 6%. For this edition of The Expert Interview I spoke with Kathy Deignan, Senior Vice President of Sales, Marketing & New Product Development at Sabert Corporation.

LC: How long have you been in the foodservice industry and what types of positions have you held during that time?

KD: I have been in the foodservice industry for over 25 years.  I have been with Sabert for 14 years and prior to that I was with Sweetheart Cup Company where I held leadership positions in both Sales and Marketing.  I began my career in Operations as a supervisor in a manufacturing plant to gain a complete understanding of how products are made.

LC: Catering packaging is an important focus for Sabert. Has that always been the case?

KD: Catering is our heritage at Sabert. Our company was founded 35 years ago with innovative catering products as our foundation.  We are rooted in the marketplace and we keep the consumer experience at the heart of everything we do allowing us to create products that enhance and advance the way people enjoy food.

LC: Tell me about the catering market, the types of operators and their specific needs.

KD: The two main segments are business and social catering.  In both segments, to achieve guest satisfaction operators must sell stress-free and predictable experiences to both business and social consumer.

Catering to business consumers is an opportunity to impress clients and bring style to the boardroom. Office life presents a chance for operators to create a brand experience that can translate across different business occasions.  Given the often-short window to break for lunch or a snack, the goal of the operator is to offer a convenient catering experience.  The corporate catering consumer values an experience that is easy to order, serve, eat and clean.

For the social catering consumers living busy lifestyles, bringing the convenience of catering home during the week presents new opportunities for operators.  Operators who put forward catering programs that align with everyday celebrated occasions will cash-in with the social consumer.  Packaging can help drive menu development and operators can create different menu options for a variety of different serving sizes.

LC: What are the changes in the catering market that you’ve seen over the last few years?

KD: The biggest shift is the exponential growth of delivery. 57% of consumers received their order delivered either by the foodservice establishment or via a third-party provider versus picking their order up themselves. With catering consumers demanding more delivery services, third-party providers are rising to answer the challenge.

An even more interesting change we have seen is that about 81% of consumers who order from restaurants for catering selected a trusted brand chain restaurant. Brand recognition attracts young consumers and serves a double benefit, inspiring confidence in the customer placing the order and the guest who sees the brand name.

LC: What are the latest trends in catering?

KD: The biggest trend we have is the boost of social catering. Weeknight dinnertime presents an incremental revenue opportunity for operators to put forward catering packages that align with everyday occasions. For households, multi-serve and family-style catering packages can bridge the gap between individual takeout meals and large-party catering events. With today’s consumer socially engaged and focused on sharing experiences, catering offers the unique ability to bring people together, enjoy food and create photo-shareable experiences.

LC: Instagram-worthy meals. I enjoy sharing those images myself.

KD: On the other hand, inferior packaging can adversely affect the operators’ brand with consumers sharing negative experiences socially as well.

LC: Can you explain more about the importance of packaging from the customers’ point of view?

KD: The catering industry is agile by nature due to ever-evolving customer interests and needs. Packaging plays several roles in a catering occasion. We have noticed that consumers do not just rely on packaging to securely transport the food from the foodservice establishment to the venue, nearly 50% of consumers use the packaging to serve the meal and over 33% also used the original packaging to store left overs.  Because packaging may be used at multiple points during the dining occasion, attractive and well-designed packaging for transport, serving and storage is extremely beneficial to the consumer.

LC: What advice can you give a caterer that would help them save time, money and/or increase sales?

KD: The path to incremental catering revenue is through existing customers, at least initially.  Operators who focus on activating catering revenue from loyal customers will find they can grow catering sales quickly and steadily.  Layering a catering program on top of an established dine-in or take-out business gives existing customers easier access to a brand they already know and trust. Through catering, current customers can now share and experience the brand across a more diversified variety of everyday occasions elevating the brand to a new level.

Developing a catering program and menu isn’t enough. Operators really cash in and score more orders by providing a full service, stress free environment and offering the right disposable tabletop and serving utensils with their catering orders. Nearly 70% of consumers are upset if their catering order does not include the necessary disposable cutlery, plates and serving utensils with 25% admitting that it’s a deal breaker and would never order catering again if they did not receive those items with their order. Offering a complete catering program that includes the right disposable items will contribute positively to customer satisfaction. To take the catering experience to the next level, operators can also use disposable serving items to create different levels of consumption experiences. The ability to offer a variety of different tabletop and serving utensil items helps catering programs align with more occasion types. On top of that, it adds a layer of customization allowing consumers the ability to create elaborate tablescapes and upscale presentations as they please.

LC: What do you think the future holds for the catering segment?

KD: As we look at trends from years past, we are already starting to see what the next 5 years in catering and packaging will look like. With the rapid growth of convenience and delivery, we continue to invest in the importance of tailor-made packaging for specific food temperatures and needs. For example, 3 out of 4 consumers typically receive their hot food hot and serve within 30 minutes. This trend indicates packaging that can serve multiple people and present hot food immediately is an essential part of the catering piece. Durable packaging designed for hot food, like the polypropylene options available in our Collections product line allow guests to customize their individual meal and encourage consumers to order catering more frequently.

