How many General Mills product developers does it take to envision a more sustainably produced Hamburger Helper? The geniuses came up with smoother noodles. Yes, that’s right. Smoother noodles, not the twisty kind, allow the product to settle more compactly in the plastic pouch and, thus, require a smaller cardboard box for the product. Voila! Sustainability in Action! Hardly.
It is noteworthy that giants like General Mills are starting ponder green principles in their attempts to reduce waste and lower product cost. Walmart CEO Lee Scott is touting Hamburger Helper as the wave of the future for greener products in his store.
But smooth noodles are not really going to significantly lower the environmental impact of General Mills. This move is just a little tweak in the manufacturing process. Companies need to start thinking about the total impact of their product.
What would a sustainably produced Hamburger Helper really look like? Noodles made from organically grown wheat and produced with renewable energy would be a good start. Cardboard packaging made from recycled materials would also help. These initiatives take a systemic approach because they consider how the ingredients are grown, where the energy comes to produce them, and how the packaging is manufactured.
Smooth noodles sounds like a joke. What are they suggesting? Should we stop eating bow-tie or fusilli pasta on environmental principles? It’s not the shape of the noodles that really matters. In this case, it is what it’s made out of, how it’s made, and what it’s packaged in.