Lessons learned: v-dog’s packaging sustainability journey

There’s more than one way to succeed at sustainability in the pet space, and it’s okay to try a few things until you land on what works for your business.

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v-dog has gone from focusing on its packaging to focusing on how to more broadly offset its packaging needs on its sustainability journey. | (Courtesy v-dog)
v-dog has gone from focusing on its packaging to focusing on how to more broadly offset its packaging needs on its sustainability journey. | (Courtesy v-dog)

At the end of August 2020, vegan dog food manufacturer v-dog announced that it has partnered with rePurpose Global, a movement of people and businesses going plastic neutral by empowering waste workers to fight what the organization calls a “global plastic epidemic.” But v-dog’s goal isn’t to just go plastic neutral — which involves offsetting the plastic packaging used for the company’s treats — v-dog is aiming to go plastic negative.

“Since we’re a fully vegan company and everything we make is plant-based, sustainability is really at the heart of our mission,” says Lindsay Rubin, vice president of v-dog. “We’ve been researching our packaging for quite a while and trying to understand how to make it more sustainable and more Earth-friendly, and that’s what’s brought us here.”

v-dog’s sustainable packaging journey

This is not v-dog’s first foray into a sustainable initiative involving its packaging.

“We actually started out with compostable packaging for our dog food almost ten years ago,” says Rubin. “We started off strong, we had the compostable packaging and it was awesome … until we started seeing the damage. When damage happens you have to re-ship product. So you have another bag, all of those ingredients, another box, all the resources used to ship the product again. And that was happening en masse.”

It wasn’t long before v-dog began weighing the reality of their plan and coming up with different answers than they had initially.

“We said, this isn’t working; this isn’t saving resources,” says Rubin. “And in addition to the compostable packaging not working, there were also shelf stability issues. The technology wasn’t there. So we actually experienced that hurdle first-hand and dialed things back. We went to a paper exterior packaging for our kibble, and our treats are in our plastic package.”

Partnering with rePurpose Global

v-dog knows there’s always room for improvement, but researching perfect solutions takes time and resources.

“We are always looking for better options, and we’re excited that things are seemingly coming along and shifting and changing [in packaging], but we’re really happy to be working with rePurpose because it’s something we can do right now,” she says. “We wanted to partner with someone where it was an actionable task happening as a result of the partnership.

“We’ve been around for quite a while but we’re a family-owned business, so we don’t have the budget that some of these other massive companies in the industry have,” says Rubin. “They have the huge budgets to really test and trial and try all these novel options, and if it doesn’t work they can either scrap it or just move on. But for businesses like ours, and even smaller businesses, rePurpose is a really exciting opportunity to offset things while you’re researching and finding out what works best for your brand.”

For the companion article, "Sustainability here to stay in the pet space — and beyond,” published in the October 2020 issue of Petfood Industry magazine.

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