Better Bean dishes up new sustainable packaging
By Christina Williams
Sustainable Business Oregon editor
Portland-based Better Beans overhauled its packaging and reduced its carbon footprint.
Better Bean Company, a three-year-old startup selling premium beans in the refrigerated sections of grocery stores, was tired of the ubiquitous, round, plastic deli tub.
The Portland company, which has steadily grown its retail presence in grocery stores in Oregon and around the country, was working hard to convince consumers that their fresh-prepared beans are better, healthier and tastier than their canned counterparts. But packaging the beans was a problem.
"We do have qualms about the fact that we're sending a lot of new plastic out into the world with our product," said Hannah Kullberg, who co-founded the business with her father, Keith Kullberg, and holds the job title of "Bean Queen."
So when the Kullbergs set out to do a packaging overhaul, they looked for a more sustainable option.
The result? A bright, heat-sealed rectangular tub that contains 30 percent less plastic and has improved packing efficiencies — the rectangular shape allows more bean tubs to fit on a pallet — enough to shave about 20 percent off the company's overall carbon footprint, according to Kullberg's calculations.
Better Bean signed up with Spartech Corp. for packaging and invested in a $60,000 machine that heat seals the 14-ounce tubs and cuts down on plastic use.
Kullberg said the company is committed to moving the packaging toward 100 percent recycled content and that Better Bean is the first to use this packaging technology in the U.S.
Better Bean, which has four full-time employees, will do about $500,000 in sales this year and Kullbrg said same-store sales doubled from 2011 to 2012.
Better Bean's products feature Food Alliance-certified, slow-cooked beans sourced in Oregon. Priced between $3.79 and $3.99, they are available in the refrigerated dairy cases in stores including Whole Foods, New Seasons, Zupans and Wegmans.
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