It’s a product whose time has come. Overdue, actually, if you consider how many restaurants, foodservice establishments and food packagers are still stuck in the world of plastic and Styrofoam. Vancouver based BSI (Biodegradable Solutions Inc) has been steadily growing in this market since 2002, and they now offer a whole line of 100% biodegradable and compostable food service ware, food packaging and flatware products. Earlier this week I met with Sales Manager Scott Smith to discuss the ins and outs of building a solid brand for products that are designed to break down.
It’s a deep field, actually. BSI sources products from the western hemisphere, Europe and Asia. Materials include corn-based PLA (polylactic acid) a plastic-like derivative of the material used to encapsulate pharmaceuticals for gradual release into the body. The Ecotainer™ by International paper, is a biodegradable paper hot beverage cup that performs on par with plastic-lined competitors.
Beyond the benign disposability of their products, BSI goes further, working to analyze the product life cycle of their suppliers and manufacturing. This not only benefits the planet, but helps ensure BSI customers will not face unpleasant surprises from bad eco-policies down the supply chain.
This academic diligence is explained by BSI’s origins. The company itself was founded by Susanna Carson, a graduate of the UBC environmental science program, and many of its employees come from the same source. It’s a pedigree that will serve BSI well, if they can successfully bring it into their branding and customer-facing messages.
For in biodegradables, like many other eco-business niches, the major players are beginning to flex their well-honed muscle with all of the brand psychology, design and communication resources at their disposal. Smaller brands like BSI have to evolve to express that bigger-player style without losing their principled roots and customer relationships. The biggest challenge will be to condense their complex technical benefits into a singular brand focus. Then upgrade their logo and look to express these values in everything they do, and outflank the competition with a market advantage that won’t break down over time.

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