Sustainable Packaging

Is Naked Packaging the Answer? CEO Curt Van Inwegen Life Elements Inc.

May 25, 2022 Cory Connors Season 2 Episode 86
Sustainable Packaging
Is Naked Packaging the Answer? CEO Curt Van Inwegen Life Elements Inc.
Show Notes Transcript

https://lifeelements.com/

Are you looking for the best bath bomb? 
Have you experienced the healing power of CBD? 
Do you know about Mycelium Mushroom packaging? 

https://www.linkedin.com/in/curtisvan/

https://ororapackagingsolutions.com/
Looking to improve the sustainability of your packaging today? Check out:
https://www.landsberg.com/
The views and opinions expressed on the "Sustainable Packaging with Cory Connors" podcast are solely those of the author and guests and should not be attributed to any other individual or entity. 

https://specright.com/ This podcast is an independent production and the podcast production is an original work of the author. All rights of ownership and reproduction are retained—copyright 2022.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1329820053/ref=as_sl_pc_qf_sp_asin_til?tag=corygat

Cory Connors:

Welcome to sustainable packaging with Cory Connors . Today's guest is Mr. Curt Van Inwegen . Sorry if I said that wrong. He is the CEO of life elements, Inc.

Curt Van Inwegen:

How are you? Occurred? Things are great. Thank you.

Cory Connors:

Good. And, and how do you pronounce your last.

Curt Van Inwegen:

Van Inwegen it's, it's a, it's an Americanized version of a, of a Dutch

Cory Connors:

last name. Well, it's really unique and interesting. I've never seen it before. So tried to pronounce it correctly, but failed obviously. But welcome to the show. Really impressed with the. Products and the packaging that you guys use. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and then how you started this company?

Curt Van Inwegen:

Sure. And I'll use the term we which means that it's my wife. Both my wife and I met. We were both in different sides of technology. She sold computer-aided dispatch systems to law enforcement. And I was in corporate marketing and she she left first meaning she quit her job almost 20 years ago to start making chromotherapy products for couples and fast forwarding to where we are now. We are a nature-based skin and body care company. We have CBD and non CBD products and we have. Focused very hard on trying to improve our sustainability footprint across all of the various categories of that. And, and I think what we'll be talking about today is something that's brand new. It's our mushroom packaging for our bath bombs. And I will say something specific to bath bombs because I think sometimes they get a bad rap because they're. All kinds of bath bombs out there and they're psychedelic and they have glitter and they fit and they leave rings around your bathtub and all kinds of stuff like that. Ours are really focused on efficacy. They have high Of water-soluble CBD and the majority of repeat customers use them for pain, chronic pain, occasional pain and anxiety. So they're not inexpensive, but people are using them to. Reduce inflammation, prove anxiety, help their sleep. And we're not really all about psychedelic colors or anything like that.

Cory Connors:

Well, I I'm so thankful you sent me a sample and for those of you watching on YouTube, you can see it. But if you're not here is the packaging and the bath bomb . So it comes like this in like two slices of bread almost on top of each. And then you open it up to find this beautiful bath bomb. Can you speak to how this came

Curt Van Inwegen:

to be? Yeah, we we started off with our bath bombs by wrapping them in a little plastic bag with a ribbon and a hang tag, and we were looking for something a little, little more upscale. So we moved to cardboard tubes which worked really well. They were good for shipping. And they were good for presentation and really protecting the bath bomb in transit. However we wanted to upscale them again two years ago and we started looking at all these different items. We were really impressed with some of these cardboard tubes that are really nicely done, you know, pre printed on. And they look gorgeous. And the only place we could really get them in the quantity that we needed was from China. And of course the minimums are incredible and they couldn't give us a sustainable option. The cardboard was cardboard, but the interior packaging was foam. And I knew there had to be a better way. And, and really the internet is our friend these days, and there's a company called seed which makes probiotics and they. Actually listed all of their vendors. And I found eco native, which is the company that created this mycelium structure. And and is the founder of this technology. They have licensed that to a company called paradise packaging. Well, the cool thing is, is that paradise packaging is based in California. For those that don't know that town was. Obliterated by fire a few years ago. And paradise packaging is one of the economic drivers coming back. And so they grow our packaging. And those molds that you just show, this is, this is one, half of a mold is grown for us, not made for us. And so when we thought this, we thought, wow, this is really cool. And they were able to design it. You know, a bath bomb is not. A high tolerance product. You know, we're not making microchips, there's a little bit of variability, but they came up with a way to, in case this surrounded and it not only protects the bath bomb through its journey, it helps to. Keep it covered in this material is hydrophobic. So the way they do this very quickly is if you think of like a big muffin tin that's kind of what these things are. And they, they spread the raw material out, which looks like sawdust into these molds. They put them into what looks like a Baker's racks and they let it grow. Over the course of five to seven days after that, they roll it into a big container size oven at a relatively low temperature, 170 degrees. It's certified cradle-to-cradle gold in terms of carbon footprint. And then it gets this really nice texture to it. It's very smooth. It's almost fuzzy and it protects the bath bomb. And what you didn't show is there's a paper strap as well. That goes around it kind of secure. Secures a bath bomb. So, but the package or the product is, is naked. We call it naked packaging. And the, this mycelium product has been around for several years. A lot of wineries are using it. It's mostly used for glass, especially in the health and wellness space. But we're the first company to actually put a naked product in there. There's no additional packaging and this is 100% home compostable. You can, you can crumple it up. And since you're on YouTube, you can see, you can, you can start to shred it up. And it counts as brown material in a compost, in a compost bin,

