Packaging Microgreens: The Ultimate Guide

Good products can’t make up for bad packaging. This is true for any business that sells physical commodities. But when it comes to packaging delicious fresh cut microgreens, you must strike a particularly delicate balance. 
 
People who buy microgreens want to improve their diets in a sustainable way. If your packaging is the wrong shape, size, or material, you’ll struggle to turn a profit, let alone stay open for business. 
 
But owning and operating a microgreens business can be so satisfying! Anybody who’s passionate about these plants or helping people deserves to find success. 
 
That’s why Herbspeak put together this ultimate guide to packing microgreens like a pro. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll understand the importance of great packaging and the best options for every scenario.

Customers will associate a brand’s image with how its product is packaged.

Chron Small Business

Packaging affects customer experience from the moment they lay eyes on your product to when they throw away the container. First, they see your microgreens. They’re immediately comparing your packages to the competitors they’ve purchased before.  
 
Once they choose yours, the package needs to be convenient. Consider how obnoxious it is to shove a bulky container into a produce drawer. Think about how restaurants store their ingredients in walk-in fridges and the way they stack boxes.  
 
Really put yourself in the shoes of that customer to understand just how impactful your packaging is.  
 
When it’s time to toss the container, can they recycle it? Is it compostable? Packaging healthy food with materials that go to the landfill will alienate your customers. Now that you understand the journey, let’s take a closer look at considerations for each market.

Styles of Packaging Suitable for Microgreens

There are 3 main container styles commonly used for packaging microgreens: 

  • Clear plastic take-out style containers (called clamshells) 
  • Paper bags lined in plastic with a see-through window (called baker’s bags) 
  • Plastic poly bags (called poly bags) 

They all have different pros and cons, including the price you’ll pay. Let’s talk about which types work best for each market.  

Farmer’s Markets

Farmer’s markets are a great opportunity for sales, especially when you’re starting out. You don’t need to have a famous brand or unique gimmick to secure a booth. Plus, you can interact with customers directly and talk about your brand’s values.  
 
The biggest packaging consideration here is the diverse customer base. Both chefs and home cooks love to procure ingredients at these local gatherings, so plan accordingly. Try to plan out a display and inventory that people will like.  
 
For example, it’s smart to offer clamshells of microgreens in a couple different sizes. You may also want some baker’s bags for smaller amounts and samples.  
 
Finally, bringing a tray of grown microgreens to display is also a smart move. People love getting a behind-the-scenes peek at how you grow your produce.  
 
The last thing to consider is a cooler (or a few) to store everything during each market.

Grocery Stores

You have the most flexibility with packaging microgreens for grocery stores. All 3 standard options are fair game—you may even try a mix, depending on which stores you sell to.  
 
The first thing to do is competitor research. Stop by the stores you want contracts with and peruse their microgreens. If you have time, you might even try observing which brands customers buy most often.  
 
You never want to copy other brands. You need your own unique identity. But you can skip some trial-and-error by evaluating what’s working (or not working) for other brands.

Restaurants

Restaurants will go through microgreens faster than the average consumer. After all, a restaurant feeds hundreds of people daily.  
 
When packaging microgreens for restaurants, use larger containers than you would for grocery stores. Clamshells in the range of 4 to 8 ounces are a good sweet spot, but you should ask the chef for their preference to be sure.  
 
Bags of microgreens wouldn’t be a great option here. The kitchen staff will likely struggle to store them efficiently, and they’re busy enough as it is. Focus on making your restaurant packaging the right size and stackable. Be sure to avoid bulkiness—commercial kitchens are tight spaces! 

Direct-to-Consumer

According to recent market research by Nielsen, the average online shopper decides whether to buy from you within 19 seconds. But that’s the average—in reality, the majority decide in under 10 seconds. (2) 
 
Which means the delivery your customer ultimately receives needs to align with your branding. This comes down to colors and logos, which you’ll learn about shortly. 
 
Logistically, you need to ensure the packaging holds and protects your microgreens. You’ll also want containers that extend your product’s shelf life, rather than sacrifice it. 
 
When you’re selling direct-to-consumer, clamshells and poly bags are good options. They aren’t too bulky and they’ll keep your produce fresh.  
 
Don’t forget an exterior container. If you’re only shipping locally, you can contract with a local delivery service and may be able to skip this step. But for nationwide shipping, you’ll need temperature-controlled exterior containers for protection.

