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Episode 149: Digging into Compostable Packaging With Kate Flynn of Sun & Swell Foods

In this episode of the NothingWasted! podcast, we chat with Kate Flynn, co-founder and CEO of Sun & Swell Foods. Her company offers organic, plant-based health foods in compostable packaging, shipped directly to customers. We spoke with Flynn about gaps in the composting infrastructure, consumer attitudes about compostable packaging, and more.
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In this episode of the NothingWasted! podcast, we chat with Kate Flynn, co-founder and CEO of Sun & Swell Foods. Her company offers organic, plant-based health foods in compostable packaging, shipped directly to customers. We spoke with Flynn about gaps in the composting infrastructure, consumer attitudes about compostable packaging, and more.

Here’s a glimpse into our chat:

Waste360: Please tell us about your path to starting Sun & Swell.

Flynn: Before starting Sun & Swell, I was in management consulting within the retail and CPG industries, working with brands and retailers on growth and brand strategy. I found that very interesting but was feeling unfulfilled with the impact I was able to make. At the same time, I was going through a big life transition when it came to food. I discovered the world of real-food eating, which was super transformative for me. And I realized that nothing was on the market to meet my needs. I was interested in building a company within packaged foods that was healthier for people—and I started to realize that, within the industry, there weren’t just problems for people’s health but also the planet’s health.

Waste360: Can you talk about what it means for you to put people and planet above everything else, and how that impacts the way you run your business?

Flynn: One of the things we decided really early on is that we wanted to be a B Corporation, caring about the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit. And this makes my decision-making really easy, by having a north star of being a B Corporation. It comes back to ‘what do I feel good about doing in investing my life—and it’s not just my life; my husband is my co-founder—so our entire lives into this business; what sort of legacy do we want to leave behind? If Sun & Swell could have the reputation of any company, we always look at Patagonia. We want to bring good to the world, not just be all about money.

Waste360: What advice do you have for people who might just be starting their journey in compostable packaging?

Flynn: I always say, ‘make sure using compostable packaging is important to you—and it’s going to be a struggle for many reasons.’ Not only is it more expensive, but the shelf life is also not the same with compostable packaging as it is with plastic. So people need to make sure they want to fight that battle. A lot of things about our business have evolved to accommodate compostable packaging, and it was worth it to us. There are so many battles all of us can be fighting to make the food system better—and maybe your battle is with organics, and there is so much to be done there. Or maybe it’s upcycling; there are so many things you can help to pioneer.

Waste360: How is your send-back program going?

Flynn: It’s going really well. We kind of launched a beta of it a little over a year ago because we didn’t know if anyone was going to do it. And, we still charge for it—$10 for a prepaid envelope that you can fit like 40 bags in. But we want to make it, if not free, almost free. It’s really awesome to see that our customers are actually like, ‘yea, we really want to do this,’ which has been very validating for us. Our numbers are higher than we expected—and what we like about having our own program is that we’re able to track diversion.

Listen to the full episode here.

#NothingWastedPodcast

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