Consumers go greener with packaging

Green -- Stewart's Packaging, Inc.

Green packaging isn't just for people who lived through the 1960s.

No need to wear Birkenstocks or a shirt woven from hemp, as consumers of green products and packaging have gone mainstream.

Together with trends of value and health, green packaging is becoming a factor for consumers in their spending habits.

To paraphrase Gordon Gekko from the movie Wall Street, “Green is good.”

Independent business information provider Visiongain reports that buyers contend that packaging should be as wholesome and healthy as the contents of the product.

In its publication “The Sustainable & Green Packaging Market 2011-2021,” the London-based company indicates that consumer desire for sustainable and green packaging is driving the global packaging market and its associated industries.

The benefit of companies like Wal-Mart pushing its green image is the reduction in price for organic plastics. While not there yet, bio-plastic companies have grown their production facilities and capacities in response. Just as most people feel the pain at the pump, the feed stocks of crude oil and gas for conventional plastic remain high.

Low energy consumption, reducing the environmental impact of packaging in a landfill and earth-friendly materials are some of the issues that manufacturers are experiencing.

Besides a peaceful, easy feeling and a better environment, other earthly benefits will total $107.7 billion in 2011 in the “sustainable and green packaging market,” says Visiongain.

As business owners, we know that frugality and resourcefulness often go hand and hand and sustainability is part of that equation.

A quote from the book “Your Money or Your Life” by Vicki Robin could summarize the flow of buying products not made from sustainable materials or in green packaging. “It’s a one-way trip from the earth to the factory to the store to our house to the dump,” she writes in her 1999 book.

To summarize, market forces and consumer choices are compelling manufacturers to seek packaging and products that reflect the desire for everything that is quality, green and sustaining.

Stewart’s has a variety of recycled products which can be delivered to your businesses. For assistance, call us in Houston at 713-861-3333 or at 800-229-6129 toll-free.

We are also quite cyber-friendly at info@stewartspackaging.com or on Twitter with our handle @stewartspkg or at Facebook at www.facebook.com/stewartspkg

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Hours to change as mobile ordering goes live

Beginning Sept. 1, Stewart’s Packaging, Inc., a wholesale supplier in Houston’s Original Farmers Market, will change its closing time to 3 p.m. while still serving its retail and restaurant customers six days a week.

Owner Dave Stewart said the change comes after studying peak times at the showroom located at the back of the historic market at 2520 Airline Dr. and ensuring the ability to serve the customer.

“Our early opening at 5:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday is perfect for so many of our longtime customers who run their own businesses,” said Stewart. “Whether at our showroom or the website at www.stewartspackaging.com, taking care of the customer is a tradition since 1957.”

Lisa Bailey

Stewart's Packaging Chief Operating Officer Lisa Bailey displays the mobile site launched by the full-line wholesale packaging company at Houston's Original Farmers Market.

Besides the web site, customers can order on their smartphones utilizing the recently built mobile web site, Chief Operating Officer Lisa Bailey said.

Nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population has a smartphone, according to the International Data Corporation. Worldwide, the market is projected to grow to 49.2 percent this year.

“More web traffic is going to smartphones and we want to be where our customers are,” said the second-generation business owner.

Purchasing via the smartphone seems to be trending upwards as about nine percent have completed transactions on this technology, according to marketing company Smart Target. Approximately 16 percent of consumers have clicked “buy” after getting an mobile message.

Along with data showing 34 percent checked their bank balance on a smartphone, the comfort level for consumers is increasing.

Stewart’s Packaging, Inc., is the only non-produce company located at Houston’s Original Farmers Market. Since 1957, Stewart’s has provided packaging to its customers in the retail and restaurant sector. Stewart’s Packaging, Inc., is a member of the Retail Packaging Association, the American Specialty Toy Retailers Association and the Greater Heights Chamber of Commerce.

Lunch on the Go Stays Fresh with Box Lunches, Ready-Made Sandwiches

As busy as life is for many of us, think of the guys working a shift at the local plant and the sales staff grabbing food before the next meeting.

Drive through DeliView lunch boxes

After waiting in a long fast-food drive-thru, your fresh food choices are limited.

The problem is being able to get fresh food without burning up your gas in a drive-through line or standing in a line that creeps along.

For food truck, deli owners and convenience stores, the solutions come in a box – and a plastic container as well.

DeliView

A clear vliew of ready-made deli selections will help the busy customer make a decision.

Yes, ads for a major sandwich chain have professional and Olympic athletes telling everyone to “eat fresh.” If you’re working at a machine shop with limited options nearby, you’ll have to set a world land speed record to eat and be back in 30 minutes.

