3 Keys to Selling Green Disposable Products Effectively

I was training a group of Foodservice DSR’s and the subject of selling green products was raised. The question was, “How can we sell green products to our customers who don’t want to pay the extra money?” The best way to answer this question is by first understanding that there are different types of green buyers.

At a trade show, I met the following customers:

The Environmentalist Buyer:

He was from Vermont and was totally into the green movement. He said, “I don’t care what it costs. I will buy green products because I will do whatever it takes to help the environment.” These buyers most likely have a compost pile at their facility or in their town. You will need extra education to sell to this customer. For example, you’ll need to know the difference between recyclable, reusable, biodegradable, and compostable products.

Shows Recycling
  • Recyclable: Recyclable products can be collected and reprocessed to produce new items. Common recyclable materials are paper, cardboard, plastic, glass, aluminum, and electronic waste. Recycling is very important in diverting waste from landfills.*
Shows Reusable
  • Reusable: Reusable products are products that can be used more than once. These have become an acceptable alternative when foam bans are put into place. Most of these containers are recyclable.
Show Biodegradable
  • Biodegradable: When a product is biodegradable, it simply means that product will break down into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass within a reasonable amount of time in the natural environment. However, the term “biodegradable” has no legal enforcement or definition, so the term has been used loosely by some manufacturers.*
Shows compostable
  • Compostable: Compostable products are biodegradable, but with an added benefit: when they break down, they release valuable nutrients into the soil, aiding the growth of trees and plants. These products degrade within several months in an industrial composting facility and produce no toxic residues.*

The Curious Buyer:

A nun came up to the booth asking about green bowls. I asked her what she used the bowls for. She said, “The sisters use them when we have ice cream.” I asked, “What do you do when you are finished with the bowls?” She answered, “We throw them in the trash.” I asked, “Where do the bowls go after you throw them away?” She answered, “They are taken to the landfill.” I asked, “Do you know what happens to them after they go to the landfill?” “They decompose?” she questioned. I said, ”No. Nothing will happen to them for the next 500 years because in a landfill nothing decomposes.” “Really?” she asked. It is true, let me explain further.

Green Trash Truck Hauling Garbage Eco friendly recyclable

Here is what happens in a landfill:
There are three things needed for decomposition of green products: air, light, and water. When products are put into a landfill and buried, they get little if any of the three. Essentially, the products are entombed. So, products you put into landfills may not decompose for thousands of years. People have  found newspapers that are readable after 40 years, ten-year-old carrots that are brown on the outside and bright orange on the inside, and 20-year-old steaks with meat still on the bones when they dug up old landfills.

“So, you see, Sister, you aren’t ‘saving’ the environment at all by buying green bowls.” The Sister looked relieved and thanked me. She was justifying paying $80 for a case of bowls because she thought she was saving the environment. If she is going to buy disposable bowls, she can buy foam and save $50-$60 per case without the guilt. The second type of buyer needs to be educated in green products and sold the best solution for them.

The Marketing Buyer:

A woman who came to the booth and said, “I am opening a gluten free cafe and need green products.” I said, “You are correct.” She needed them because her customers expected them. They were needed for marketing purposes. For this customer the price becomes less important because they need to buy products their customers will accept. It would be like an owner of a vegan cafe, who didn’t want to pay extra for veggie burgers. Of course, the buyer will pay more, because it’s necessary for them to attract the customers that will allow their business to be successful. It’s a marketing cost that they need to factor into the price of food and drinks.

Green Take out containers: Bag cup hinged container

If you understand what type of green buyer and educate yourself on the products and issues regarding green products, it will be much easier to offer the proper solutions and justify the extra cost required to go green. You will be viewed as a valuable resource by your customers and co-workers. You will become the “green go-to person,” and your knowledge will be the differentiating point between you and the competition.

The above article is contributed by Michael Mirarchi, Vice President of Sales, Northeast at RJ Schinner. Michael graduated with a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management from Keystone College and has over thirty years of redistribution sales, and management experience. Throughout these thirty- plus years, he’s earned numerous accolades and accreditation, developed and facilitated many sales training workshops, and has been published in various trade publications. Mirarchi published his first book “Sales Wisdom from a Toilet Paper Salesman” in July 2016.

Check out the RJ Schinner Exclusive Brand Eco-Friendly Page to view RJ’s Eco-Friendly Offering.

*Sources: http://www.thegreenoffice.com

© Copyright 2021 RJ Schinner, All rights Reserved. Written For: DSR Sales Support Blog