Most small businesses have a lot of tough choices to make when packaging their first products to get them into the world. We’re no exception. Demand for low-footprint packaging (e.g. locally made, compostable) is still not nearly as high as environmentally costly alternatives (e.g. made across the globe, made with single-use plastic). This means the road to packaging our first products was littered with uncomfortable decisions and many moments of feeling caught between a rock and a hard place.
Our long-term goal at Agni is to gain enough momentum as a brand to be able to meaningfully impact the supply chain of packaging. We will do this (and have already started doing this, where we’re financially able) by supporting local and regenerative processes and companies.
You’ve probably heard of “voting with your dollar” before, which means spending your money with brands whose practices align with your values to affect positive change. This concept applies not only to the products you purchase (e.g. the bar of soap or the sleeve of cookies), but the packaging that they come in, too (e.g. the paper box or the plastic tray). Every time you vote with your dollar for a business that is committed to sourcing sustainable packaging, you’re signaling demand for these types of products. When packaging manufacturers see this increased demand, they’re incentivized to create more affordable, eco-friendly options. In short, voting with your dollar works, and it plays a huge role in shaping the future of our planet.
We want you to know what you’re voting for when you vote for Agni.
Our Packaging Priorities
Our packaging journey is a significant piece of our sustainability journey. It was really important to us to clearly articulate our packaging priorities before trying to make any big packaging decisions, so that we could always return to them as a guide throughout the wandering decision-making journey (the packaging game has MANY players, often with ever so slightly different paths, so the wandering comes pretty naturally when first diving in and trying to orient oneself >.<).
With that said, we are committed to packaging our healing foods and teas in materials that foster:
- Environmental stewardship. We use materials that are as kind to our earth as possible. This includes where they’re made so that we can factor in the environmental costs of transporting the packaging to our food manufacturing facilities.
- Product integrity. Our packaging must keep our products as fresh as possible while protecting them from being damaged in transit. This minimizes food waste and ensures you get to experience all the love and care that went into making these treats.
- Affordability. We prioritize packaging that balances out our premium ingredient costs. Given our functional ingredients, our products and pricing live somewhere between the world of food and supplements. This leaves our packaging decisions as the primary channel by which we can work to make our cookies, teas, and seasonings more comfortably priced for all.
Trade-Offs We Had To Make
Unfortunately, our three packaging priorities (the environment, product integrity, and affordability) are often at odds with one another. So we navigated these trade-offs with each of our products in order to get them into the hands of those who need them most:
- Seasonings: Sunlight oxidizes curcumin (the compound that gives turmeric its bright orange color), which also bleaches its color and dulls its taste. In order to protect the curcumin in our seasoning, we require packaging with sun protection. In order to use locally made, post-consumer recycled materials and to minimize plastic and adhesive use, we decided to package our seasonings in a paper box. We recognize it’s less convenient than a shaker, but the alternative options do not align with our packaging priorities. Single use plastic is detrimental to our environment (piling up in a landfill and taking years to eventually decompose into microplastics) and glass is heavy to ship (requiring more fossil fuels) and more prone to breakage (creating food waste and a dangerous environment for food production line employees). We are looking into shakers made of dark, compostable material, but for the time being these are incompatible with the machinery at our food manufacturing facility.
- Cookies: To get affordable and compostable paper tubes that would keep our cookies fresh and prevent them from crumbling in transit, we sourced from China after scouring the U.S. for affordable alternatives. We evaluated other packaging forms (e.g. a lighter weight box and a stand-up pouch) and found the tubes to be the most protective for our cookies. We use the cost savings from sourcing these abroad to subsidize the paper boxes for our seasoning and shipping mailers, which are both priced at a premium because they are 100% U.S. produced, in California. To keep all inner bags recyclable, we do not add resealable glue or zippers.
- Tea: To minimize material use, we removed an inner bag and opted for a compostable food-grade tube lining instead. This protects the tea as well as a bag would, without the extra plastic. For our tea bags, we only source biodegradable, plant-based tea pyramids (the alternative tea bags on the market are made of plastics and studies have shown that the microplastics absorb into our bodies when we drink tea steeped in plastic bags). Our biodegradable tea bags have a looser mesh, which leads to a dusting of the finer ingredients slipping out of the bag — don't worry, a majority of the ingredients remain in the bag :) We don't use tea strings or tags in order to minimize material use as well.
Where We Are Now
All of our packaging is either compostable or recyclable, with some made from post-consumer recycled material. Post-consumer recycled material means not only can you recycle it, it’s already been recycled once (or more!) before finding its way to you.
- Food-grade inner bags are 100% recyclable
- Tea pyramids are 100% compostable and we opted for stringless pyramids to further reduce material waste
- Seasoning boxes are 100% recyclable and made from 100% post-consumer recycled material
- Cookie and tea tubes are 100% compostable; tea tubes include an FDA-approved compostable food-grade lining
- Agni mailers are 100% recyclable and made from 60% post-consumer recycled material
About 40% of our packaging is made in China (for reasons outlined above) and the other 60% is made in California. Packaging made in California is made within 15 and 70 miles of where our products are made and shipped from, respectively.
Where We’re Going
Our packaging goal is to reach 100% compostable and made in the USA within 100 miles of our food manufacturers by 2025. This drives our internal supply chain initiatives and encourages our packaging suppliers to innovate to match the demand from our growing community for more environmental packaging options. We believe this is the forward momentum the packaging world needs and we're incredibly motivated to use any influence we build as a food business to drive positive innovation.
How You Can Help
In some cases, packaging plants already have more environmentally friendly product lines that are ready to go, but still in “pre-market” or “pre-launch” stages because they are waiting to see consumer demand before they invest in actually producing the packaging. With enough demand from a credible brand(s), packaging manufacturers will create more packaging products that are more affordable for everyone.
We feel strongly that our packaging choices as a business have an impact and we believe in sharing our journey with packaging transparently with our community. In the future, food packaging must be manufactured with less waste — our planet’s health depends on this transition. We love that our current packaging solutions do not contribute to plastic build-up in landfills or the ocean, but we know there is more that we can do to bring our food decisions into closer alignment with nature.
Focusing on utilizing 100% compostable materials means that our food packaging is able to break down fully, which supports soil regeneration and carbon drawdown. The availability of compostable materials for us to purchase abroad and import indicates significant progress from the industrial food packaging systems that have developed over the last 100 years. Those systems developed to prioritize packaged food convenience rather than the environment. The rise of plastics in food packaging has had some positive outcomes, like increasing access to nutritious foods, reducing food waste caused by spoilage, and extending the shelf life of perishable products. But, now that we are more educated about the negative environmental impacts of plastic use, we want better solutions. Technology and innovation can help us to achieve those same results (convenience, accessibility, shelf-life, less waste) while also raising the intention of loving-kindness for our planet. We hope that our packaging sourcing decisions help to build that future.
By supporting Agni, you are demonstrating that our values for nourishing our planet are shared. We want to see change in the food packaging industry, and while there has been industry progress towards compostable food packaging solutions, there is still so much progress to be made. We want to encourage and build momentum towards this future. As a food business, we have the opportunity to push the market forward, and we take this responsibility for our planet seriously.
Ingredient Sourcing is another area of our operations where we can have significant impact as a food business. We invite you to check out Our Ingredient Sourcing Journey blog post, as well, to learn more about our beliefs and priorities for sourcing ingredients!
We are so grateful for your interest in this aspect of our sustainability journey. Please reach out to us if you have any thoughts or feedback. We are always seeking continued education for ourselves, as a brand and as a team, and we’d love to hear from you!