Bancroft, Wis.-based RPE will soon roll out a new compostable bag for its potatoes.
RPE, a second generation family farm, is a category leader and key grower/shipper of year-round potatoes and onions. RPE prides itself on maintaining a high level of business integrity that includes commitments to environmental sustainability, as well as category innovation and retail solutions.
Randy Shell, vice president of business and program development, said at Southern Exposure that the company has been testing for about eight months a compostable bag for its potatoes.
The bag will have mesh windows so the consumer still has visibility of the product, so that means the mesh also needs to be compostable, as does the string used to seal the bag. Also, the bag – and the mesh – has to be strong enough to handle potatoes tumbling into it in the automated packing process.
Shell said RPE has almost perfected the packaging and will be launching it shortly. The new bags will first be available for the company’s organic products.
“The consumer’s willing to pay a little bit more for organics, so it’s a little bit easier on the organic side,” Shell said. “On the conventional side it’s very competitive and margins are very tight, so that one’s going to take a little bit to tackle.
“I think eventually what you’ll see, it’s like everything else – once you get into mass production, the cost of the bag will actually come down and we’ll be closer to this, but I think we’re probably maybe a year or two away from that, so either we’re going to have to take tighter margin or the retailer’s going to have to take a little tighter margin,” Shell said.
He expects that the packaging will have appeal beyond core organic consumers.
“The consumer for organics, they’re going to be most interested in this packaging, although we’re seeing more and more people concerned about plastics and things like that, so we believe this line will expand very quickly once we perfect everything,” Shell said.
More sustainable packaging was a theme in the new product showcase at Southern Exposure. Check out the video below for more items that are compostable, recyclable or use less plastic.