Cory Connors:

which is the most sought after. Right. Yes,

Curt Van Inwegen:

because you know, if you're in New York city or a city, you're like, well, what am I going to do? I, you know, it's hard to compost there. , if you throw it down, the shoot, it ends up in the landfill. It's going to degrade. And the neat thing is, is that when this material hits live soil or live water you know, lake water, ocean water, It disintegrates it's organic. And so to us, that's the coolest thing about it. And the next step in, in designing this was, this is a very unique looking thing. And as you saw on the, on the label, you know, we we'd started to tell this little story. About what this product was. People actually thought some people, a very small amount of people thought that the two halves were actually the bath bomb.

Cory Connors:

Oh, that's an interesting problem. Yeah, I hadn't thought of

Curt Van Inwegen:

that. So, because this was such a shift in such a new concept, really? We, we did a test. This, this whole process took just over one and a half years and it was. It was a really cool experience for me. And it took a lot longer than we thought. Of course, we hoped to have it ready for the holidays last year, but that didn't happen. But what we did was we printed test labels. We wrapped it exactly as it would be. And we sent them out to existing customers who are interested retailers and to get their feedback. And we thought we had this gorgeous, groovy. Design that was amazing. And everybody said, I don't really understand what's in this package. Oh, wow. So the packaging, the messaging that you're looking at now is what we ended up with based on, you know, essentially a three month process of testing it out, getting feedback. And that was a real great lesson

Cory Connors:

learned. It's it's and kudos to you. It's a very educational packaging. It's very informative. It tells you exactly what it's made out of how you dispose of it, why you chose this material. What's inside. , this is something we talk about all the time in the sustainable packaging world is how do we educate consumers? How do we, it, what, what can we do? Well, this is the answer. You put it on the darn packaging and you tell them. This is what you do with it, right. So well done. And you guys are, I'm going to keep this packaging and to show people and say, look, if you have something, especially if you have something unique, like Mycelium mushroom packaging, which is so new you know, we got to teach people how to, how to use it. Well, that

Curt Van Inwegen:

you'd be surprised. You'd be surprised. There are, you know, there are people, retailers who profess to being extremely sustainable, clean beauty, clean ingredients. And when presented with not. Or this particular packaging, but other types of packaging that we have, we have a slash packaging page which talks about all the different things that we are doing, which include compostable bags. It includes refillable or refillable collection and things like that, but they. You know, they, they want this product that is in case in a package and a package in a package. And, you know, it's about education for sure. And but the feedback so far has been outstanding. Some retailers are a little. Just because of the size, this is a fairly big footprint for a bath bomb, but once we told them what it was and what the messaging was 95% of them turned around and said, yeah, you're right. This is super cool.

Cory Connors:

I love that you guys are real innovators. I haven't seen a lot of my ceiling mushroom packaging. In use yet because it's so new. Do you think that this trend will continue, that more companies will adopt this kind of packaging?

Curt Van Inwegen:

Absolutely. And I will say, I will tell you why I believe that so much because. So paradise packaging is, or our manufacturing partner. They actually put these together and they had a 75,000 square foot facility to do this. They're also building I think half again or double that size now, because they are getting so many orders for all different kinds of things. And it manifests itself and besides packaging acoustic tiles. So you go to any recording studio or here we are talking and, you know, podcasts the acoustics are very important. A hundred percent of the acoustic material that's out there is made with foam and that foam off gases and things like that. So they're using the material as well for building materials and Ecovative the parent company has, has moved on to edible products. So mushroom bacon. I haven't tasted it.

Cory Connors:

I didn't know that that's

Curt Van Inwegen:

fascinating, but yeah, I think it's like everything else, your podcast and, you know, messaging on our packaging, it really is about education. We do that in our social media. We put that on our packaging. We enclosed thank you cards with, you know, information about. Peanuts, you know, we use the starch peanuts for certain orders. We do recycle wrapping, , we get an incredible amount of supplies coming in and it's all wrapped and stuff. And there's some really interesting things that people are doing by using reuse. Filler material and stuff like that, but we have to make it big and bold that, Hey, these are starch based peanuts. They dissolve in water. So people don't think that we're stupid.