One trend operators can expect to see for years to come is the need for sustainable options in all aspects of catering programs. From food to packaging and tableware, we can expect to see the importance of responsibly made products increase in years to come.

LC: Any last advice for our readers?

KD: Consumers look for the full-service experience and prefer to work with operators that allow for customization, sustainability and offer a stress-free, seamless experience. Operators should work with packaging providers that offer them that same seamless experience and understand the consumers need and experience.

LC: Thanks, Kathy!

KD: Thanks for having me.

For more information about Sabert’s catering packaging, visit www.Sabert.com and contact your Imperial Dade representative for a personal consultation regarding your catering operation.  


Expert Interview – Packaging Matters

Packaging is critical to protecting goods as they move through the supply chain to the final consumer. The industrial packaging market is currently a $112 billion industry and expected to grow to $139 billion in the next 4 years. For this edition of The Expert Interview, I met up with Richard Clarke Jr, GM of Imperial Dade’s Tampa Division. Richard has over 40 years of experience in packaging distribution.

LC: How did you get started in the industry?

RC: In 1975, I went to work for my family’s 64 year-old distribution company, Peninsular Paper Company, one day after I graduated from Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. During my tenure I have worked in the warehouse, driven a truck route, worked the inside sales desk, worked as an outside sales rep, worked as a specialist sales rep for large accounts, worked as a buyer, worked as a sales manager, and then became President of the company overseeing 100% of our operations along with my dad. Imperial Dade acquired our company in May of 2017 and I am now the General Manager of the Tampa Division.

LC: Sounds like you held every position in the company at some point in your career.

RC: Yes, and it helps as I understand how every role, in some way, touches our customers.

LC: What type of products are considered industrial packaging?

RC: Industrial packaging is usually a form of packaging designed to package products for resale. Some examples include foam trays, molded fiber trays, clear plastic packaging, overwrap and other sealing films, shrink films, etc. It can also be packaging items designed to protect and enhance the appearance of the loads during production and especially during shipping. Examples are tape, stretch wrap, pallet interleavers, kraft wrap, corner boards, specialty bags, and specialty labeling.

LC: What types of businesses use these items?

RC: Any business who produces anything and ships it anywhere needs Industrial packaging to protect their product during the handling and shipping process. They use tape to seal their boxes, stretch wrap and corner board to unitize the load, labels to denote production codes and routing information.

RC: Food processors such as commercial bakeries, produce and meat processors also use industrial packaging products to prepare a product for resale.

LC: Why is the packaging important to those businesses?

RC: They cannot sell their products if not packaged properly. They can often increase sales if the packaging enhances the appearance and better merchandises their products. This has always been true in the supermarket business. Food that is packaged attractively and displayed near check-out will sell faster.

LC: What changes have you seen take place in this product segment over the years?

RC: The competitive landscape has changed quite a bit over the last few decades. In the 1970s and 80s, paper and janitorial distributors were the go-to source. Then, in the 90s, specialty packaging distributors began to develop as packaging items became more varied and complicated. Then the recession hit and many of those specialty distributors closed their doors. Now customers are coming back to broadline paper distributors, such as Imperial Dade, for their needs. This has created opportunities for us, especially with middle-market customers that rely on our expertise to help them source the right products.

LC: What are the current trends and innovations?

RC: There are quite a few. Molded-fiber trays are becoming very popular with food processors. Their customers are looking for more environmentally friendly packaging options to meet consumer preferences. The enhanced merchandizing has helped to increase sales. Special tapes and films are available for the produce industry that help protect and control ripening during transit. This reduces waste which saves money and prevents unsellable product from being thrown away.

RC: Colored sealing tapes are being used more often in warehousing operations. The colors help the operator clearly see that cartons are sealed shut. With clear or kraft-colored tape, it is not as evident and that can lead to damaged goods. Non-skid interleavers are now available that help prevent loads from shifting during transit, another way to prevent damage to inventory.

LC: What do you think the future holds for this segment?

RC: Industrial packaging will increase exponentially in importance for American manufacturers as we compete in the global market. Packaging is primarily designed to protect the product as it is shipped. Many manufacturers do not realize that the same packaging can also be used to very effectively and very inexpensively merchandise their product and thus gain more sales. A simple example of this would be to print cornerboards, or to print the tape that seals the boxes for a fraction of a cent per piece and get real advertising value. Good industrial packaging, versus poor, also shows the end-customer that the manufacturer cares and emphasizes that the manufacturer makes a quality product.

LC: What advice do you have for businesses on improving their packaging program to save time and money?

RC: Businesses that use packaging need to realize that their distributor sales rep can be a real asset to their program as a partner. A good DSR studies what products are on the market and studies his or her customer’s needs, then matches the two. I recommend that they not only show the DSR what they use but tell the DSR how they use it and what they are trying to accomplish by using it. A good DSR, one who is a partner to their customer, will then recommend products that can help their customer achieve increased profits and efficiencies.

Richard and his team are available to consult with businesses about industrial packaging programs. He can be reached at rsc.jr@imperialdade.com.