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Package Innovation: Seventh Generation

Package Innovation: Seventh Generation

• Recyclable and compostable bottle is made from 100% recycled paper and cardboard and serves as a shell for a recyclable plastic pouch.
• Packaging uses 66% less plastic than comparable plastic jugs.
• Paper bottles are rolling out to national chains like Whole Foods.

Concentrated formulas and smaller bottles helped the laundry industry soften its carbon tread. But one brand in particular has taken the proposition further.

Rather than opt for the standard plastic bottle for its new Natural 4x Laundry Detergent, Seventh Generation has chosen an eye-catching paper vessel that uses 66% less plastic than a typical 100-ounce 2x laundry bottle and washes the same number of loads.

The recyclable and compostable bottle is made from 100% recycled paper and cardboard. It serves as an outer shell for a recyclable plastic pouch that holds the detergent. Once finished with the product, the user simply pops the shell open and separates the bag from the bottle for recycling.

After a limited rollout to select independent retailers earlier this year, the bottle is making its way to larger chains like Whole Foods through distributor Unified Natural Foods Inc., Julie Corbett, chief executive officer and founder of Oakland, Calif.-based Ecologic Brands, the company which developed and manufactures the paper bottle for Seventh Generation, told SN.

“Seventh Generation is extremely courageous,” she said. “To take on this endeavor is risky since it's a new product and you don't know if performance is going to be as good. They're the first to take this bottle and ship it to over 300 locations all across the country. It's even on shelves in Alaska.”

Indeed, although the product will maintain its integrity despite superficial damage, Seventh Generation is taking on risks that are non-issues with plastic.

Paper bottles can be dented or crushed if dropped, for instance, and during home use a splash of detergent will discolor the paper and cardboard shell. Other features like the bottle's plastic dosing cap are more familiar.

To avoid alienating consumers, Ecologic Brands decided to stick with a conventional measuring cap even though recycling for the #5 plastic it's made with isn't widespread. The plastic is, however, used sparingly. Made to accommodate an ultra concentrated formula, it's smaller than most.

“We learned that to make this bottle adaptable in the current infrastructure there were certain things you had to keep standard,” noted Corbett. “If it were too different the consumer would never see the bottle since it would be too disruptive operationally for them to adopt.”

Rather than turn shoppers off, the packaging's natural aesthetic has achieved the opposite, Corbett said, by attracting new users to the brand.

PCC Natural Markets, Seattle, reports that sales of Seventh Generation 4x detergent in Free and Clear and Geranium and Vanilla detergents in 50-ounce paper bottles are showing “nice increases” since they hit shelves last April.

Though not as popular as Seventh Generation's 100-ounce, 2x laundry detergent in a plastic bottle, monthly sales of the new varieties have increased 292% and 248%, respectively, according to Grocery Merchandiser Scott Owen.