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So, your recipe has made a splash and it’s time to take your product to the world, wholesale style. That opens up a whole new host of considerations, including large scale packaging. But that shouldn’t be a problem. Packaging is packaging is packaging… right?
Not necessarily. From plastics and glass to metals to wax-coated cardboard, packaging options are nearly limitless. Even within the scope of just one option – canning – there are hundreds of choices for materials, production methods and suppliers. It can be overwhelming for anyone, especially a company just getting started.
So, what should you look for when considering the right packaging solution for your product? There are several things to consider, so for some good advice we went straight to the source: Gerri Walsh, Sustainability Director at Ball Corporation, a company known for providing steel and aluminum cans to the food and drink industry for over a century.
Ball Corporation is no Johnny-come-lately to good canning practices – the company has been practicing sustainability long before it became a cultural buzzword. “For the first eighty years, it was always a Ball family member that led the company,” explains Walsh. “That gave us a really good foundation of strong ethics and culture, and of treating the environment and people well, so there were many things we were doing that were ‘good sustainability practices’ before we had a formal sustainability program.”
For the past forty years, the company has been working on innovations in both their steel and aluminum sectors, cutting down on product weight and upping the amount of recycled content per can. With a sustainability portfolio that also includes reducing water and waste throughout its plants, Ball has racked up numerous awards and acclaim for their practices – making them just who we wanted to talk to.
So, what’s the scoop?
“Recyclability is a key feature,” says Walsh. It’s a no-brainer, really. Aluminum and steel are both infinitely recyclable – that means they can become new cans again and again without end, without any loss of quality. That’s good for the earth, and good for you and your customers – who, incidentally, are paying a lot more attention than you might think. “In consumer studies that we’ve seen that are done by parties,” says Walsh, “consumers are looking for information on packages – they want to know that it’s recyclable.”
But good practices don’t begin and end with recycling. Walsh points out that a good can cuts down on how much material it uses in the first place. “We’ve been taking weight out of the can for the past forty years,” says Walsh. “As a result of reducing the diameter of the lid (which then reduces the diameter of the neck of the can) and reducing the gauge, aluminum beverage cans today are about 40% lighter than they were about 40 years ago.” Why? Lighter weight cans not only use less material, but take less energy to produce and put less strain on shipping methods. In short, according to Walsh: “the lighter the weight, the less impact on the environment.”
Then, there’s finding a supplier who’s willing to help you bring out your best side. “How can the supply company really help your company, in terms of being more sustainable in their product?” says Walsh. A good canning supplier is willing to work with you on implementing good sustainable practices, and can also keep you abreast of new technology and green initiatives, helping you make better choices you may not even have known about.
Of course, all of this means nothing if the cans you choose don’t properly protect your product. For instance, you may want to be able to claim that your cans are Bisphenol-A free – but that might not be your best choice if you’re packaging tomato sauce or another highly acidic product. Though advances are being made to develop epoxy-free cans for products with high acid content, science isn’t quite there yet and you could end up with some corroded and not quite functional packaging. “What kind of product protection does the package provide?” is a simple question that you can’t afford to overlook.
With these questions fresh in your mind, you’re now ready to go forth and start canning.