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By Kate Bertrand Connolly, Packaging Editor | 10/10/2012
For artisanal foods, packaging must effectively portray the products' handmade quality. In many cases, packaging choices also reflect the artisan's environmental commitment.
For example, at Ici Ice Cream, Berkeley, Calif., all products are handmade in small batches using local, organic ingredients. The emphasis on sustainability carries through to the cups in which Ici serves ice cream and the packaging for its pre-packed products.
"When you talk about artisanal, high-end, high-quality products like Ici Ice Cream … they want [packaging] that's going to perform well and present their product in the best light. But they also want it to be green," says Allen King, president of Excellent Packaging & Supply, Richmond, Calif.
For Ici Ice Cream, the sugarcane-based serving bowls say sustainability and the ice cream sandwich wrappers say handmade in small batches.
An Excellent division, BioMass Packaging, supplies Ici with environmentally friendly packages and materials. These include ice cream sandwich wrappers; decorative cotton ribbon for boxes, bags and other containers; and shopping bags made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper.
BioMass also supplies Ici with bagasse (sugarcane-based) serving bowls and cups. Using this type of material instead of polystyrene foam or bleached paper emphasizes the products' handmade, back-to-nature persona. The cups tell customers "this is artisanal. The cow's out back, and the sugarcane just grew. It gives you that feeling," King says.
At the same time, the cups and packaging align with Ici's stylish image. Ice cream sandwiches are wrapped in a cellulose-based metallized film that's backyard compostable. The metallization gives the sandwiches a silvery look in the freezer case, and beads of frozen condensation on the film add to the hand-crafted look and feel. Ici's artisans apply a pressure-sensitive label to each hand-wrapped sandwich to secure the film and to specify flavor.
Jessica Volpe, owner of Chicago-based Pasta Puttana, also values sustainability. Her use of local organic ingredients in the hand production of flat and filled pastas, and her choice of reusable/recyclable packaging, reflect her environmental commitment.
Pasta Puttana sells its products in tamper-evident, reclosable bags printed with the brand's logo. Each 8-oz. bag of pasta is hand-packed and hand-stamped with the pasta's flavor, style of cut and expiration date.
The bags are made of "high-grade, food-quality, freezer-quality plastic," says Volpe. "It's recyclable, but it's not recycled. I really encourage people to keep the pouches and reuse them. My customers, for the most part, care about the environment. They're going to recycle or reuse" the bag.
In addition to being good for the planet, reuse is good for the Pasta Puttana brand. "It's to my benefit if someone keeps the pouch, puts some herbs in it and keeps it in the fridge. Every day, they open the fridge and look at my logo and think about my pasta."
Plastic is a practical material for fresh pasta, protecting its flavor and texture better than a paper-based package could. And the bags are transparent, so consumers can see the pasta before they buy. "I wanted people to look through the bag and see the product. It's colorful and beautiful," Volpe says. "A lot of times people eat with their eyes."