It’s clear that consumers appreciate environmentally conscious brands. In fact, a survey from CGS found that consumers are willing to pay more for products that benefit the environment. But in order for restaurants to see that lift, they need to spread the word about how they’re helping—and when it comes to marketing environmental benefits, it’s a little like the Wild West. Vendor claims of eco-friendliness can be stretched or misinterpreted, and if evidence of deceptive or misleading information ever reaches consumers or the media, the effect on restaurant brands can be devastating.
The practice of misleading consumers about environmental benefits is called greenwashing, and consumers are increasingly aware of it—and averse to it.
“Greenwashing happens when companies don’t have proof of what their product claims to do,” says Michael Winters, president and chief revenue officer of WinCup. “Consumers are becoming more and more educated, especially around the environmental side. When you try to create a shortcut, you think you’re doing something good for your brand, but it could end up hurting you.”
Greenwashing abounds in the world of packaging. Most packaging is petroleum-based, single-use plastic that ends up in waterways and takes hundreds of years to break down. Packaging vendors—and restaurants relying on them—may market these products as “plant-based” even when only a small percentage of the total makeup includes plants.
Paper straws are another major offender, according to Winters. At first glance, paper straws may seem to present a sustainable alternative to traditional plastic straws, even though their user experience is notoriously poor. In addition, paper straws are slower to decompose in landfills due to the chemicals and glues used to hold them together. These chemical coatings and adhesives often contain per- and polyfluorinated (PFAS) substances, also known as “forever chemicals,” and are harmful to humans and animals, as well as deadly to marine life. In fact, a 2020 study by the University of Florida tested 38 straws labeled as “biodegradable,” and all the paper straws were found to contain PFAS.
Consumers, especially younger generations, are expressing concerns about the widespread use of PFAS, which has been shown to have negative health effects. Regulatory bodies are also beginning to take note.
“The world is changing—think of the legislative pressure in certain areas of the country over single-use plastics,” says Brad Laporte, CEO of WinCup. “If your restaurant isn’t already under legislative pressure, it’s coming. You’re better off getting on board early.”
WinCup’s phade straws offer an alternative to petroleum-based plastic straws as well as difficult-to-use, PFAS-associated paper straws. phade straws—made with PHA, a material derived from canola oil—are designed to biodegrade completely within months, even in a home composting setting. “We wanted to make sure there weren’t any microplastics left, even after biodegradation was completed, so we did the extra leg work to make sure this wasn’t going to come up as a surprise later down the road,” Laporte says.
Certification and/or compliance with globally recognized standards guarantee the sustainability of a product. Certifications from TUV Austria and BPI verify the product does what it says it will do.
When a foodservice brand can show proof of certifications like these, franchisees and restaurateurs can proceed with confidence, both in selecting that product and in delivering it to their customers.
To learn more, visit phadeproducts.com.
By Kara Phelps