Most product improvements come with a higher price tag, and that’s true for some—though certainly not all—sustainable packages. Neil Grimmer, CEO of Nest Collective food brands, says pricing premiums could go “north of 20 or 30 percent,” but some manufacturers absorb the costs rather than pass them onto retailers and consumers.
For companies with a socially responsible ethos, the extra expense often becomes part of the business plan. “I think the good business models out there already have those considerations incorporated into them,” says Adam Gendell, who works with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. “Thinking about the environment is now an integrated part of thinking about improvement of the product. I don’t think any companies have gone broke trying to make better packaging.”
Nature’s Path offsets potential costs by reducing the size of packaging and therefore spending less on materials, according to Jason Boyce, sustainability manager for the organic cereal and breakfast company. Reduced packaging also means products have smaller footprints on store shelves, so retailers can stock more items—and generate more sales—per square foot to offset any price increases from manufacturers.
Even when manufacturers choose new materials over smaller packages, price doesn’t have to be an issue. Marny Bielefeldt, marketing manager at St. Louis-based Alpha Packaging, says the making bottles from recycled plastic costs only about 10 percent more than from virgin plastic. Plus, as more manufacturers use recyclable plastics and compostable plastics, the price is expected to come down, while the price of oil—which is necessary to make plastics and to fuel the transport of heavier containers—keeps rising.