Two items that could earn you a spot at the top of the podium are a DeliView Clear Hinged Sandwich Wedge (250 for $71.50) and a 9 x 5 x 4 white paper box perfect for box lunches (250 for $53).

The wedge allows you to pack freshly made sandwiches in a container where customers can see the food quality. The container keeps out moisture and oxygen, making sure your food looks fresher and more visually appealing.

In the mad dash from the dock to your store, the hungry worker will hone in on something attractive. Give your hungry neighbors a chance to see something other than a mashed sandwich in too many layers of plastic wrap.

For deli owners, the 9 x 5 x 4 white cardboard box is perfect for a portable meal. The lock-tab box will hold a sandwich, chips, cookie apple and a drink.

Food truck operators can have these stacked up and ready to go when the lunch whistle blows. The busy sales executive could do a drive-by and eat a fresh, tasty meal on the way to the next sales call without burger grease endangering the classy tie that seals the deal.

Being a hero to busy customers is a good thing. While you won’t need to wear a cape, fueling the workforce might make you feel that you’ve saved Metropolis in a very super way.

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Produce more produce sales with ‘More Matters’ month, unique bag system

Research shows that fruit and vegetables are important to maintain good health. Yet most of us aren’t eating enough fruit and vegetables. This September, Stewart’s Packaging wants its customers – the produce stands, grocers and farmers markets – to participate in “Fruit and Veggies – More Matters Month.”

More Matters bag

The "More Matters" bag reinforces the message of eating more fruits and vegetables while the Grab Tab bag system reduces waste.

Eating the recommended servings of fruit and vegetables can help protect you from heart disease, bone loss, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancers. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can also help you lose weight.

As kids head back to school, parents are looking to start the academic year right with notebooks and nutrition.

Why not offer information to the parents and caregivers and help them send kids to school ready for the day.

One way for a farmers market to show its commitment is to offer fruit and vegetables for sale at a discounted price.

Another alternative is for local grocery stores to have a representative present tips on how to save money when buying fruit and vegetables.

Take that commitment one step further by reminding them of the Center for Disease Control’s designation of September as More Matters month by utilizing these special 8 + 4 x 16 high-density polyethylene bags.

Besides an opportunity to educate, the month is an event to serve up more produce to the public.

One way to help do that is with the Grab Tab bag system from Better Bags Inc., and Stewart’s Packaging. Utilizing a patent-pending design, the Grab Tab bag system displays the “More Matters” bags prominently, promoting more impulse buying and vanquishing waste.

With its patent pending design, the bag system steps out from the background and stands like a sentry in the produce aisle. Not like other bags relegated to the darkness and held up by nails or hooks, the Grab Tab system is inviting to customers.

The new “Eliminator” protector sleeve stops waste so that customers can only grab one bag at a time, thus minimizing waste.The bags dispense already pre-opened and keep things sanitary because customers only touch the bag they’re pulling.

Access to the headers is behind the one on top, in case it runs out of bags. Thus, there’s no need to continuously refill with a new header if multiple headers are placed on the same rack or hook.

“The Grab Tab bags reduced our waste to virtually zero,” said a representative of the Virginia-based grocery-chain Ukrop’s.

Indeed. The Grab Tab system is easier to load and dispense, allowing your customers to concentrate on buying and eating more fruits and veggies.

Besides back to school, September can help you make the grade when it comes to selling more fruits and vegetables.

 

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’5 A Day’ continues to benefit children, produce sellers

While many older consumers grew up with the “food pyramid,” the American nutritional landscape continues to change and improve lives with guidelines such as the “5 A Day” program and “Choose My Plate.”

mu plate

"Choose My Plate" replaced the "food pyramid" in 2011.

In 1991, the “5 A Day” program, as seen by the ubiquitous produce bags in every grocery store and produce outlet, was developed by the National Cancer Institute and the Produce for Better Health Foundation. Its main tenets continue to be awareness and support of the project’s goal about the need to eat healthy food.

Educators, health care providers, food producers and retailers, researchers, and government agencies from all levels make up this coalition.

From the beginning, the “5 A Day” program has become the largest public–private partnership for encouraging
better nutrition.

After the “5 A Day” was instituted in Texas, the amount of people eating five servings of fruits and vegetables jumped 16.5 percent in three years.

5 a day

Bags reinforcing the "5 A Day" program like these can be found at grocery stores and produce stands across the country.

 

According to data collected in 1998, 88 percent of women enrolled in the state’s pre-natal program did not eat five servings of fruit and vegetables daily.

