The Power of Smoother Noodles?: Eco-Strategies from Hamburger Helper

hamburger-helper.jpgHow 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.

Shannon Arvizu, Ph.D., is a clean tech educator and cutting-edge consultant for the auto industry. You can follow her test drives in the cars of the future at

2 responses

  1. As trivial as it sounds, I still applaud this effort. The food may still be unsustainable and second-rate (it is hamburger helper after all) but when a company the size of Wal-Mart makes anything even a tiny bit more efficient it makes a world of difference.
    In this case it’s saving on packaging. No idea how much this amounts to, but I’m sure it’s a lot!

  2. I have an idea about how they can make Hamburger Helper, breakfast cereal, and all their other bag-in-a-box type products much more environmentally friendly (and cheaper): eliminate the box entirely.

Leave a Reply