Reducing package material for its all-natural potato chips had a lot of upside benefits, though Salem, OR-based Kettle Foods Inc. didn’t anticipate the negative reaction from some of its customers.

All-poly film now surrounds 15-oz. and smaller bags of Kettle potato chips, eliminating the use of an outer paper layer and cutting post-consumption waste by 20%.  Source: Kettle Foods Inc.

Early this year, the company began shipping potato chips in all-polyester film from its Salem and Beloit, WI production centers. The package did away with a paper over-wrap, reducing content by 20%. “We’ve received a little bit of pushback from consumers,” Kettle Spokesman Jim Green reports. “It had a different feel, but we felt it was the right thing to do.”

The 20% reduction in material will keep 450,000 lbs. of packaging material out of landfills, the company estimates, the pulp equivalent of 22,000 trees. The conversion is complete for all products weighing 15 ounces or less. Club-sized bags continue to use the old package format.

In-process waste reduction has been a focus of the firm’s production-values teams, and packaging has been identified as the area with the highest levels of waste. The new material machines easier and has lowered scrap rates during changeovers, says Green. Graphics also are better. “Paper doesn’t pop quite as much,” he believes.

The bags are significantly thicker than conventional snack food films because of the all-natural aspect of the product. A recyclable, compostable or biodegradable material is Kettle’s goal, but to date it hasn’t been able to source one. One possibility on the horizon: films made from calcium carbonate. The chemical compound is lightweight yet extremely strong and is “an opportunity to do a lot of industrial magic,” Harvey Stone, CEO of Open Circle Innovations Inc., recently told the Green Manufacturing Conference in Rosemont, IL. Essentially chalk, calcium carbonate is being used in China and Europe as a key component in aseptic dairy packaging.