Assuming leadership for the program in 2001, the Center for Disease Control suggests that includes a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables helps people stay healthy and can help reduce their risk for many chronic diseases. It also can help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

The program is especially important recently as childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 20 percent in 2008. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5-18 percent over the same period.

While it’s been around since the 1970s, the most well known food pyramid was first adopted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1992. But like all things, change took place in 2011 with the “Choose My Plate” program.

“Choose My Plate” is divided into sections of approximately 30 percent each for grains and vegetables, 20 percent fruits and 20 percent protein.

MyPlate is supplemented with additional recommendations, such as making half of the plate fruits and vegetables or switching to 1% or skim milk.

For grocery stores and produce sellers, the opportunity continues to exist to provide wholesome, healthy food and continue educated the public with food options that are in line with public health guidelines.

Few pleasures in life exceed coming home with a full bag of crisp apples and fresh vegetables.

After all, your mom wanted to eat you to eat them all the time growing up, right?

 

Boxes of Candy Only Trumped by Love on Feb. 14

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways,” wrote poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Candy boxesFor your sweetie or betrothed, a box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day makes a personal impact.

For those in the candy business, the economic impact is counted in the millions of dollars, whether you listen to pollsters at Nielsen or the National Federation of Retailers.

During Valentine’s week, consumers will rack up more than 58 million pounds of chocolate, ringing up $345 million in sales and making up 5.1 percent of the total annual sales, according to Nielsen.

It doesn’t matter whether the candy comes in a one-pound or half-pound candy box, half of all celebrants will buy candy on Valentine’s, said the National Federation of Retailers.

“Anticipating high foot traffic in the coming weeks, retailers have replenished their inventories and will entice eager shoppers with great deals on everything from special menu items at restaurants to clothing to flowers and, of course, chocolates,” said NFR President and CEO Matthew Shay.

On a total candy basis, consumers will purchase more than $448 million during Valentine’s week with a lot of bargain hunters trolling the candy isle on Feb. 15.

Beyond the sales figures, not all recipients of chocolates are women. The Chocolate Manufacturers Association reported in a survey that 50 percent of women will likely give a gift of chocolate to a guy for Valentine’s Day.

The average person celebrating the holiday will shell out $126.03, up 8.5 percent over last year’s $116.21 and the highest in the survey’s 10-year history. Total spending is expected to reach $17.6 billion.

Still, sweeties for your sweetie are a safe way to go. Just keep the flowers and restaurant reservations a secret until the right time.

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Demand for Fair Trade products picks up

Understanding your customers is a great way to keep them happy.

Just as if your customers have green thoughts, eco-friendly packaging is a good choice. Therefore, if fair wages for the goods you buy are important to your customer, think of Fair Trade Certified Products.

Reaction from consumers recently forced a major company to rethink its use of anything else but Fair Trade Certified Products.

Fair Trade Certified Cotton Show Bags - Stewart's Packaging, Houston

Customers who care about how goods are produced worldwide will appreciate a Fair Trade Certified Cotton Show Bag.

Just last month, lingerie retailer Victoria’s Secret announced a plan to repair the damage to its image after organic cotton used in its products was reported to have been produced with forced child labor.

Parent company Limited Brands told Bloomberg in statement, “We are very concerned.”

“If this allegation is true, it describes behavior that is contrary to our company’s values and the code of labor and sourcing standards that we require all of our suppliers to meet,” the statement said. “These standards expressly prohibit child labor.”

Victoria’s Secret isn’t the only big-name caught up in allegations of child labor.

In 2007, fashion retailer Gap pulled merchandise off its shelves after a report that child labor was used in harvesting the cotton for the garments. Nike came under scrutiny during the Nineties when its contractors in Pakistan and Cambodia were alleged to have used child labor to make soccer balls.

People who own natural food stores or yoga studios make it a point to present products that resonate with their customers. No sports drinks like Gatorade or PowerAde are usually sold there – mostly bottled water, juices or coconut water.

Yoga studios project an image of purity and “centering yourself.” Thus, lots of natural fabrics, if not mostly organic, are sold in its shops. Sometimes having a cotton bag isn’t enough for some people.

Your company can do good things for its image by aligning your company or product with Fair Trade.

The basic principles of Fair Trade, according to its U.S. organization include:

  • Fair prices
  • No genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
  • No hazardous chemicals
  • No child labor.

Offering a Fair Trade Certified Cotton Show Bag at a convention, trade show or event shows that you and your company are thinking like your customers.

Fair Trade Certified - Stewart's Packaging

Most companies offering Fair Trade Certified products display this logo,

 

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Managing perishables adds to bottom line

Just anyone in business, cost and quality weigh heavy on the minds of restaurant and bakery owners.