Microgreens Packaging Design and Branding

Your design and branding are absolutely crucial. If you don’t think it through, the type of packaging you choose won’t matter—no one will look twice at your products anyway. In-person shoppers decide what to buy even faster than online shoppers. You’ve got about 10 seconds to win them over, versus the 19 seconds you get online.

A majority of today’s consumers (52%) are especially interested in supporting sustainable brands.

Google

So, your design and branding need to illustrate alignment with the customer’s values. Are you packaging microgreens with sustainable, eco-friendly materials? Make this clear with your design.  
 
At the same time, people eat with their eyes. Your microgreens should be visible to the shopper and appear appetizing—fresh, unwilted, and protected by their container. You’ve got to strike a balance between communicating your brand’s values and showing off the actual greens.  
 
This is a big part of why so many brands use the 3 types of packaging mentioned earlier. All of them allow the shopper to see the microgreens and learn important details from the labels.

Choosing a Microgreens Label Supplier

Here’s an extreme real-life example to illustrate how huge this decision can be. In September 2017, China—one of the world’s biggest buyers of used clamshells for recycling—stopped accepting clamshells.  
 
The city of Calgary in Alberta, Canada began stockpiling these clamshells. They were determined not to send them to the landfill. Both citizens and public employees wanted to find a new option for recycling.  
 
But less than 2 years later, they had to give up. The city spent over $330,000 storing these containers while searching for a solution. In the end, every one of them went to the landfill. (4) 
 
The reason? Label adhesives.  
 
The materials used in the labels and the adhesive proved almost impossible to remove. And these materials aren’t recyclable, so they had to be removed from every clamshell.  
 
You can bet businesses in the city took a much harder look at every container used for packaging microgreens and produce moving forward. Always look for biodegradable or compostable label suppliers. Your livelihood depends on it.

Packaging Specifications: Strength, Size, and Quantity

Now you can wrap your head around the importance of packaging microgreens in a way that appeals to every customer. All that’s left are the real logistics like packaging specifications, sustainability, and budgeting.  
 
You can really think about these details once you understand the “why.” So, without further ado, here’s everything you should consider.

Strength

The strength of your packaging is directly tied to transportation methods. When you sell direct-to-consumer at farmer’s markets, you don’t have to think about protecting your products for a cross-country journey.  
 
But once you start working with a distributor or shipping nationally, you absolutely must. Customers receiving crushed or damaged goods will demand a refund (rightfully so) and never shop with you again.  
 
Think about stackability and the odds of your produce being compressed during shipping. Plastic clamshells are so popular because they’re sturdy, stackable, and neatly fit into larger boxes.  
 
Form should always follow function. Basically, don’t choose packaging on appearance alone. Every detail should protect or benefit your produce in some way.

Size

You always want containers properly sized to the contents inside. Why spend more money for bigger packages if you don’t need all the space? Aim for packaging that perfectly fits the amount of microgreens you want to sell.  
 
This saves you money in so many ways. Less bulky containers mean you can fit more in every cooler or shipping vessel, which means you spend less on exterior food packaging.  
 
The shape can make a difference too. Cubes might technically be the most efficient, but they don’t give you much surface area for labels. Wide, flat clamshells instead of square ones gives you more label space and lets the customer see more of the product. Best of all, flatter containers stack just as well as cubes.  
 
A good rule of thumb is 2oz of microgreens in one 16 fluid ounce container. But it doesn’t have to be that exact, this is just a general starting point.  

Quantity

Before you ever order packaging, think about your goals. Are you testing out new options, in which case you don’t need a huge bulk order? Or are you done testing and know exactly what you want for the next month? 
 
The long and short of it is that you get a better price for buying more packaging at once. But if you’re testing, you don’t yet know whether that style works. Ordering in bulk before you’re sure can eat up a large chunk of your budget— and then you’re stuck with packaging you’ll never use.  
 
The supplier you choose will walk you through quantities and discounts. Compare at least 2 different suppliers to ensure you’re getting a fair deal.  

Materials and Sustainability of Microgreens Packaging

The last thing to cover is balancing your materials budget with sustainable packaging. There are a lot of details to consider here. Larger packages are heavier, which ultimately requires more space and fuel during shipping.

