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February 2022
Plant-Powered Packaging By Susan Martin

New compostable branded containers allow growers and grower-retailers to offer plants in plant-powered, fully compostable containers.

After years of research, trialing and development with Minnesota-based sustainable materials manufacturer VistaTek, Proven Winners is debuting an Eco+ Grande fully compostable container for growers and grower-retailers. The plant-powered pot is made from starchy renewable plants grown in the U.S. and has organic nutrients built right into its walls. 

“We are committed to reducing our use of single-use plastic packaging for our plant material, and this eco-friendly container is our first step in this endeavor,” says Dave Konsoer, director of sales for Proven Winners. “Imagine having plant containers that are made from plants — no more plastic.” 

The plant-powered container is designed to be planted directly into landscapes and decorative containers. Consumers will remove the four pull- off tabs from the sides of the Eco+ Grande pot to expose the roots, then set the entire thing into the soil. The organic nutrients in the container feed the plant as it breaks down over time, helping it grow bigger and stronger. 

The container is ASTM D6400 certified for industrial compostability. This process breaks the plant-based container down with heat and moisture, allowing microbes to turn it back into an inert organic product. 

EcoPot_White_Supertunia_Royal_Velvet_XLConsumers who do not wish to plant their Eco+ Grande containers in the ground can search locally for industrial compost facilities. Even if the compostable pots end up discarded as waste, they break down more quickly than traditional petroleum-based pots in a landfill. All of these options are sustainable since the container will disintegrate over time in each instance. 

Key Insights 

Through years of trialing numerous iterations of what would ultimately become the Eco+ Grande container, the goal was to develop a fully compostable container that has the perfect balance of durability for the grower/retailer and the ability to break down in the landscape for the consumer. Four key factors were measured including container integrity, retail appearance, plant performance and container degradation. 

Proven Winners also compared the Eco+ Grande container with wood pulp and coir/fiber pots. The Eco+ Grande container offered the look of a premium quality branded container with all of the environmental benefits of being fully compostable. 

“This is an opportunity for the grower/retailer and home gardener to make a difference without changing their processes or practices,” says Danny Mishek, president of VistaTek. “The Eco+ Grande pot allows people to have a landfill-free gardening experience without making any sacrifices on quality or performance.” 

In fact, comparison trials demonstrated that plants grown with no extra fertilizer performed better in the Eco+ Grande container than in all other container styles trialed, due to the nutrients built into its walls. Even if consumers aren’t interested in the sustainable aspect of the Eco+ Grande containers, their plants will grow better because of the nutrients it provides. 

Cost Versus Value 

The technology of the Eco+ Grande container makes the cost a bit higher than traditional containers. However, the value for the consumer of being able to purchase a plantable pot with nutrients built into its walls, coupled with the sustainability factor, is substantially greater. As production volume increases, manufacturing costs should decrease. 

The question is whether or not consumers are willing to pay more for products sold in sustainable packaging. Studies have proven the answer is a resounding “Yes.” 

A study published by U.S. and Canadian-based researchers including Charlie Hall of Texas A&M University and Bridget Behe of Michigan State University in the Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics found that participants were willing to pay a price premium that ranged from $0.23 to $0.58 for biodegradable containers that did not contain fertilizer. Imagine the value that is added when nutrients are built right into the container. 

Additionally, an August 2021 poll conducted by the Consumer Brands Association/Ipsos found that, “While the majority of Americans believe that the federal government should tackle plastic and packaging waste as its next ‘moon shot,’ consumers are increasingly taking matters into their own hands to make conscientious choices. 

“If given the option to buy products with recyclable or compostable packaging, 47% of Americans opt for recyclable products and 20% prefer compostable products. Eight-in-ten (80%) respondents report being concerned about the environment, though specific concern over plastic and packaging waste is even higher at 84%.” 

Eco+ Grande containers offer growers and retailers a chance to be the solution. “People are trying to find ways to be greener,” Mishek says. “We may not all be able to afford solar panels and electric cars, but a simple container that uses no petroleum and avoids the landfill is something we can all do right now. If everyone makes a small change, we will see big differences.” 

Opportunities for Growers and Retailers 

Growers and grower-retailers have a unique opportunity to be among the first in the nation to offer plants in plant-powered, fully compostable Eco+ Grande containers — to be that eco-friendly solution that consumers are actively seeking. Early adopters of revolutionary products like this often see the greatest rewards in terms of earning customer loyalty and social currency in the marketplace. 

Eco+ Grande containers are available to growers and grower-retailers through Four Star Greenhouse and Pleasant View Gardens. Empty containers will ship alongside liners with spring orders. Both propagators are also selling a select group of finished material in the Eco+ Grande container this year, with more extensive offerings planned for the future. 

To help retailers tell the story and present the value proposition of Eco+ Grande containers, Proven Winners is offering POP materials for merchandising in-store displays. A QR code will link to more detailed information about the compostable container. Education will be a critical factor in increasing sell-through of this eco-friendly product and no company is better positioned to reach consumers than Proven Winners. 

To learn more about the Eco+ Grande container, visit www.provenwinners.