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Restore Mushroom Packaging in the Sweet Spot of Price, Performance and Sustainability

The packaging is made from '100 percent rapidly renewable resources produced in a low-energy process,' Sealed Air Corp.'s Tim McInerney tells New Equipment Digest.

Tim McInerney is confident that Sealed Air Corp. has hit the trifecta with its new Restore Mushroom Packaging.

"In the past, one of our greatest challenges was identifying solutions that were sustainable, cost-neutral and high-performing," says McInerney, sustainable solutions business manager for Elmwood Park, N.J.-based Sealed Air.

"However, this product addressed all three of these needs by offering one of the most complete environmental stories, a reasonable price point and, most importantly, providing superior product protection."

The packaging, which was developed by Ecovative Design and commercialized by Sealed Air, is made from "100 percent rapidly renewable resources produced in a low-energy process," McInerney tells New Equipment Digest.

In an interview with New Equipment Digest, McInerney explains how Restore Mushroom Packaging sprouted to life, and some of the challenges that Sealed Air faced in bringing it to market.

NED: Why did Sealed Air decide to market this product?

TM: We saw the demand for more high-performing sustainable packaging options, so in early 2012 we entered into an agreement with Ecovative Design that led to the commercialization of Sealed Air's Restore Mushroom Packaging.

In the past, one of our greatest challenges was identifying solutions that were sustainable, cost-neutral and high-performing. However, this product addressed all three of these needs by offering one of the most complete environmental stories, a reasonable price point and, most importantly, providing superior product protection.

NED: How is this packaging different from similar products?

TM: Sealed Air's Restore Mushroom Packaging is unique because it features environmental benefits throughout its life cycle.

The solution is created from 100 percent rapidly renewable resources produced in a low-energy process. It reduces product damage (and thus waste) and is home-compostable once the end-user is ready to dispose of it.

Additionally, the fact that Restore Mushroom Packaging is home-compostable is unique as well, as many solutions categorized as compostable require conditions only found in industrial composting facilities.

NED: What problems did you encounter during the commercialization process?

TM: One of the greatest challenges we encountered was that Ecovative had a single manufacturing point when we entered into our agreement with them, so we're leveraging Sealed Air's existing network and capabilities to scale up operations and distribution of this product throughout North America.

This existing network includes our 35 global Sealed Air Packaging Design Centers, our world-class manufacturing facilities and our vast supply chain infrastructure.

NED: How long did it take from conception to final production?

TM: The partnership with Ecovative was initially announced on Jan. 26, 2012, following the 2012 World Economic Forum event in Davos Kloster, Switzerland.

Sealed Air then executed the contract with Ecovative on Jun. 15, 2012, and we held our first formal sales training a few weeks later.

So, in less than a month, we were engaged in sales activities and we already have successfully integrated Restore Mushroom Packaging into a few of our customers' operations.

Interest surged last October at the 2012 Pack Expo where we first showcased the Sealed Air-branded product to the public.

NED: Did cost factors play a role in changing the final design of the product? And, if so, in what way?

TM: As mentioned previously, this solution is cost-neutral, so cost factors did not change the final design of the product.

Because our ultimate goal is to drive efficiencies and business value for our customers, we will continue to look at ways to optimize the production of this product through the integration of automated and lean manufacturing processes and by managing the supply chain and our raw material inventory levels to efficiently control production.

NED: Who do you consider your target audience to be and what benefits will they realize from using this product?

TM: Truly, any customer that requires engineered cushioning and blocking and bracing, regardless of their specific needs, is a target audience.

Thus far, we have seen a demand in home appliances, automotive and lighting. Additionally, due to the natural anti-static properties of the packaging, electronics-such as computer display monitors and laptops-is a perfect fit.

NED: Any additional information?

TM: Not only is Sealed Air expanding the scale of production and manufacturing for Restore Mushroom Packaging, but we're actively developing additional material formulations to meet more product and customer demands.

We're experimenting with different formulations so that we can ultimately expand the product's portfolio of materials to offer Restore Mushroom Packaging for specific applications that may require cushions of varying density or rigidness. 

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