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PAC Award Winner-Gold

e.a.t.®

Overview

Key West Gourmet Foods is an innovative food company that has developed an original line of five new premium meal solutions under the brand name e.a.t.® “environmental and tasty”. Sustainable, healthy, convenient and delicious, e.a.t.® products are made utilizing premium, healthy and sustainable ingredients culled from rigorously selected sources, and then packaged in environmentally friendly 100% bio-degradable, 100% compostable, 100% recyclable packaging - an industry first for frozen ready-to-eat meals.

e.a.t.® was originally created with "360 degree" sustainability in mind. This entailed not only sustainable packaging and ingredients, but sustainable "use" generated from a sustainable idea... the establishment of a "user-friendly", responsible, mode of consumption which in itself can be sustained, and the potential to lead to actionable change.

After reviewing traditional packaging methods for frozen food applications, we examined the sustainability of the actual concept. This included raw material sourcing, energy efficiency, convenience, health, environmental impact of processes, etc., ultimately leading to the development of a unique biodegradable packaging format. The idea of a tray-in-a-box was turned inside out with the idea that the tray itself, with the addition of a lid, could become the new "box", and the former tray film "lid" previously on the inside, could become the new outer package, or over-wrap, minimizing the amount of packaging used and decreasing the packaging "footprint". We then went one step further and asked "what if" the packaging itself could be entirely biodegradable. That's where our development partners Innovia, Genpak, Marovino and others stepped in to answer the question and make the idea become reality.

Transparency is a big part of this effort. Consumers want to know what they're being asked to "support". How is the packaging made? How does it "work"? Where do the ingredients come from? "What's in it for "me"? The purchase now has the possibility to transcend mere accumulation and sustenance, and become a vote for the future.

With our Canadian launch pending, it is my hope that consumers will embrace the power to chose with their purchasing decisions, and make a positive impact. The future is fast approaching and sustainability will be the dominant theme.

As I declared in my opening post on our company e.a.t.Blog, "perhaps we can explore the 'idea' of sustainability using a little ancient wisdom which tells us that our 'tragedy' is that we must fit into a world not of our own making, yet must care more what we do to it than what it does to us... wisdom which says how we choose to live our lives expresses a fundamental choice about the kind of world we want to live in."

Motivation for Change

Sustainability is now the central theme in our ongoing existence. As environmental awareness has become a major topic of global discussion, renewable and environmentally friendly production resources are in high demand by consumers and firms. It is clear that our dependence on petroleum based packaging products has caused wide-spread damage to the environment. Therefore consumers need to be offered viable packaging alternatives that will lead to socially responsible consumption habits and actionable change. The method of change we seek has to be sustainable and lasting - part of our everyday life and easy to assimilate with little effort.

Cost Effectiveness

The most sustainable packaging is no packaging at all. The question is how to minimize packaging while still providing the key protective benefits that packaging provides. The e.a.t.® component package is the answer. It turns the traditional microwavable “tray-in-a-box” inside out by placing the food product inside a 100% compostable bagasse tray and lid, and then over-wrapping with NatureFlex™ film. A flexible and robust packaging solution that significantly reduces the amount of plastic used while potentially offsetting any cost differences between traditional packaging plastics and bio-based materials.

The e.a.t.® component package is also entirely recyclable within the conventional paper stream. Paper products are the single biggest component of the municipal solid waste stream. Effective paper recycling efforts can help reduce the waste stream to landfill space, conserve natural resources and preserve biological diversity by reducing the call to harvest timber from wild areas.

Performance

Although minimally packaged, the e.a.t.® component package meets or exceeds comparable use traditionally packaged products and is: Sturdy and Rigid; Microwave and oven friendly; Freezer friendly; and Aroma, Water, Grease, Gas and Oil resistant, among other barrier attributes.

In addition, in order to receive stringent Eco-Logo certification, the packaging must meet or exceed all applicable governmental and industrial safety and performance standards, and be provided in such a manner that all steps of the process, including the disposal of waste products arising from their use, meet the requirements of all applicable governmental acts, by laws and regulations including, for facilities located in Canada, the Fisheries Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA).

The NatureFlex™ film component is certified to both EU (DIN EN13432:2000) & American (ASTM D6400) composting norms.

Sourcing

The NatureFlex™ film component of our e.a.t.® line is manufactured from wood-pulp sourced from managed plantations from referenced suppliers operating Good Forestry principals (FSC or equivalent) and has achieved CarbonZero status through the manufacturer's implementation of carbon-reduction schemes. The designation has been awarded by co2balance, a business that works with companies to reduce carbon emissions.

NatureFlex™ complies with specifications required for soil, home composting and waste water applications at ambient temperatures, as well as for industrial composting, and are typically up to 99% renewable as confirmed by testing to the ASTM D6866 standard.NatureFlex™ film has also been certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute and the e.a.t.® package has been authorized to include the BPI "Compostable" symbol on all relevant packaging.

The Bagasse tray/lid component contains no chemical coating and bleaching and is manufactured entirely from reclaimed post-harvested agricultural waste (sugar cane pulp), utilizing no wood or fossil fuels, while generating no liquid, solid or gas waste. The entire life-cycle of this component – from the production of the raw materials to the disposal of the product – is natural without pollution. Some machines used during production are hydro-powered without emitting any pollutants. In addition, the Bagasse tray/lid used in the e.a.t.® line has obtained Environment Canada’s Environmental Choice EcoLogo Certificate and SGS Group (Société Générale de Surveillance) as Third Party verification.