Managing perishables

Many restaurants use a system where the ink color represents the day of the week. This same methodology can be applied with the use of colored vinyl tape.

Planning and managing resources are a huge part of the job. Baking 100 loaves of bread on a Friday when usually only 50 are sold cuts into your bottom line. That same amount of man-hours could have been fully utilized making birthday cakes for the weekend.

 

Managing perishables may be as easy as implementing a strategy that adds to your profit and uses labor more efficiently.

One approach is to assign a different color of vinyl tape to each day. The tape that seals the polyethylene bags containing bread, produce or tortillas.

Using company quality standards, expired or less-than-optimal products can be easily identified by sight.

If red means Monday and a bag of dinner rolls with sealed with red vinyl tape is spotted on a Sunday, it’s obviously got to go. Day-old bread is usually marked down but something six days-old won’t meet the standards of most fresh-focused consumers.

The color system is utilized in restaurant as well.

At a local chain, the color concept is applied to everything produced in the kitchen, as illustrated in the following chart:

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Black Orange Blue Green Purple Brown Red

The same place even makes its own tartar sauce and cocktail sauce – nothing out of the bottle there.

On each tub containing the tasty condiments is a piece of tape with the date written in the corresponding color. The system keeps staff aware of freshness each day.

Managers can stress the color of the day and its importance in the overall plan during each pre-shift meetings.

Even businesses that don’t eat their own products can benefit – if not from a different colored tape, but from a bag sealer that closes things up. Commercial goods, industrial parts and even print material such as magazines and newspapers can be secured and kept dry.

 

In summary, a color-coded system can help manage costs and perishables in restaurants and bakeries. Reinforcing the plan to employees can make the difference between a business in the red or black.

 

Orange vinyl tape

Different color tape can seal bags and indicate its freshness to employees.

 

 

 

 

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Food-grade supplies protect customers, minimize risk

In a common sense world, keeping consumables in food-grade packaging makes sense.

To ensure food safety, the Food and Drug Administration established guidelines on what kind of materials should be made into packaging and then come in contact with food.

If cakes or cupcakes are decorated with ribbon, consumers need to be pro-active and ask if the ribbon is food grade.

Owners need to be sure that baking supplies are safe to have contact with food. The money saved by cutting corners is not worth the money saved. In fact, something like food poisoning could cause you to be shut down by the local health department.

For those who give us cakes, pies and cookies, paper bakery supplies have to be made from virgin materials. Anything that comes in contact with baked goods cannot touch packaging made from recycled paper components.

Bakery boxes

All bakery boxes are made from paper materials straight from the source and not recycled.

With plastics, the FDA mandates that plastics used in food packaging be of greater purity than those used for non-food packaging. Known as food grade plastic, this kind of packaging is only second to plastics used to package pharmaceuticals.

Void of dyes or recycled plastic, food grade plastic omits these ingredients because these are harmful to humans.

However, this does not mean that food grade plastic cannot contain recycled plastic. The FDA has detailed regulations concerning recycled plastics in food packaging.

Another aspect of food grade plastic is matching the appropriate type of plastic to the food in question. Foods that are highly acidic or that contain alcohol or fats can pull out plastic additives from the packaging or container into the food. As a result, you should only use plastic containers that are FDA approved for the particular type of food the plastic will come into contact with.

Water- and grease-proof, food grade polypropylene makes up all regulation ribbons. High-fat content ingredients like icing will not affect ribbon when they touch.

The difference is the dye, which is in the polypropylene itself, instead of a dye that’s applied to the surface. With that, bleed out or staining of color is eliminated, especially next to moist ingredients or contain solvents.

The same principles apply to plastic film used for meat or food. Food film is made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) film.

Besides safety and freshness, meat film can help sell those pork chops or ribeyes. With a high rate of oxygen transmission, red meats stay bright and attractive in the store display.  Exceptional sealing properties keep moisture in the package to keep good fresh and appealing. This is ideal for supermarkets, deli foods, bakery, meat, poultry, seafood, produce, etc.

Another FDA approved product, vacuum bags help make some memorable meals but with safety in mind. These transparent poly nylon bag are also approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Commercial grade vacuum bags from Stewart’s Packaging enables the way restaurant and food purveyors can save money and preserve their products.

These plastic bags reduce oxygen and are perfect for sous vide cooking. French for “under vacuum,” sous-vide involves poaching food that is vacuum sealed in a plastic bag.

These commercial-grade vacuum bags will not work on home food vacuum machines.

In a season where many people celebrate with food, ensuring safety by using food-grade packaging makes sense year-round.

 

Food grade plastic example

Just as this soy sauce is in a food grade container, a container previously used to store paint can't be used for food.

