Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs in Monroe has a reputation as a leader in sustainability and corporate social responsibility. But the company still found many of its customers questioning why its eggs come in plastic cartons.
CEO Jesse Laflamme says the company spent years examining the best options for its cartons. It even conducted a lifecycle analysis on plastic carton versus other carton materials used in the marketplace. They found the recycled plastic made the most environmental sense. He says wastewater produced by the manufacturing process of paper cartons combined with the energy it takes to dry and form such cartons has a greater carbon footprint than using recycled plastic cartons.
But getting customers, who are trying to reduce their plastic consumption, to understand that is a challenge. “It’s a complicated story to convey to consumers, so we have been looking for alternatives. Our culture is to do better for the world around us,” Laflamme says. (In 2003, Pete and Gerry’s became the first Certified Humane egg producer in the U.S. and, in 2013, the company became the first egg producer worldwide to achieve Certified B-Corporation status.)
To appease customers who don’t like plastic, Laflamme thinks they have the answer. They recently introduced the industry’s first reusable egg carton, made from recycled, BPA-free plastic, which can be washed at home and reused repeatedly.
The company has tested the new cartons at three co-op food stores in Hanover and Lebanon as well as White River Junction, Vermont. Shoppers can buy a carton for $2.99 and fill it from a display of loose eggs, offered at a discounted price.
“It was quickly adopted. It didn’t sit in aisles for people to ponder for weeks. People grabbed onto it quickly,” Laflamme says, noting the company sold 300 cartons in the three locations in just two months. Same-store sales are growing weekly and the company plans to expand to more stores in 2020.
Laflamme says the program will be introduced in other co-ops and health stores. “It’s a niche,” he says. “Ultimately, we don’t know how big this could be. We see those who are committed to using reusable shopping bags. It’s not a big leap that they would throw a reusable carton in that bag.”
Laflamme says he does not see the reusable carton replacing its core products but says it will displace some of the sales of its traditional offerings and will prevent some disposable cartons from entering the waste stream. “If it creates interest in consumers who otherwise would buy another product, it creates growth” for the company, he says.
The company notes the average person in the U.S. eats approximately 279 eggs per year, or 23 cartons-worth. Just one person replacing their egg cartons with a reusable carton would save more than 1,800 cartons from entering the recycling and waste stream. Pete and Gerry’s encourages its consumers to also recycle its cartons or participate in the company’s carton Take Back program.
For more information, visit peteandgerrys.com/about/sustainability.