Sun & Swell Foods: Revolutionizing the Food Industry with Kate Flynn
Updated: Feb 16
Technology is making new advancements daily — there are new and exciting developments every month. However, in many ways, the food industry has been left behind. It's been sixty years, but the food industry still uses single-use plastic packaging. However, we know the harm single-use plastics inflicts on the environment. It's just not healthy for you or the environment. We must find a way to stop using plastic packaging. One excellent option is to use alternatives like compostable film.
Kate Flynn is the co-founder and CEO of Sun & Swell. She is also a pioneer in using compostable packaging in the food industry. We invited her for an exciting conversation about transitioning from plastic to compostable. She discusses the challenges in revolutionizing the food industry. However, Sun & Swell continues to meet these challenges. Sun & Swell aims for financial security while staying true to its mission of a healthier people and planet.
Sun & Swell’s Evolution With Kate
Kate is the co-founder and CEO of Sun & Swell Foods. She started the health food company when she took a second look at her diet. She stopped counting the calories and started looking at the ingredients instead. Sun & Swell began with the mission to promote healthy eating. However, Kate saw the problems in the food system. She then asked, "Can this be a company that's helping both the health of people and also the health of the planet?"
Sun & Swell's mission is to provide a plastic-free snack and take the first step to move the food industry away from plastic. Going plastic-free was an ongoing challenge with obstacles most people wouldn't think of. Still, Sun & Swell continues to adapt, innovate, and evolve to maintain the push for a healthier product.
Kate had always wanted to create a business that makes a positive impact. However, a business needs to profit if it intends to fulfill its mission. Learning what it meant to be a B Corp put a framework and structure around Kate's goal to build a business for good. She emphasizes that “to be a business that's making a massive impact on the world, you have to be a financially sustainable business. So of course, it's about profit. It has to be about profit.”
Producing Healthy Products
One of the challenges of being a sustainable business is minding your raw materials. That can involved where your ingredients come from or how they're harvested. Price, availability, and national standards are three factors you need to consider. It can often be cheaper to source directly from family farms. However, some ingredients are seasonal, and not all producers can scale with your company.
These limitations in ingredients can affect product development. However, Sun & Swell aims to innovate and put a twist on snacks and products their customers want. According to Kate, “When we look ahead to R&D, it's taking products that people are snacking on regularly and putting the sun and small twist on them. This means clean ingredients, better sourcing for ingredients, and compostable packaging.”
The Answer to Plastic-Free Packaging
Compostable VS Biodegradable
Kate defines the difference: “Everything that is compostable is biodegradable but not everything that's biodegradable is compostable.” Compostable materials break down within a reasonable timeframe without releasing harmful chemicals. Conversely, something biodegradable will break down, but that process could happen over millions of years. A biodegradable object might also release harmful chemicals as it decays.
Finding the Right Answer
Transitioning from plastic to compostable or ethical packaging is a challenge. Plastic packaging has been in use for 60 years. Therefore, there are plenty of plastic suppliers, and many businesses know how to use it. On the other hand, compostable materials are new, with fewer suppliers.
It took Kate a lot of trial and error to find the best supplier for Sun & Swell's products. Even after that, they're still finding ways to improve. Even today, they continue to learn better ways to push for compostable packaging in the food industry.
Challenges in Switching to Compostable
The first thought most people have about switching to a material like compostable packaging is the expense. But according to Kate, pricing shouldn't be an issue: “Yes, it's more expensive. But I feel like that is the least of my concerns because the price is controllable... That's just one small variable in the complexity of working with compostable packaging. “
It would be best if you considered compostable packaging as another ingredient. Other factors to consider are
Packaging shelf life
The machinery to handle compostable packaging
Ideal selling channels
Kate found along the way that you needed to build a business model to grow, support, and work with these challenges. You can’t just force it into an existing process.
There are three ways to compost - home composting, industrial composting, and Sun & Swell’s Send Back Program. Sun & Swell's packaging isn't certified for home composting yet, but the other two options are available. They're also researching making their packaging home compostable.
The Search Continues
Sun & Swell is also exploring other solutions to having plastic-free packaging, like fibre-based packages. Kate shares, "Our goal is to show it can be done and figure out how to do it. That means our business evolves based on what technology exists, what our customers want, etc."
Balancing Positive Impact and Financial Security
Right now, there are many things society needs to address in the food system. Sun & Swell focuses on creating better-packaged foods. As Kate said, “In an ideal world, we would have no packaged food. Nothing would be packaged. But that's not the world we live in. We need travel snacks, we need work snacks, we need snacks for lunch boxes.”
A company needs financial security to meet its social impact goals and build a business for good. Therefore, a company needs to balance its mission against making a profit. To do this, Sun & Swell examines where their product best fits within the market. Kate and her team target customers looking for plastic-free solutions. They listen to what their target customers want and adapt their strategy and production to give it to them.
Making the Switch to Sustainable
If you're a business that wants to become more sustainable, there are a lot of options that you can take. The first step is identifying what battle you want to fight, commit, and focus on. Kate advises, "if you're committed to plastic-free packaging, just make sure that's a commitment because it's not easy." According to her, it's not feasible to fight all the battles at once, so it's better to choose some that you can win.
It's important to have well-defined objectives and to explore your options. Kate mentions that a company not aiming to go plastic-free can explore other methods of sustainability. For example, they could utilize post-consumer recycled plastic. Ultimately, it's most important to do your research. Furthermore, understand that making a positive impact on the world will involve some trial and error.
Kate's journey with Sun & Swell transitioning to compostable packaging was challenging. However, she found that what appeared to be a challenge was a blessing. For Kate, “Everything happens for a reason. And the universe puts challenges in your way because it's guiding you in the right direction.”
Learn More About Kate and Sun & Swell
Kate Flynn is the Co-founder and CEO of Sun & Swell. She aims to revolutionize the food industry to make it healthier for people and the planet. Kate is a leader in the sustainable food movement. She is also a pioneer in using compostable packaging within the food industry. With Sun & Swell, Kate is improving the food industry.
You can learn more and connect with Kate on the Sun & Swell website and her LinkedIn.
As we heard firsthand from Kate, a business has to be about profit to make a positive impact. Financial security is a must. Successful innovation requires security.
At The Profit Reimagined™, we do more than provide generic virtual CFO services. We aim to understand your mission and vision so that we can devise financial strategies that suit your company's goals. What kind of impact do you want to make? Who are you aiming to help?
If you want to ensure that your company serves its purpose beyond profit, a CFO can help you figure out your next best move. Schedule a discovery call with Profit Reimagined™ to help you cover your foundations and deepen your understanding of these concepts.