Even our shipping carton is manufactured entirely from 100% domestic reclaimed post-consumer/industrial paperboard by Atlantic Packaging Products. The manufacturer saves over 14,000,000 trees annually from being cut down and utilizes the equivalent of 50% of all Blue Box materials collected in the Province of Ontario.

Clean Production

In line with socially responsible principals, the manufacturers of our e.a.t.® component packaging have implemented modern practices to eliminate waste of materials, chemicals and water. For instance, during the production of NatureFlex™, water undergoes waste treatment that applies the sludge to local farmland as a fertilized and soil improvement ingredient. As an environmental finality, paper and raw material packaging are recycled and, waste film is sold to outside manufacturers.

Less electricity and energy are used to produce the e.a.t.® Bagasse trays/lids, while utilizing renewable hydro-power. For example, in a comparison of energy consumption for typical 9-inch disposable plates, Foam Polystyrene consumed 7.17 Million BTU's (MMBtu), Paperboard (with coating) 9.46 MMBtu and Bagasse 0.53 MMBtu. Excess water is reused during production and all excess trim is recycled to raw material.

Effective Recovery

The e.a.t.® component package is a convenient single serve microwavable container. Once used, it can be conveniently digarded in its entirety, without separation or deconstruction, into a suitable composting environment or paper recycle bin.The materials that make up the e.a.t.® component package are globally certified to the required compostability standards and are also recyclable within the waste paper stream. Waste generated during production is either specifically segregated and taken for industrial composting at a local professional composting facility, or utilized to power the production facilities. The raw material is recycled from agricultural by products. During production, excess water is reused and all excess trim is recycled to raw material.The materials are themselves largely renewable, thus ensuring completion of the cradle to cradle lifecycle.

Community Benefit

e.a.t.® is an environmentally friendly proposition. "360 degree" sustainability has been the goal right from creation (more on this in the Executive Summary below).

Packaging material was sourced from verifiably sustainable resources - renewable wood and sugar-cane pulp. Less waste is created during production and end-use.Packaging waste from e.a.t.® products can be disposed of in an industrial or home composting environment, resulting in useful compost, or recycled with paper. This effectively diverts it from landfills - one of the greatest sources of greenhouse gases. The act of purchasing now becomes a positive vote for the environment.

In addition, as mentioned above, the NatureFlex™ film used in the e.a.t.® packaging has recently achieved carbon-zero status. 3,000 trees were planted at Sand Martin Wood, Faugh, Cumbria, which is 30 kms. from the plant in Wigton that produces NatureFlex™.

In addition, Innovia, the manufacturer of NatureFlex™ has also contributed to a scheme that distributes "solar ovens" to poor communities in Africa, resulting in lower co2 emissions, lower energy costs, the reduction in deforestation, and providing health and safety benefits to the people of these communities.

Material Health

The NatureFlex™ film component of our e.a.t.® line is approved for Direct Food Contact under current FDA and EU legislation. The films have passed both the ASTM D6400 & EN13432 compostability programs which confirm there are no ecotoxicity concerns during industrial or home composting scenarios, and will biodegrade completely in under 42 days when exposed to a combination of heat, moisture, and microbes, all of which occur naturally. They are furthermore recyclable with paper and suitable for incineration, providing the same calorific value as wood.

A special printing and laminating process is utilized on the film component which uses less ink and solventless technology - less than 5% of the total film weight and well within ASTM and ISO regulations.

The inner tray/lid of the e.a.t.® component package has received EcoLogo Certification and SGS Group (Société Générale de Surveillance)Third Party verification, contains no chemical coating or bleaching, and is non-GMO. Packaging is sterilized with hygienic sterilization by high temperature and ultraviolet light.

Resource & Energy Optimization

With respect to the primary energy consumption used in the manufacture of e.a.t.® component packaging, the primary energy source varies. The Bagasse portion has a clear agricultural by-product - to - product advantage as it is manufactured entirely from reclaimed post-harvested agricultural waste (sugar cane pulp), utilizing no wood or fossil fuels, and generates no liquid, solid orgas waste. The entire life-cycle of this component – from the production of the raw materials to the disposal of the product – is natural without pollution. During production, excess water is reused and all excess trim is recycled to raw material.

It can be recycled to paper after cleared out the food contamination. A raw material to finished products efficiency of 98% is achieved by our Bagasse manufacturer. The Bagasse tray w/ lid is 93% of the total (empty) package weight.

For the production of the film component however, the primary energy source is Natural gas and there is currently no viable renewable alternatives available. However, since 1985 there has been a 30% reduction in fossil fuel use due to improvements in site energy requirements and improvements at raw material manufacturers. In 1985, the CHP (Combined Heat and Power) unit was installed , which significantly improved the energy efficiency. Subsequent conversion from coal to natural gas further increased conversion from fuel to energy efficiency. By 2009, full processing aid recovery will be implemented on all production lines and a new, more efficient production line will have replaced older equipment, creating further energy efficiencies.

The principal raw material that goes into NatureFlex™, wood pulp, is sourced from managed plantations that adhere to Good Forestry Practices (FSC or equivalent). Finally, as of January 2008, NatureFlex™ has recently become carbon-neutral as the residual emissions from its manufacture have been offset by investing funds in projects such as sequestration or re-forestation and energy-efficient projects, which absorb or prevent the release of tonnage of carbon dioxide equivalent to our carbon footprint.

Cube and transportation cost differential have not been calculated. e.a.t.® products are tightly packed 6 per master carton, 180 cases per pallet vertically oriented. The rigid part of the master carton IS the functional "tray" used to display the 6 units on the retail shelf. This will potentially maximize cube utilization.

Categories: PAC Award Winner Food and Beverage Consumer Goods

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