Cory Connors:

That's a, you know, that's a common question is are the styrofoam when you send those those bio peanuts, a lot of people don't understand that those are easily. Washed down the drain literally in your, in your kitchen sink, or just put in your , compost pile but with your, with your mushroom packaging. Perfect. So other than the cool packaging, what makes your bath bombs and your other products so unique? You said it's used for heat.

Curt Van Inwegen:

So we started out as a well, we started out as beekeepers and and again, we meaning my wife was became obsessed. And so we had up to 60 some hives for a period of time where we live. We live in a task at Aero, California, which is halfway between LA and San Francisco. Close to the coast. And there's a lot of pollinators that park their bees there during the off season. So we were raising bees and making honey and infusing honey. And then Martha said, you know, there's all these incredible ingredients. The honey, the propolis, the. Bees wax the pollen all have really positive health attributes. And as long as you're doing it sustainably taking care of the bees, you know, it's, it's, it's a regenerative kind of process. So we started making skincare products with a form, a specific formulation, and that started doing really well. And then we work with a lot of farmers and athletes that were in an agricultural community, which is awesome. We love it here. And they said, do you have anything for pain? So Martha started crafting products with arnica and camphor and tumeric. And then we started experimenting with CBD and when CBD came around CBD as a topical ingredient, which is what we focus on is a highly effective anti-inflammatory. It's good. So think of soft tissue, like your skin tissues, joints, ligaments, muscles. It doesn't do much for nerve related pain. There's a topical, it's an incredibly powerful additive along with these other nature based ingredients. So we do have a line that, you know, we have a facial care, we have skincare, but most of our business comes from pain, man. The bath bombs being the most popular product that we sell. We sell to a lot of practitioners, chiropractors, acupuncturist, PTs, physical therapists, and they're using them for pain. Now we're on the west coast. We're very acutely aware of the water issues. And, but I can tell you from traveling that once you get east of Arizona, People are taking a lot of baths. And so that's what they use them for. They use them for pain.

Cory Connors:

Well, that's excellent. And the medicinal qualities are, are proven scientifically and it's and in use. So keep up the good work. We really appreciate what you guys do. Thank you. So what's next. Any new products coming out or are you focusing on the bath bombs for. Well,

Curt Van Inwegen:

Like any manufacturing company it's in retail. Also, you have to really, really focus. And so we're trying to stay in our lane. So the thing that's really popular right now is shower steamers. Now here again, there's an opportunity to improve on what's already out there. There's no sin, there's no synthetic ingredients in any of our products. You know, we only have we use nature-based preservatives. We work very hard not to have preservatives. We use essential oils for a lot of that to kind of take care of it. There's definitely a shelf life for our products, which is, you know, one to one year to 18. But the shower team is really interesting because most shower steamers just like they dissolve and they leave this scent. Ours are a lot bigger and Martha created a specific formula so that the menthol comes up and it turns out most people are using them for efficacy, meaning. Allergies, not just, Hey, I want to smell like a spa allergy leaf. The menthol helps to open it open up your nasal passages. And so a lot of people are using them now moving into summer. And we take the bath bombs also for the later. People don't take baths as much in the hot weather, but they're an amazing foot soak. And even if you're just walking around the warehouse or had a long day hiking or walking around town, it's really pretty amazing. You can just get a five gallon bucket from home Depot and it works great in cold water. So those are some things we'll be coming out with a

Cory Connors:

smaller than the bath bomb or.

Curt Van Inwegen:

Yeah, there was like a puck, literally a hockey puck size. They're compressed very hard. Once that water hits, it starts to dissolve the citric acid, which helps other things to dissolve. And it creates this incredible menthol eucalyptus type scent. And we're working on a couple of other sense, but once again, that package is. The shower steamers and some other products. We have a wrapped in, what's called a glycine bag for old schoolers. Like me. It looks like a wax paper bag where you got sandwiches, but it's it's in itself is compostable. We use compostable stand-up packages. We're still working on the labels. Some of the labels are not compostable. We tell people to rip them off and throw them away, but it's, it's a lot better than, you know, what the alternative.

Cory Connors:

Right. We can help you with that. I know a guy. Absolutely. Well, this is awesome. I'm excited to try out all your products and my wife wanted to use your bath bomb right away, but I said, you gotta wait until I do my show. So she she'll be excited that we've recorded this. So where can we buy your products?

Curt Van Inwegen:

Yes, our website is life elements, plural, all one word.com and our, our Instagram handle is life dot elements. And we love talking to people.

Cory Connors:

Well, thank you so much. And if you're listening, please go check out Kurt's products at life elements and experienced the healing. And we thank you for listening. Thank you, Landsberg Orora for sponsoring this podcast. And if you're listening, please take a minute to rate the show and make sure you subscribe. So you don't miss the next episode. Kurt, thank you so much. Really appreciate your time.

Curt Van Inwegen:

Thank you, Cory. Have a great day. I appreciate it. You too, sir. Take care.