Flexible pouches are replacing rigid plastic for foodservice packages of specialty onions and garlic from Christopher Ranch, as the firm responds to restaurant and chef requests for more sustainable packaging. Source: Christopher Ranch LLC

Mass merchandisers aren’t the only customers putting pressure on suppliers to cut material use and shipping weights. Top chefs also are taking a cold, hard look at their restaurants’ carbon footprint, and they expect food suppliers to help them shrink it.

Peeled shallots and other specialty onions recently joined peeled garlic in the conversion to 5-lb. flexible pouches for foodservice from Christopher Ranch LLC, Gilroy, CA. The pouches replace rigid plastic jars and use 80 percent less material, according to Justin Guibert, project development manager at the Santa Clara Valley grower and packer. The package was a finalist in the Produce Marketing Association’s 2010 Impact Awards.

The laminated polyethylene bags are printed and formed by Sierra Packaging and feature a resealable zipper. A fill-and-seal machine from PPi Technologies was installed on one packaging line, and additional machines will be added as the company transitions to pouches for all its products, according to Guibert. A 6-oz. retail pouch was introduced in January.

Both practical and image considerations are creating demand for more sustainable packaging from chefs. In a survey of James Beard Foundation chefs, most of the 173 respondents indicated they have modified their restaurant practices in the past year to conform to sustainable practices. “There are a lot of reasons for it,” observes Guibert, including the logistical challenges in dealing with large volumes of packaging waste, “and chefs want us to help them green their restaurants and limit their carbon footprints.

“Most of our sales go through distribution,” he adds, “but a handful of chefs have told us they like the direction we’re headed.” The stand-up pouch uses heavy-gauge laminate to ensure at least seven days’ refrigerated shelf life.