Consumers look for restaurants that choose environmentally-focused practices

Sponsored by Sustana Fiber.

Today’s consumers are more issue-driven than ever before. Not only do they want good food, but they also want restaurants to support their values. And one of their top concerns is environmental sustainability.

Studies have shown customers are not only influenced by sustainability, but they are increasingly willing to pay more for sustainable brands. As a result, many consumers have been looking to businesses to step up and are choosing to patronize restaurant brands that offer sustainable practices—a choice quickly becoming the norm.

This makes it critical that restaurants’ use environmentally friendly practices. GreenBiz reports one way brands are doing this is by embracing a circular economy—one that turns traditional manufacturing on its head to reuse natural resources for as long as possible and minimize the impact on the planet.

“We know the most efficient businesses operate with little waste, but there’s much more to the equation than that,” says Jay Hunsberger, vice president of sales for North America at Sustana Fiber, a company that manufactures recycled fiber food packaging. “And when companies implement sustainable practices in their supply chain, it helps them articulate their value proposition to consumers.”

As consumers become more aware of these issues, simply being “recyclable” is not enough. True efficiency is achieved only when products are able to be recovered, recycled and turned into new products that are sold on the market, and recycled again.

“We spend a lot of time helping our restaurant clients learn what is recyclable and helping them get their materials back inside the loop,” Hunsburger says. “We collaborate with these companies to help build a sustainable supply chain that leads to sustainable manufacturing—in line with our vision of creating a closed-loop fiber future.”

One key lesson the Sustana team has learned from helping restaurants is that diners want restaurants’ sustainability efforts to be obvious and visible to them. While they want restaurants to invest in energy-saving equipment and to teach consumers about recycling, it’s important to put sustainability in the hands of the consumer—literally.

Sustainable packaging is one of the highest impact ways brands can demonstrate their commitment to the environment to guests. By giving customer tactile and visual experiences that demonstrate what the circular economy is in practice, consumers come to feel like a bigger part of this mission.

Using recycled paper packaging made of post-consumer reclaimed material is one way restaurants can embody the circular economy. Despite common misconceptions, paper is actually one of the most recycled products in the world. The material for recycled paper packaging is sourced from waste paper products, such as magazines, newspapers, promotional materials, packaging, boxes, and office documents that have been used by consumers and tossed in a recycling bin. By offering consumers foods that are packaged in recycled paper products, restaurants are demonstrating not only that a brand is committed to using packaging that has already been recycled, but that it should be recycled and reused again.

For example, Sustana Fiber’s EnviroLife is 100 percent post-consumer recycled fiber manufactured in North America and FDA compliant for use in direct food contact packaging without a barrier or coating at 100 percent inclusion. Not only can it hold up to the demands of foodservice packaging, but it is also engaging consumers in the circular economy. When a guest holds an EnviroLife cup, for instance, and knows it was already recycled, they see that they are part of that packaging’s life cycle. Not only will they appreciate seeing this commitment from restaurant brands, but it encourages them to continue recycling that material and might spark motivation to recycle more materials outside of the restaurant.

When these kinds of strong sustainability strategies are adopted, consumers aren’t afraid to share the message that a restaurant shares their values with others. For example, Hunsburger says the Sustana team signed a deal to recycle coffee cups in Denver, and the local media picked up the story. And from there, consumers and media began sharing the message as well.

“It’s important to understand the full scope of the impact restaurants can make,” Hunsburger says. “Open up to your consumers about the positive changes you’re making, and they’ll support it, because you’re participating in something a lot bigger than yourself.”

By Peggy Carouthers

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