If there’s one thing Sarah Landstreet can promise Georgette Packaging’s customers, it’s that she understands how difficult it is to create striking containers on a tight budget.
The McGill University engineering graduate was once on a cushy career path, having moved from London, Ontario to London, England, for a career in sustainability consulting. But in 2008, she noticed that North American bakeries were foraying into the United Kingdom. So she took a risk and moved to her mother’s hometown of Belfast, where she started a bakery.
Three years later, he sold the company. But the experience gave him great insight into running a food business. Smaller bakeries and restaurants don’t have the means or expertise to compete with larger chains in creating attention-grabbing packaging. This, she says, is a lost branding opportunity.
“There were a lot of sources for small businesses in terms of designing a logo or building a website. But somehow the packaging seemed to be the secret. It’s a very old-school industry that is very hard to navigate,” she says.
In 2013, two years after returning to Canada, Landstreet launched Georgette Packaging in Kitchener, Ont. Prior to launch, he interviewed about 25 bakeries across the country about their packaging needs. “I spent the first year and a half incubating in a factory,” she says. “I based myself at a box factory to understand how packaging is made. I wanted to build a similar base on the other side of the business as I did on the bakery and food business. “
Georgette Packaging was born with the rise of Instagram as one of the world’s most popular social media platforms, which made recognizable packaging and branding even more important. “People are taking pictures of what they’re eating. It could be a picture of a food or it could be a picture of a food that’s associated with your brand,” says Georgette client Reuben Vanderkwak and owner of Hamilton, Ont.-based Donut Monster. Huh. “You can easily get your name, your brand, your logo and your message across.”
When it comes to design, Georgette partners with design firms, allowing the client to lead the way. But the company offers advice on what works for social media. “I would recommend lots of color, lots of contrast, so that no matter what you put on the packaging, it will really pop,” says Landstreet.
After running the business by itself for the first two years, Landstreet now has a team of 14 people serving approximately 250 customers across Canada and the United States. These include packaging consultants, who advise customers on various packaging techniques, and an operations team, which handles logistics such as shipping and warehousing. A third group, the technical design team, works on how to execute the design ideas.
“We aim to be like your packaging department that shows and teaches you everything,” says Landstreet.
That’s what happened with Donut Monster. As it grew from a wholesale provider to operating its own cafe in Hamilton, the company’s packaging needs grew as well. This was compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, which had put food on hold. Vanderwalk says it has given them peace of mind to know that the packaging is completely someone else’s headache. “Georget handled a lot of those logistics, and it simplified things on our end to the point where I don’t need to worry about it. I just wait to hear from them how things are going.” ,” he says.
Landstreet says Donut Monster insisted on using eco-friendly kraft paper, but it was harder to get the black ink to stand out on the brown paper. “We used special ink and printing techniques to make their designs pop,” she says.
Georgette also helps businesses research environmental sustainability and cost. Each municipality in North America has its own recycling rules and regulations. “We emphasize being aware of what’s possible,” Landstreet says. “A lot of packaging labeled as compostable cannot be recycled, and it also cannot be composted in most communities. A coffee cup can be reused in some municipalities, but your Not necessarily in the community. If we give them that information, the business owner may think differently about their next purchase.”
Simon Blackwell, owner of Blackbird Bakery in Toronto, was keen to use recycled materials for his packaging and was drawn to Georgette by a shared value system. “Georget has strong values in terms of the materials they are using and where they are producing,” Blackwell says. “And they’re a carbon-neutral company, getting paid to offset their carbon footprint. We stand behind all of those things, too.”
While Georgette Packaging claims that most of its products are paper-based, Landstreet acknowledges that it won’t be entirely possible for food businesses to go plastic-free any time soon. Most restaurants survived on take-out during the pandemic-induced lockdown, which exacerbated the problem of plastic waste. But Landstreet says food businesses are eager for change, adding that those choosing sustainable materials will gain an edge as Canada’s economy slowly shifts away from plastic. But a government push would certainly help accelerate that transition. “Right now, making new plastic is so cheap that no one bothers to make sustainable packaging,” she says.
Georgette’s future rests on her commitment to the environment. “We want to educate businesses. We want to share the information we learn, and help develop more printing and packaging technologies that reduce the environmental impact of packaging,” says Landstreet. “We aim to be the most eco-friendly packaging supplier on the market.”
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