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 – Helping Restaurants Become Sustainable

GRA

This month I had the opportunity to interview Michael Oshman, Founder and CEO of the Green Restaurant Association. Michael is passionate about creating a more sustainable business environment, especially in the restaurant industry.

LC: When did you get started in the restaurant business?

MO: I founded the Green Restaurant Association in 1990 when I was 19 years old. So I’ve been doing this for 27 years. We were one of the first green business organizations and helped start the green business movement. Thankfully today, sustainable business practices are much more mainstream.

LC: Tell me about the Green Restaurant Association and the inspiration for starting the organization.

MO: If the restaurant industry was a country it would be in the top 15 countries as far as GDP. It is a trillion dollar industry. We got started to help restaurants become more environmentally sustainable which has a significant impact. We wanted to make this process of change easy and profitable for restaurants. We break down the industry into seven environmental components of energy, water, waste, disposables, chemicals, food, and building. We have hundreds of environmental standards ranging from napkins to paper towels, cleaning chemicals to equipment, etc. Restaurants earn points for each of the steps where they meet our standards. Depending on the number of points earned, they can become level 1 star, 2 star, 3 star, or 4 star Certified Green Restaurant®.

LC: How does the process work and what guidance do you provide the restaurateurs?

MO: Our organization provides environmental consulting. We walk the restaurant through the process starting with an environmental assessment to find a baseline of how the restaurant is operating in relationship to our environmental standards. We discover where there is room for improvement and then set up a strategy of steps. We don’t just give them the prescription, we help them do it. We also work with their distributors, vendors, waste haulers and property managers to make it happen. Once the restaurant has become certified we assist with public relations and marketing. We are really proud of the support we provide and that we have become the trusted resource for the industry.

LC: You mentioned working with distributors. Please share how that program works.

MO: Our Green Restaurant Distributor™ Program, which Imperial Dade is part of, is a great way for distributors to have an external source of validation that their products meet our standards. We take the hundreds or thousands of products that a distributor carries and match them up with our standards. Then we publicize those distributors on our website. If you go to www.dinegreen.com  you will see all of the products from Imperial Dade that meet the GRA’s environmental standards. The website provides a transparent source of information to the restaurateur.

LC: What is the biggest trend or change you have seen with regards to green restaurants?

MO: More restaurants are realizing the importance of sustainability and calling upon our organization for assistance. We now have universities, corporations, transportation hubs, etc. that are all doing this. Some want to create cleaner air, cleaner water, sustainable food sources and some just realize that consumers prefer dining at Certified Green Restaurants®.  The movement continues to gain steam!

LC: What are some simple things a restaurant can do to get started in becoming more sustainable?

MO: A couple of examples include getting the most efficient spray valve. If they are using a 1.4 gal/min valve they can go down to one that is a gallon or less. Switching out old CFL or incandescent lighting to LED bulbs is an easy option.  Go to www.dinegreen.com to see a bunch of products that we have already vetted. Using our website is more efficient than general internet searches. Sometimes a restaurateur may come across a product online that interests them. The marketing pitch makes it sound great, but then it ends up not meeting expectations which is disappointing. That is called greenwashing.  We have 27 years of experience greening restaurants. My advice is put us to work for you!

Contact the Green Restaurant Association at outreach@dinegreen.com or 617-737-4422 for more information about becoming a Certified Green Restaurant® or Green Restaurant Distributor™.