Open Farm Pet Food has just joined Loop, along with about 150 other brands that sell their products in reusable packaging via this online platform. The products are shipped direct to consumers; UPS picks up emptied packages and returns them to Loop to be sanitized then sent to manufacturers to reuse—sometimes upward of 100 times.
Consumers pay a deposit that’s refunded once the package is returned.
This new venture with Loop will be a good fit, surmises the Toronto-based pet food manufacturer that has in all its seven years prioritized sustainability. Doing so has taken some work; over 95% of pet food bags are considered unrecyclable.
The company’s introduction to Loop was a result of its longstanding partnership with international recycler TerraCycle, who is Loop’s parent company and who has been taking emptied pet food bags from Open Farm customers and making new products from them. In five and a half years, over 260K of the bags have been diverted from landfills through this partnership.
“We were working very closely with TerraCycle to engage in their recycling program, and when we found out about Loop, we were excited to take part in this pilot,” says Evan Shuster, vice president of Marketing for Open Farm.
Now Open Farm has one more path to sustainable packaging, which works differently.
TerraCycle works with brands to recycle single-use packaging that consumers send back to the waste management company. But the Loop pilot is about testing the feasibility of a durable packaging system where the package maintains its original form and is continually refilled. What else is different is brands sell their products exclusively through Loop’s website, and customers simply put the emptied packaging out for pick up rather than ship it themselves.
“It is exciting for us to be a part of this pilot test and better understand how we could invest and deliver new packages to consumers,” says Shuster.
“With its breadth of partners, Loop has scaled its platform, which we hope will enable us to learn faster than if we went with an alternative platform or built one ourselves, as Loop shares insight and knowledge its gained working with other brands,” says Shuster.
The pet food is packed in stainless steel tins with resealable lids. Open Farm used a stock container approved and sourced from Loop but did its own design in house, and worked with a vendor, sourced by Loop, to create a tamper-proof label.
Launching to the Loop system meant chartering new territory, mainly because the brand’s supply chain is set up to make and package products with materials tailored for its existing retail distribution outlets.
“Our first challenge was to figure out how and where to package products. The place where they were being made was not viable, so we worked with a supply chain partner who helped with packaging and labeling to ensure we could deliver a safe and consistent product to Loop … We did not initially have the technology to package and label at scale, so we had to develop processes. Then we had to work with Loop to ensure the package and label held up to transport and durability requirements as well as to the cleaning process,” says Shuster.
All along Loop was testing and providing feedback to help optimize the label design and packaging process.
“So, communication with our supply chain partners and Loop is how we learned,” he says.
Loop, too, has ridden a learning curve. Early on, the company began studying different consumption models to determine how waste accumulated in the first place and to try and identify models that consumers would readily adopt. Some old systems caught its interest.
“In the old models of consumption, like the milkman [delivery system], packaging was not owned by consumers but borrowed from manufacturers, and consumers put down a deposit for the container. [Brands] have since transitioned to inexpensive plastics, but we are left with empty packages. So, we decided to send packaging back to manufacturers to create a better experience for consumers,” says Ben Weir, director of Business Development and Sales Innovation for Loop.
“We strive to make the experience convenient and cost effective while bringing about sustainability of reusable products,” he says.
Loop’s current reach is the Northeastern region of the U.S. across food, beverage, personal care and home care brands. The company will expand its offerings across seven countries over the next year, according to Weir.
“Open Farm is a long-standing TerraCycle partner, and we are thrilled to now have them on Loop. Our expansion into new areas like pet food helps us demonstrate the potential reach of the Loop platform,” says Weir.
Its newest member sees benefits that support what it’s trying to accomplish too.
“We are passionate about animal welfare, sustainability and transparency … We always look to work with partners that share our values, like farms that are ‘Certified Humane.’ Similarly, from a sustainability perspective, this Loop partnership felt like a natural evolution to advance our mission of trying to eliminate as much waste as possible from pet food manufacturing,” says Shuster.