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2019 SPC Innovator Award: Innovation in Design Optimization finalist

Blue Apron: Improvements to Meal Kit Packaging Systems

Blue Apron used innovative design thinking to reconfigure its packaging system and enable gel packs to be placed on top of the meal kit ingredients, allowing a 20% reduction in the amount of gel packs used. A redesign of the outer corrugated shipper resulted in a similar reduction of 20%.

Why it’s important:

Meal kit packaging tends to require significant amounts of insulation, refrigerant gel packs, and corrugate in order to safely deliver ingredients. By going beyond conventional design optimization practices of downgauging and material substitution and using design thinking, Blue Apron was able to target two of the packaging system’s “hot spots” (no pun intended) and make significant improvements. Blue Apron also deserves bonus points for using new drain safe refrigerant in gel packs, recycled PET in trays and lids, and recyclable polyethylene films!

Original submission:

“Sustainable Packaging Improvements in the Meal Kit Industry”

What impact on sustainable packaging has this submission made?

I am the head of packaging engineering at Blue Apron and responsible for the design, engineering, validation and implementation of all packaging. During my tenure at Blue apron, I have made significant improvements in packaging that lead to sustainability improvements. I am listing few examples below:

– Reduced ice pack quantity: Designed a packaging system for meal kits to hold ice on top of ingredients which eventually reduced the ice pack quantity by 20% (patent pending).

– Box optimization: Redesigned corrugated box format to reduce its blank size by 20%.

– Gel packs: Implemented drain safe gel packs in our meal kits. Gel packs is the biggest driver for landfill waste in the cold chain industry. This change has made a significant dent in the product LCA.

– Retail trays: Designed a unique molded pulp tray for Blue Apron’s retail offering consisting of a compostable tray and RPET lid (picture attached). The design is patent pending.

– Recyclable PE films: Designed a unique all polyethylene film that can run on a VFFS equipped with a high speed hot air sealing mechanism. We were the first one in the industry to solve this.

– RPET trays: Designed and implemented all RPET trays for small ingredient portions.

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