Eco-pliant Grows From Single Straw Solution to Diverse Green Packaging Resource
By Total Food Service -July 7, 2021
Businesses across the world are adapting to eco-friendly practices and products, contributing to a global movement to go green. As companies turn to locating suppliers and learning about compostable supplies, Eco-pliant simplifies the process. A solution-oriented company, Eco-pliant started as a movement away from our dependence on plastic straws, but has expanded its supply line tremendously, meeting the needs of customers who are passionate and conscientious about being environmentally friendly.
Andrew Hargest, COO and co-founder of Eco-pliant, shares the vision and purpose behind the brand. “About four years ago, there was this huge movement away from plastic straws. My partner, Jimmy Lyons, and I were members of Surfrider (a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the ocean) and decided to become more involved in their mission and launch our own business. At the start of the shift from plastic to paper straws, it was difficult for restaurants to locate high-quality and durable paper straw suppliers. We started by solving that problem, and once we discovered there was a strong product market fit, expanded our product lines to be the one-stop-shop for eco-friendly supplies.”
Hargest had worked for one of the largest packaging brokerage firms on the West Coast, representing manufacturers of packaging products throughout his career. Hargest and Lyons’s expertise in understanding distribution and the supply-chain process has proved valuable as their reputation has grown.
In addition to paper straws, Eco-pliant’s broader product line includes compostable fiber clamshells, folded cartons and food boxes, hot and cold cups, and more. “One of our goals of 2021 is to have an eco-friendly alternative for virtually every operating supply item in a restaurant’s repertoire. All things equal; like quality, aesthetic, and pricing, most business owners are choosing the eco-friendly alternative.” In deciding how to extend their line, the company listens to the customers’ needs and helps allocate products that fit their sustainable brand. Additionally, Hargest’s experience in packaging has helped establish a vast network of suppliers to meet and exceed customer expectations.
As Eco-pliant has grown, the company has earned trust from larger companies, adding to its customer base. Hotel groups, restaurant chains, and even the film and tv industry utilize the digital Eco-pliant system that just makes things easier. However, the independent restaurant was and still is the core focus. “We pride ourselves on being a local small business, with national reach. There’s something about a smaller, mom and pop business that we connect with by sharing their core values. They want to do the right thing from a sustainability standpoint and that resonates with us.”
While these smaller businesses may have the right motivation to be environmentally friendly, they are often misled with what is known as greenwashing. It is used when an organization deceptively markets itself as eco-friendly. However, their products may not be compostable, meaning they are not certified to be broken down within a specific time. “Cultivating the green culture starts with proper education, eliminating the likelihood of greenwashing. Maybe a restaurant doesn’t know about the diversity of compostable products and needs someone to explain it in a way that makes sense and is relevant to their business. Eco-pliant does this and more, teaching customers about what sustainability can say about a brand and its community,” Hargest shared. Eco-pliant recognizes that the person that best understands the restaurant’s food is the chef. Proper packaging is important in transporting the flavors and the reputation of a dish so Eco-pliant will send free samples of its products in advance.
The last year in take-out and delivery meant a high demand in to-go containers. Restaurants that had their take-out and delivery systems in place before the pandemic were successful in keeping their doors open. Hargest noted that a large majority of the to-go containers restaurants were using were plastic. Additionally, the businesses that did not have a strong take-out program at the time struggled to bring it to full-fledged use during a global pandemic. “We served our customers who needed assistance during Covid-19 the best we could and earned a reputation from listening to the struggles of our customers and strategically presenting them with smart solutions.”
Naturally, green products are more expensive, but companies that go green do it for a reason. “They’re looking to redefine who they are as a brand. Studies have shown that Millennials and Gen Z customers are willing to pay more and support a business that is using their company for good.” The sustainable products that Eco-pliant sells are not only high-quality products but are a way for a business to showcase its environmentally friendly values. “As plastic resin costs continue to skyrocket, we know compostable fiber packaging will not only be a great choice for packaging in 2021, but the best choice.”
Hargest sees the Restaurant Revitalization Fund as a way for foodservice companies to make and meet long-term business plans. “I can’t say enough about how important this funding is for restaurants, who we all know were unfairly impacted by the pandemic. Restaurants are the lifeblood of our culture and communities, and to see them booming again is and will always be a special feeling. To support the revitalization, we’re always looking for ways to keep costs low, including free shipping for members, deviated rates on large volume purchases, etc. We know that we do well when our customers do well, it’s as easy as that.” As businesses prepare for normal occupancy numbers and consider rebranding, Eco-pliant offers an eco-friendly vision and brand.