 

 

Reaction to Coke cans all about brand, packaging

Usually putting the words “fan” and “can” together means a dedicated group and their ability to do something.

White Coke Can

Sometimes a can is just a can but not to Coke devotees.

In this case, the reaction of Coca Cola aficionados to the new seasonal packaging of white cans transformed into what could be called a kind of caffeine and sugar-fueled rage.

For those who haven’t heard, Coca Cola put its product in a white can featuring polar bears and also contributed money to an ecological charity. This seasonal move has all the impact of telling kids there isn’t a Santa, seemingly if you measure the consumer revolt. Coke has listened and will pluck the offending cans out and off the shelves.

The perception was that the color was too close to Diet Coke, which is in a silver can. Some even went as far to complain that it didn’t taste the same.

The bottom line is that Coke, with all its research and marketing muscle, didn’t fully anticipate the outcry.

What happened is that they forgot that branding is largely what people think of your product. For a company to contradict its own brand equity is a form of marketing heresy.

 

Branding is in the bag

For those who seek a custom bag, we at Stewart’s Packaging always ask, “What will it be used for and do you have a logo?”

Often, the business owner chimes in and wields a flash drive or CD, pulling it out quickly and quietly like a ninja. Then there are those who answer with only wide-eyed, surprised silence.

Indeed, form will follow function on what the bag needs to do. But brand may be the overwhelming deciding factor.

For a dentist, it makes sense to put the trial-sized toothpaste, free toothbrushes and kid stickers in a custom bag that carries the name, address and contact information.

A specialty item from a French bakery comes in an attractive cake box adorned with a ribbon or colored string.

The anticipation is that you’re bringing something home that’s special. Or in the case of the dentist, it’s saying “I’m here to take care of your children and I want you to remember me, so here’s my contact info on the custom bag.”

Would it make sense to put all of that in a T-shirt bag, usually seen in a convenience store? The answer is a resounding no.

A brown paper bag? No, again. Put the cake in an aluminum tin and crumple so foil over the top. Non.

Your packaging should reinforce your brand. For Coke fans, these white cans were akin to an alien invasion.

For a company that should have remembered the folly of “New Coke” and the reformulation of its flagship product, Coca Cola failed.

Be true to your brand and your customers will do the same. An uprising is not good for business.

CBS News Report on the Change Back to Red Cans

Motivation keys focus of staff during holiday distraction

Short only to those not in the retail or restaurant business, Thanksgiving week is a time to keep people on task during a week with only four or three work days.

Motivation

Don't let the emphasis on parties derail office productivity.

For those in retail, Black Friday looms – the busiest shopping day of the year. Besides dealing with pricing, supply and staffing, retailers are having their Super Bowl this Friday, Nov. 25.

In the restaurant sector, businesses are gearing up for catering, office parties and gift certificates. Area restaurants, bistros and specialty shops like chocolatiers and cupcake purveyors should see lots of traffic tired of turkey and pumpkin pie this weekend.  That means lots of people loading up cupcake boxes.

In a 2010 survey of 1,000 senior managers, more than a third said their employees are less productive the week before a major holiday.

That’s still considered an improvement on the opinion that 44 percent were “less productive” in a survey six years ago.

“Offices are often less productive during the holiday season than at other times of the year because of company parties, family festivities and other diversions,” said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Managing Your Career For Dummies.

“It can be challenging for employees to strike a balance between personal and work obligations.”

Last year’s survey reveled that 28 percent of the respondents were “somewhat less productive” and six percent were “much less productive.”

Seemingly confident managers – 48 percent of them – said there was “no difference.”

Contests should benefit all restaurant workers

Anyone who’s ever worked at a restaurant has seen most of the contest money go to the front of the house (waiters, bartenders, bussers, greeters).

Restaurant

Everyone working at a restaurant should be eligible to win a motivating contest.

Pairing a front of the house with the back of the house (dishwasher, fry cook, grill cook, salad maker, etc.) can help share the wealth.

Awarding someone with money is one thing but who wouldn’t want to be the first server cut loose after winning a sales contest for most wine sold or featured entree or drink?

Time and recognition go a long way.

Retailers need love too

Instead of love, maybe the word should be training and recognition, especially in retail.

Training that results in a new title or increase in pay would be a great way to motivate people.

Keeping people trained to handle any situation reinforces your brand, whether it’s top notch service or product knowledge or anything important to your company.

In a similar industry – in this case the hotel business – candidates for general manager trained in the gift shop and every other position at the property to understand the challenges of every position.

From a retail standpoint, the experience reinforced how to make customers happy.

Retail

Training and recognition help motivate retail workers.