For those that have tried our home delivery meals - congrats for trying something new and thank you. For those that haven’t - you have plenty of time.
Interestingly, we were going to launch home meals at the beginning of the year. We had a really impressive low carbon mile delivery option i.e we were going to join up with a food box service operating in our local areas that already provided local produce to parents when they picked up their kids from school. All we needed to do was deliver the food to the pick-up-point. What a win for us and the environment.
But you know what the main hurdle was in getting it off the ground (besides being run off our feet from the biggest summer season we’ve ever had)? The biggest hurdle for us was in fact….. the packaging.
We knew if we were going to tackle it, being a business that has gone to extreme lengths to design waste out of our system, we had to have a meal service that operated with reusable containers only. Parents could put a deposit down for containers and bring them back every time they collect their weekly produce box. Then we would collect from the pick up point when we delivered the next batch, take back to our kitchen, wash and fill. Seems fine enough, until you start becoming a logistics business tracking missing containers, not a company that feeds people. But we were willing to use every ounce of human centered design at our disposal - design - test - iterate - design - test - iterate. And we believe we could have nailed it.
Then, COVID-19 happened.
And there was no way we could justify having reusable containers coming in and out of our kitchen, washing them, and sending them out to other homes (even if we sterilised the containers). It was just too risky having them come into our kitchen and sending them out again.
Compostable packaging was also a really hard justification. If you get compostable packaging and you’re putting it in your red bin, it defeats the purpose of getting compostable packaging in the first place. Unless you’re the small percentage of us that has a worm farm or access to council composting at home. If you’re interested in understanding why compost in landfill is not ideal, we'll be writing another article about that (stay tuned).
So if we wanted to get this meal business up and running (which is the clear pivot for a catering company during COVID anyway) we were left with our arch enemy of the last 3 years - single use. Unfortunately, the lifecycle analysis data for single use anything in Australia is minimal at best, so we settled on cryovac bags. We figure in the war on food and packaging waste, if cryovac extends the shelf life of food, then at least we’re … minimising food waste? COVID beget single use, single use beget extended food shelf life. The irony is not lost on us. Until then, we’re furiously reading everything we can from our amazing friends at The Australian Packaging Covenant to find a better alternative. If you’re interested in joining us in some not so light reading, they have some excellent resources here.
Until then, be well, eat well and wash your hands with soap.