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Flexible Packaging

A Sustainability Story Hiding in the Cereal Aisle

Article-A Sustainability Story Hiding in the Cereal Aisle

Image courtesy of Robert Lilienfeld Bob-L-Better-1540x800.png
Why this too-humble pouch could and should claim sustainability benefits.
A gem of a simple little on-pack graphic could go a long way toward customer convenience and satisfaction and make a dent in food waste.

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article that criticized Kroger for overplaying the sustainability value of some of its flexible packaging while making it extremely confusing and frustrating for consumers to recycle these containers. Rick Lingle, Senior Technical Editor with the publication, challenged me to write my next article on packaging that under-promoted its sustainability value.

It took me awhile, but I did it, finding it on-shelf at Kroger of all places.

While walking along the oatmeal section in the cereal aisle, I came across Better Oats from Post Holdings, the current owner of one-time cereal dynamo C.W. Post. What caught my eye was the “100 Calories” claim, as I’m in post-holiday and pre-daughter’s-wedding slim-down mode.

What got my attention once the box was opened at home were the tall, sturdy pouches that stated “Measuring Cup Pouch” on the front; and on the back included “Tear on dotted line” and “Fill to top of line with water” graphics.

As an avid instant oatmeal eater who has thrown away more than my share of either scorched or way-too-watery cereal, I was fascinated by this attempt to help me make a perfect bowl of oatmeal and thus ensure that I don’t create the biggest sustainability no-no in the packaged breakfast world: food waste.

You no longer need to eyeball the approximate amount of water and alternately, there’s no need for analytical types to find the proper measuring cup.

This was marvelous! If Post could do this, why couldn’t Quaker, the 1,000-pound gorilla in the hot-cereal world? I looked at a Quaker Oats pouch in my pantry and discovered that they, too, included a similar, albeit far less noticeable graphic, on their pouches.

Free advice on what to do.

Putting on my marketing hat, this is what I’d tell the Post Holdings folks: Find a way to include a message on your box that states something along the lines of “Pouch makes it easy for you to make the best oatmeal and avoid food waste by adding just the right amount of water before heating.”

So instead of having to rely on typical packaging sustainability claims about recyclability that may or may not be locally correct, why not include a claim that is not only correct everywhere, but can make a difference when it comes to true solid waste and greenhouse gas reductions?

And, given the current situation in Ukraine and the shortfall in grain availability, doesn’t this make sense from an economic, environmental, and social perspective?

Aren’t these the foundation on which sustainability is based?

Pass the milk and brown sugar, please.

Robert (Bob) Lilienfeld has been involved in sustainable packaging for 25 years, working as a marketing executive, consultant, strategic planner, editor, writer, and communications expert. He’s President of Robert Lilienfeld Consulting, working with materials suppliers, converters, trade associations, retailers, and brand owners. He is Executive Director at SPRING, The Sustainable Packaging Research, Information, and Networking Group. You can also write him at [email protected] or visit his LinkedIn profile.

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