The Packaging Process at PueoKea Farms

Photo courtesy of Mike Meyer Photography and OAGM: MONDAY Magazine

Photo courtesy of Mike Meyer Photography and OAGM: MONDAY Magazine


The Packaging Process at PueoKea Farms


Behind the Scenes

When people think about olives, they wouldn’t probably consider Maui as a location for olive farming since the history of olive trees is widely associated with the ancient cultures bordering the Mediterranean Sea. However, the young, Maui-based PueoKea Farms has found that these trees are taking a liking to their new home environment in the Hawaiian Islands. With this year’s exponential growth of olives, PueoKea Farms took an immense leap forward in its brand and product development – in light of new beginnings and abundance, the timing was ideal. What the family farm thought to be a slow development over the next five years, however, happened in one harvest season. The close relationship and respect established between the farm and the land were something we noticed from day one, and we wanted to value that relationship in the creation of the product and its packaging. And so, the vision of PueoKea Farms started; a perfect chance to run experiments on table olives and olive oil and begin the process of designing the business. One of the main projects of the farm, which included OAGM’s development of the brand story and the artwork, was the olive product itself. When we speak of “product” we also mean packaging because it is an integral part of the product design: Packaging helps market the product and carry the brand’s values while its design serves a functional purpose in relation to the contents it holds, the olives. While this may not be a new concept for most designers, thinking of packaging as a service and a direct part of the business might. “Experimental” is the best word that describes the packaging stage of PueoKea Farms for two reasons: For one, olives are quite new to the agricultural history of the Hawaiian Islands. Secondly, the farm is located in the most isolated islands in the world. While PueoKea Farms can certainly learn a lot from well-established European and African-based olive industries and even the Californian one, the playing field isn’t level when you consider geography: Sourcing material and packaging distribution solutions on large spans of continental land is fairly easy. For Maui, however, that isn’t the case, so cut-and-paste models cannot be applied to the unique circumstances of the island.

As in real estate, the mantra when it comes to packaging is: “It’s all about location, location, location!” The local environment and systems (political terrain, waste management, recycling centers, transport, location accessibility and consumer habits) effect much of the decision-making when it comes to thoughtful product and packaging creation.

Naturally, those external factors influenced PueoKea Farm’s research and investigation. Another point was the costs. As a small family business, it is a challenge to source cost-effective packaging solutions because of the low order volume. Shipping packaging material to Maui also adds unfavorable additional costs and yet, it is necessary because you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get the finished product from door to door locally and across the ocean for international distribution. Although geography and company size limited the initial packaging options they sourced during the research phase, PueoKea Farms saw this limitation as an opportunity: They are now thinking about alternative packaging systems, and getting creative with testing many new packaging products. Here are some of the major points that are currently being considered:

Landfills are Overflowing

At present, Maui has a landfill problem and no food composting system in place. So, PueoKea Farms wanted to choose a recyclable packaging solution. As a result, they are now looking at glass bottles, widemouth glass containers (that could potentially be re-purposed by the farm in an internal redemption program or reused by consumers) and stainless-steel tins (light for transport, and recyclable). Of course, the glass weight must be considered as it is heavy and therefore costly to ship to and from Maui – and back again as recycle. To maintain the quality and composition of the olives and olive oil, both need to be protected from heat and light. The packaging choice has to accommodate this need, too. When thinking about the material and manufacture resources required to make glass or steel, you cannot overlook the fact that large amounts of energy and resources are needed.

So, the questions PueoKea Farms is asking here are:

• How can we make the most of the resources and energy already used?

• Could the packaging be cycled longer in the “use” phase of its life?

• As package materials and manufacturers come from miles away, could the packaging be reusable to save costs?

• Would the consumers participate?

• Could they learn and be inspired to participate?

• Could the packaging choices become a part of the brand story?

Besides the purely environmental and functional aspects, packaging must look nice to attract customers. This is where labels, as part of the packaging, play an important role. With OAGM’s brand design, the art design for PueoKea Farms’ labels is clean, simple and selective in its use of color. This is deliberate: The clean design delivers the product’s message clearly and beautifully and also minimizes the amount of ink needed for the label. PueoKea Farms has been pondering the question of whether to produce the adhesive labels locally or import it. At this stage, the family farm has decided that, as everything has to be shipped to Maui anyway, that they might as well put money into something they value. So, they are looking into sourcing the best certified, compostable labels produced in Illinois, U.S., and thus support a company that is just as passionate about creating better packaging practices as they are. It is not the “end all, be all” labeling product, but it is heading in the right direction: The labels eliminate the petroleum films and minimize printing VOCs (volatile organic compounds). And should they somehow end up in Maui’s water streams and surrounding beaches, they wouldn’t cause problems to marine life as the labels are marine-degradable and compostable – even in the environmental conditions of a local resident’s well-tended backyard compost. Aside from the research, PueoKea Farms will continue the prototyping and testing phases this season to determine if the packaging is efficient and whether it meets the needs of the olive oil and table olive products. The most gratifying aspects of OAGM’s collaboration with PueoKea Farms are the shared energy and creativity that are at the root of early-stage growth. There is a lot to consider and test and evaluate when starting up a new industry in a new environment. At this premature stage of the business, OAGM has the opportunity to help design and set up the business and its practices from the start instead of fixing and mending them along the way. We thank PueoKea Farms for their patience, openness and willingness to be thoughtful in all of the details. We’ll keep our readers posted on how the trials went and what to expect for next season.

—Original story posted in MONDAY Magazine by agency On Any Given Monday. To download the full free version, please visit their SHOP


Writer: Jazmyne Geis —Sustainable Designer for OAGM