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This acquisition could help make sustainable packaging the norm 

The union of Jabil and Ecologic Brands will drive manufacturing scale for the upstart's innovative paper bottle.

Set of paper bottle packaging.

Image courtesy of Ecologic Brands.

In Manteca, California, a small company is pioneering the creation and production of paper bottles for brands such as L'Oreal and Seventh Generation. Across the U.S. in St. Petersburg, Florida, a manufacturing giant is strategizing on design, development and packaging services for the likes of Apple, Cisco Systems and HP Inc.

Now, the two companies are combining forces to scale paper packaging made from recycled cardboard boxes and newspaper. Earlier this month, Jabil, the company in Florida, acquired Ecologic Brands, which will become part of its Packaging Solutions division. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

“The opportunity that we have is kind of bringing together their sustainable packaging platform, and leveraging Jabil’s advanced manufacturing and technology, expertise along with our global footprint to really scale this as a global solution for sustainable packaging,” said Jason Paladino, senior vice president of Jabil and head of the company’s packaging solutions division. 

Jabil employs more than 260,000 employees across 100 locations in 30 countries. The acquisition will support the company's own sustainability goals — it is a signatory of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment and has pledged to engage its customers “to eliminate problematic and unnecessary plastic packaging from their current solutions,” according to its 2019 sustainability report.

In packaging, to really scale, it means having the quality that brands expect, because the top brands in the world have high, high standards around safety qualities [and] volumes are huge when you start going mainstream.

With consumers demanding better from companies and consumer packaged goods companies setting sustainable packaging goals tied to 2025, it seems the right time for this partnership, according to Ecologic Brands founder Julie Corbett.

When Corbett started Ecologic in 2008, scaling its sustainable packaging was challenging because at that time, only the “diehard” in the green movement were pushing for such solutions, she said. 

Ecologic’s Eco.Bottle is made from 100 percent recycled cardboard and old newspaper and has an inner plastic liner that is made with 60 percent less plastic than rigid plastic bottles, according to the company. 

“We are getting this great, great point of success because we are the right package at the right moment, and consumers love it. But we were really faced with challenges — scale, how to do it in when you're capital-poor. And you really want to do the right thing without cheating,” Corbett said.

“That's every entrepreneur's dream — to scale. And if I launched a baby food company or a beverage company, it could have taken me two years,” she added. 

“But in packaging, to really scale, it means having the quality that brands expect, because the top brands in the world have high, high standards around safety qualities [and] volumes are huge when you start going mainstream,” Corbett said.

Back in 2018, Ecologic worked with L’Oreal to release its Seed Phytonutrients product line in paper bottles. That package has been touted as the first shower-safe paper bottle made in the beauty industry. Now, L’Oreal is working with Ecologic to develop paper packaging for its professional-level products that are used in hair salons.

“One of the greatest successes of the Seed Phytonutrients initiative with the first 20 some products is that now we're migrating what we've learned and our abilities to influence really big brands,” said Shane Wolf, global president for U.S. brands in the professional products division at L'Oréal.

Wolf noted that the paper packaging for its Redken and Matrix professional lines are in the final stages of development with Ecologic. And he doesn’t want the more sustainable packaging options for L’Oreal to stop there.

Rendering of Redken eco.bottle

Rendering of Redken eco.bottle. Image courtesy of Ecologic Brands.


“The more of them that I can move into paper packaging the happier I'll be,” Wolf said, of the brands that he manages at the beauty giant.

And now that Ecologic has teamed up with Jabil, scaling its paper packaging across more products is possible.

“Here's Jabil, with an incredible culture fit, with a global scale of footprint already, creative [and] innovative people with a common vision. I couldn't think of a better way to really see this technology take off,” Corbett said.

Ecologic isn't the only company working on paper bottles. There's also Paboco, which GreenBiz previously noted is shorthand for "paper bottle company," that has coordinated and brought together product development teams at companies such as Carlsberg, Absolut, Coca-Cola and L’Oreal. Then there's 3Epack and Diageo, which has teamed up with PepsiCo and Unilever to release products in its paper packaging early this year.

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