Certification, labeling key for store brand success in compostables


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Speakers at the recent Store Brands webinar on composting discussed how private label brands can become compost-friendly.

Store Brands hosted its Understand & Communication Composting webinar on Wednesday, featuring four guests who spoke on how the private label industry is working sustainability, with a focus on compostability.

Moderated by Dan Ochwat, executive editor, Store Brands, the webinar allowed guests to hear from Susan Thoman, managing director, Compost Manufacturing Alliance (CMA), Rhodes Yepsen, executive director, Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), Glenn Abrahamson, CEO, BB17 Inc. and Solange Ackrill, vice president of marketing and corporate strategy, Club Coffee.

The full webinar can be viewed on demand here.

Yepsen opened the webinar by stressing the need for retailers to know and communicate the difference between biodegradable and compostable on their products.

“Specific to retailers and private label brands, I think there are a lot of mechanisms to make this as easy as possible,” he said. “Our process is through sublicensing, where a retailer can enter into a sublicense agreement with their supplier. The idea is to link a store branded product with a supplier’s certification, rather than make the retailer go through with testing and certifications themselves.”

“One of the things that we have to work with is buyer education,” said Abrahamson. “We want to not only help the retailer, but help the guest, because they are doing the right thing by trying to go compostable and cut-down on single use plastics. You must look for a CMA or BPI certification, this ensures the product is truly compostable and makes sure what they use is truly composted.”

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Thoman added that compostability is one of the most impactful sustainability measures both retailers and consumers can take, but that contamination in composting is one of the biggest challenges, reinforcing the need for strong and accurate labeling.

“Certified compostables are the only way to go, so certifiers are very important in this process,” said Thoman. “The biggest challenge is contamination. Food scraps bring in a lot of contamination, and there are great opportunities for grocery retailers to help clean this up. 30-40% of what we landfill are food scraps. Certified compostables capture those food scraps and replace traditional plastics, and consumers are demanding less plastics at retail.”

Thoman and Yepsen spoke at an earlier Store Brands Industry Forum on beverages, looking at how coffee is driving initiatives forward, as well as other issues. Ackrill added to that commentary about how coffee is on the leading edge of compostable products.

“Coffee is an important category for retailers because consumers are looking for both the beans and packaging to be sustainable, it’s the most consumed beverage in North America,” said Ackrill. “Because 90% of a single-serve pod is organic waste, we focused on compostable because it makes sense. We design with the end state in mind. That’s why compostable packaging is great because they’re made from renewable resources versus petroleum-based plastics. In the end, it’s most important that the product is meeting consumer demand. It has to make a great cup of coffee.”