There’s a saying that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Recently I fell in love with a new ice cream brand—actually, a gelato—called Talenti.
These folks have churned out a small selection of the most delightful and imaginative flavors with a rich texture and perfect finish. Of their thirteen gelato flavors I’ve now tried five, which were each perfetto! My favorite being their unparalleled Sea Salt Caramel.
The missing ingredient
But one thing really disturbed me about the company, and that was their packaging. Each pint-sized package is a clear plastic jar with a brown plastic lid.
Oh, they look great, and this is likely why the company decided to use these materials. The sleek, upscale look clearly distinguishes them in the marketplace from so many other brands’ cardboard containers.
But for me, that’s just not good enough.
Add to that the fact that they have a global mission—to source from exotic locations—and we’re talking about a company with a whopping carbon footprint. That’s a hard thing to get behind at a time when relocalization is the key to better economic growth in harmony with resources.
It’s actually quite difficult to imagine a company that actually chooses to use plastic in 2011. I mean, where have they been?
Consumer demand for eco-consciousness
So I wrote in to the company using their online contact form, praising the amazing product on the one hand, but voicing my disapproval about the plastic packaging on the other. As I told them then, their packaging will never ever biodegrade. One hundred thousand years from now little pints of Talenti jars will still dot the landscape.
To their credit, I received a personal reply that actually addressed the content of my concerns. Sadly, beyond the specifics, the rest of their response was canned, and in my view wholly disingenuous.
The Texas two-step greenwash
Thank you for taking the time to write us. I love hearing from our fans.
We understand and respect your point of view concerning our packaging and the environment. When partnering with specialty and natural foods chains we took on a collaborative effort to discover the most environmentally friendly packaging. The paper vs. plastic issue has been strongly debated. At the end of the day, there is one thing everyone agrees on and that is to reuse and recycle. Many of our customers reuse our containers for a wide variety of purposes and we ask that you consider doing the same.
And thanks again for being a fan and do not forget to check us out on Facebook and Twitter!
With Warm Regards,
It doesn’t add up
I checked out their Facebook reuse contest and, like the look of their packaging, it was cute. In spite of a parent reusing Talenti to feed a baby—are we sure Talenti plastic is BPA-free?—the contest inspired many fans who had great ideas for reuse and took excellent pictures to document them.
Still, I’m sorry, but that kind of reuse encouragement is not good enough.
The idea that the company took into consideration environmental concerns and then settled on a petroleum-dependent, toxicity producing, non-biodegradable packaging choice reeks of insincerity.
That or stupidity.
Perhaps folks think that by simply encouraging recycling and reuse, that it meets their obligation to our shared environment. That one small nod toward reuse outweighs heavy issues of materials, resources, energy use and toxicity.
Finally, the claim that Talenti’s package decision was done in conjunction with the preferences of small specialty retail and natural food chains rings a bit hollow, too. Talenti’s where to find our products page lists almost entirely large-scale retailers. Really, am I supposed to believe that Pick & Save, Giant, and TEXAS Kroger are specialty or natural food stores?
C’mon, Talenti, this is the age of the Internet. And guess what? We, the American People are not entirely as stupid as companies think we are. Almost. But not entirely.
An easy fix
Talenti could reduce its carbon footprint by ditching conventional plastic in favor of a renewable source. They could source plant-based plastics, like hemp. They could take their own advice and reuse by choosing renewable resources for package production, relying on pulp-based packaging. Or they could really reuse and recycle by using 100% post-consumer waste sources. Or by insisting on Forest Stewardship Council-certified resources.
None of this would stop Talenti’s fabulous designers from making a high-end looking package that is distinct from others on the shelf. And with the confidence born from a product that tastes as good as Talenti Gelato and Sorbetto, it should be a cinch to compete. Finally, making a shift to sustainable packaging would help position Talenti as an authentic thought leader in boutique style (if not grocery store available) products. In a social-marketing driven consumer landscape, this matters. We’re paying attention.
When hard choices mean no gelato
In the end, I’m one customer who will have to leave until Talenti makes those choices, putting as much thought into the company’s ecological footprint as they do into flavor. And I’ll continue to discourage others from purchasing Talenti as well. It’s time we all took our responsibility to our environment more seriously, eschewing greenwashing in favor of real eco-consciousness. This is even more necessary when it comes to our luxuries, like having some ice cream.
Fortunately for me, there’s a local on-site gelato maker in my town, just blocks from my house. I think I’ll go suggest they start making Sea Salt Caramel, too.
— Lindsay Curren, Lindsay’s List