All Articles Food The challenges of reusable packaging

The challenges of reusable packaging

2 min read


SmartPulse — our weekly reader poll in SmartBrief on Restaurants — tracks feedback from restaurant owners and managers about current trends and issues.

Last week’s poll question: Does your restaurant offer any kind of reusable packaging?
All of our packaging is already reusable. — 26.23%
Not yet, but we’re researching our options. Green packaging is a great way to generate good PR and help the environment. — 27.87%
Not applicable because we don’t offer takeout services. — 14.75%
We’re going to wait and see how big of a trend green packaging becomes. — 31.15%

Restaurant SmartBrief readers’ responses to our question on reusable packaging was certainly a mixed bag (no pun intended). More than a quarter of respondents have already hopped on the sustainable packaging bandwagon, but a full third of respondents are taking a wait-and-see approach on the green-packaging trend.

So where do the restaurants stand? KFC generated buzz last week when it announced it is introducing reusable packaging. The company also intends to decrease its use of foam (by 60%) and total plastic (by 17%) by next year. Brandweek examined the trend, citing several pizza companies that have introduced “green” boxes. While the general public may cheer these efforts, the recent example of SunChips shows that sustainable packaging isn’t always a win for companies. SunChips’ 100% compostable bags are being replaced with its less environmentally friendly predecessor because of consumer complaints about the bags’ noisiness (click for an audio clip of noisy bags). It appears customer is still king over the environment.

Another challenge with sustainability efforts is that many in the green community contend that restaurants, retailers and consumer-packaged goods companies are never doing enough. They are also criticized for their motives. So what’s a restaurant owner to do? Salazar Packaging co-founder Dennis Salazar, writing for Environmental Leader, asserts that packaging sustainability does not have to be an all-or-nothing plan. Salazar promotes the concept of eco-capitalism, in which companies can both make money and help the environment with their sustainability efforts.

Will more consumers dine at KFC because it has reusable packaging? Maybe or maybe not, but time will tell. And even though KFC’s resolution undoubtedly will improve its public image, naysayers can’t complain about the positive effect this will have on the environment.

RTmages via iStock