Customers of a leading grocery retail store are finding a new "wholesome" item in the deli section, packaging made from corn. Corn has always been a staple in grocery stores, but it is catching customers' attention like never before as Wild Oats Markets, Inc., (Nasdaq: OATS) replaces their petroleum-based plastic packaging with a corn-based alternative at their Nature’s/Wild Oats Portland locations. Called NatureWorks™ PLA, this natural-based material is allowing the company to pioneer a fresh approach to in-store delis.
NatureWorks PLA is the first commercially viable, annually renewable resource-based biopolymer to be used in large-scale, North American commercial grocery applications. Nature's/Wild Oats is using packaging made with NatureWorks PLA in 11 locations throughout the Portland metropolitan area, with plans to expand the campaign nationally into all 77 Wild Oats stores. Currently, they are serving fruit, salads, cheese, deserts and other deli items in the corn-derived containers.
"Customer response has been terrific to this new packaging," said Kurt Luttecke, Nature's/Wild Oats Area Director of Operations. "Not only are these new containers 100 percent natural, they're as functional or better than the plastic tubs the industry uses as far as strength, clarity and sealing in the flavor and aroma of our deli products."
Research indicates that more sustainable products, such as those made from NatureWorks PLA, are highly sought after by consumers for their unique raw material source and ability to be fully compostable in municipal systems at the end of its useful life. According to a Gallup poll that looked at consumers’ attitudes about the environment, 74 percent of them have specifically bought products because they were better for the environment than competing products. Additionally, more than two-thirds of Americans claim to avoid using products that harm the environment.
Consumers can recognize the deli containers made with NatureWorks PLA by the accompanying signs and labels that announce "Container Made From Corn; Made From 100 Percent Renewable Resources." The three sizes of cold food containers look identical to traditional plastic containers, with the added benefit of being a natural container for a natural product.
"NatureWorks PLA has a positive environmental lifecycle from its beginning to its end," says Lisa Owen, commercial rigids team leader for NatureWorks PLA. "Natures/Wild Oats definitely sees increased customer interest in their deli due to the benefits of packaging fresh food in containers derived from nature."
Nature’s/Wild Oats is also currently in negotiations with a local vendor who can collect the returned containers, and after a 47-day biodegradable process bring back commercial compost that customers can buy and use as all-natural plant food for their gardens.
"Wild Oats Markets and its packaging product supplier, Wilkinson Manufacturing, Fort Calhoun, Neb., are leaders in their respective industries because they are offering products with a point-of-sale differentiation from the competition," continued Owen. "We believe that food packaging made from NatureWorks PLA is revolutionizing in-store delis by allowing retailers like Nature's/Wild Oats to offer consumers premium foods in a convenient, functional, attractive and more sustainable packaging solution."
Owen added that Nature's/Wild Oats and Wilkinson Manufacturing are companies that have embraced the idea of incorporating sustainable principles in their manufacturing and business processes. "Both companies are seeking to rid the food industry of its reliance on billions of pounds of 'single use' petroleum-based plastic packaging with new, compostable alternatives."
NatureWorks PLA technology produces the renewable resource-based resin by "harvesting" carbon from that has been removed from the air by corn plants during photosynthesis and stored in grain starches. This is achieved by breaking down the starches into natural plant sugars and, through a simple process of fermentation and separation, using the carbon and other elements in these natural sugars to make the plastic polylactide (PLA). NatureWorks PLA is 100 percent matter derived from corn.
Founded in 1997, Cargill Dow LLC is based in Minnetonka, Minn. It is the first company to offer its customers a family of polymers derived entirely from annually renewable resources with the cost and performance necessary to compete with packaging materials and traditional fibers. The company has achieved this breakthrough by applying its unique technology to the processing of natural plant sugars to create a proprietary polylactide polymer (PLA).
Written by: Cargilldow
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