-- Landmark recycling moves will be separately announced Thursday by Earthbound Farm and PepsiCo's Naked Juice division that bring the food and beverage industry into the thick of one of the marketing world's hot issues: eco-friendly packaging.
Earthbound Farm, the nation's largest grower of organic produce, will unveil plans to use only 100% post-consumer plastic — recycled materials previously used by consumers — for all of its familiar clamshell packages.
Naked Juice, the natural juice brand PepsiCo bought in 2007, will unveil plans to do the same for its bottles. Industry lingo for this environmentally friendly plastic is PCR PET — post-consumer recycled polyethylene terephthalate.
Earthbound is the first national cut-salad company to make this move. Naked Juice will be the first nationally distributed beverage to make the bottle switch.
"It's no small feat that we've come this far," says Mikel Durham, Naked Juice's general manager.
A recent survey of 1,000 consumers worldwide by Ipsos Marketing found that environmental packaging by food companies has emerged as the third most important purchasing factor for North American consumers — ranking slightly below freshness of ingredients and additional health benefits.
Naked Juice's clear 32-ounce plastic bottles will be out July 13. All of its bottles, which also are recyclable, will be converted in 2010. At that point, its bottles will save the equivalent of 57,000 barrels of oil per year, the company estimates.
Earthbound's clamshells are now converted and are recyclable, though many recycling plants still don't accept clamshells.
Other foodmakers, including ConAgra and Kraft, have been experimenting with greater use of post-consumer plastics.
The actions announced Wednesday will signal to the rest of the industry that such environmental packaging is doable in the real world. They also help expand the market for recycled materials; recycling waste is fruitless without a market for reuse.
"These are major consumer brands using recycled content," says Anne Johnson, director of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, a non-profit that supports sustainability. "It's a big deal."
But for Earthbound and Naked Juice, it's also about image. Earthbound has heard complaints about why its organic food is in plastic that isn't part of a recycling loop, says Earthbound co-founder Myra Goodman.
"It's always felt like a compromise that we have to put our stuff in plastic," she says. "People who choose organic share collective environmental guilt."