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Seventh Generation’s New Packaging Misses the Mark: What Needs to Be Done

| Friday April 22nd, 2011 | 2 Comments

ban-startup-friday

I had an intriguing collision with reality this week. Ecologic, a company whose early test products I covered in early 2010, sent me a bottle of Seventh Generation laundry detergent, so I could see first hand what new style, resource efficient, recyclable, compostable, biodegradable packaging looks like in person.

I have to say, I was disappointed.

I’m a deeply green inclined person, but there was something about the design that missed the mark, on a psychological level. The lack of handle made it feel strange to hold. It was only then that I realized how crucial a handle is to my laundry detergent paradigm. The package utilizes pressed recycled paper, which makes the inclusion of a handle quite a challenge.

And there was more:

When my sample arrived in the mail, the detergent had leaked from between the plastic spout on top and the paper shell below. What does this say about the quality of the design? Does it render the paper un-recyclable?

Further, the bottle’s packaging contained a statistic I found misleading. It said, “This bottle uses 66% less plastic than a typical 100 ounce 2x laundry bottle and washes the same number of loads”

It’s a 50 ounce 4x product. While I get what they’re trying to convey, why not compare it to another 50 ounce 4x product? It’s a hollow boosting of the resource reduction of the packaging.

While it’s clear that eliminating the use of a rigid plastic shell for packaging has a clear benefit, these sorts of fuzzy comparisons are unnecessary.

It’s long been said that mainstream consumers are inclined to see green products as less effective, inferior quality, and more expensive. A recent OgilvyEarth study confirmed that this impression carries on today. It also said that many consumers are inclined to go with the big brands they know and trust, no matter how solid a lesser known green company’s offerings are.

Ecologic, Seventh Generation and other green companies: You cannot afford to offer consumers an inferior experience. And as the OgilvyEarth study above emphasized, you’ve got to “normalize” the experience, rather than offering a container that doesn’t quite match up to the experience/feel people are used to. Doing otherwise will limit your reach into the mainstream and does a disservice to other green businesses. Sunchip’s noisy compostable bag is stark proof of this.

Readers: What’s your take on this? Have you used the new Ecologic enhanced 7th Generation products? What’s been your experience?

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Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations about, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media marketing.


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  • Tony

    I don’t know why they don’t just sell refills with the same materials used for old milk cartons, not the new ones that are lined with plastic.

  • Peek_Packaging

    Although I havent used many of the Ecologic enhanced 7th generation products, the ones I have used have leaked occasionally. This speed bump can not let the people get unmotivated about green packaging , especially when it comes to Food Packaging Design. The amount of food the world consumes is steadily increasing causing food packaging to increase as well our carbon footprint. Id like to see the ecologic enhanced 7th generation products try and expand their product line past yogurts, milk, condiments, wine, etc. Although it may be more costly now, it will pay off in the future. Dont take the nickel today, take the dime tomorrow. Best of luck to their future products.