Your ultimate goal is packaging microgreens in a way that shows off your product and brand while staying efficient, sustainable and eco-friendly.

Setting a Microgreens Packaging Budget

You may be feeling a bit overwhelmed about your budget for packaging microgreens. How can you figure this out before you’re even making sales? Don’t worry—you have plenty of data to pull from.

“Manufacturers spend more than $150 billion a year on product packaging, or roughly 7 to 10 cents of every dollar that goes into a product.”

Consumer Reports

The average spend for packaging is 7-10%, but many businesses also manage between 1-3%. You’ll likely spend a bit more as you figure out what works. Once you dial in the details, you’ll place cheaper bulk orders and therefore spend less.

Lower Budget Options

Microgreens can be a bit tricky to transport. They need to stay fresh, so your packaging must preserve humidity inside. Unfortunately, cardboard just doesn’t do the trick.

But you still have options with a lower budget. Baker’s bags and poly bags are honestly less eye-catching than clamshells, but they’re usually cheaper. And the plastic lining will help extend the shelf life of your microgreens.

All in all, you don’t need to break the bank on packaging—at least when you’re starting out. Just know you’ll need to make up for the less appealing packages in some way.

At farmer’s markets, this means more free samples and engaging with passersby. In grocery stores, it means being incredibly strategic with your branding and labeling. You’ve got to make those bags stand out from competitor clamshells somehow.

Once you’re turning a profit, consider investing a bit more in nicer packaging. You just might see a nice bump in sales.

Sustainability: Where to Order Packaging From

Finally, you need a packaging supplier. There are a few different ways to go with this.

The most diverse selection can be found from international sellers. Across the globe, there are so many unique and innovative options you can’t yet find locally. But these mega-suppliers often charge a premium for these choices. It’s smart to steer clear of international suppliers until you have some serious profits to invest.

The most affordable selection is usually local to you. Buying local means little to no shipping cost and you can get supplies fast. The trade-off is a less diverse range of packaging. You should be able to find standard sizes and shapes at a fair price, but not much else. This is a good way to shop when you’re still a brand-new business, but you may want to branch out as you grow.

Finally, your middle-of-the-road choice. Many local suppliers get their stuff from international sellers. They add a slight mark-up and sell to businesses like yours. This can be a great way to find more unique packaging without paying an arm and a leg.

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Packaging Testing Shortcuts and Takeaway Tips

Odds are you don’t have a degree in packaging science. You need to discover affordable, sustainable options for packaging microgreens without wasting months testing. Try the shortcuts and tips below to hit the ground running:

  • Go on a reconnaissance mission. Check out your local independent health food or boutique grocery store. Evaluate the types of packaging used for all in-stock microgreens. It’s highly likely these companies have done their own research and testing, so they’re using packaging that works.
  • Place a small test order. With this new knowledge in hand, order a small amount of the most common packaging type you saw. Ideally, order 2 or 3 styles so you can compare them. Remember to shop for recyclable and sustainable options.
  • Take a test drive. Fill each container with your harvested microgreens and experiment a bit. Is the construction solid, or shoddy? Do the clamshells pop open or crunch down too easily? Do the bags tear at the slightest resistance, or are they sturdy? You can even ask friends or family to try out each container and get their opinion.

Armed with everything you’ve learned today, you’re ready to tackle packaging microgreens for your business venture. Stay focused on the customer experience, sustainability, and eco-friendly materials. With these values as your North Star, you can build a loyal and happy customer base.

References
References

1. Chron Small Business, How Does Packaging Affect Consumers? 
https://smallbusiness.chron.com/packaging-affect-consumers-70612.html 
 
2. Nielsen, Make the Most of Your Brand’s 20-Second Window 
https://www.nielsen.com/insights/2015/make-the-most-of-your-brands-20-second-windown/  
 
3. Google, New Research Shows Consumers More Interested in Brands’ Values Than Ever 
https://cloud.google.com/blog/topics/consumer-packaged-goods/data-shows-shoppers-prioritizing-sustainability-and-values  
 
4. CBC, Calgary’s 2,000 Tonnes of Clamshell Containers Headed to Dump After Storage Price Tag Hits $330K 
https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/calgary-clamshell-recycling-problem-landfill-1.5253287  
 
5. Consumer Reports, Is the Latest Product Packaging New and Improved? 
https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2013/09/product-packaging/index.htm  

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