The wrong packaging can ruin your brand. Tone-deaf packaging choices, especially when it comes to health and sustainability related products (like local microgreens) can be a really big problem.
What is the best packing for microgreens? The best packaging for microgreens is sustainable (easy to recycle or compost), just the right size for your product, and if it uses stickers they are easy to remove during recycling. I recommend selling microgreens in 2 ounce (60g) quantities packaged in plastic re-closable clamshells, lined paper bakery bags, or poly bags.
Packaging is one of the biggest factors in showing your customers how awesome your product is. Materials, recyclability, compostability, dimensions, price, aesthetics: the list goes on! So as I researched, I started taking notes and this sourcing guide came together.
Packaging for microgreens has to mechanically protect the microgreens from bruising, and helps keep humidity high too so the product doesn’t wilt. Keeping microgreens fresh means longer shelf life and happier customers.
Thoughtfully packaged products speak volumes about your company. Packaging that is forward thinking, practical, and sustainable reinforces the quality of your brand.
The process of choosing packaging comes down to:
- Customer Experience
- Materials and Sustainability
- Packaging Specifications: strength, size, and quantity
- Packing Design and Branding:
- Test order: Ordering small quantities or looking at the packaging commonly used at stores near you
- Placing a first order, MOQs
- Optimizing Inventory once things are rolling
How Packaging Impacts Microgreens Customer Experience
In any business it’s really important to consider the customer’s experience every time they interact with your business.
When they call to ask a question and get the friendliest, most helpful version of you on the phone, that’s part of the customer experience.
When they log on to your website, and it’s clear what you sell, what it costs, and what they can expect once they place an order, that’s part of the customer experience.
Your customer finally gets the product into their kitchen. They rip open the plastic bag, smells great, and tastes even better. But then they realize there’s no way to reseal it. That’s part of the customer experience.
Or the flimsy plastic clam shell won’t stay shut. Or your sticker is so tough they need a knife to get it open, that’s part of the customer experience too.
Setting a Microgreen Packaging Budget
A good first step is to consider how much budget you have for packaging. Fortunately, microgreens are high-value, and don’t take up a lot of space. Scoping your budget allows you to get a feel for the types of materials you can use, what the different sizes are, and how fancy you can get with the design/branding elements. This all plays into which options are viable for your situation.
To frame your selection and budgeting process, ask yourself:
- Am I looking to place a large order to leverage economies of scale?
- Do I want to test multiple options, feel them with my hands, and then choose?
- Where does my product fall on the commodity vs luxury ends of the spectrum?
For example if you’re selling bulk salad mixes to restaurants, vs edible orchids, you might think about your packaging a little differently.
Packaging materials have widely varying prices. Glass or re-usable containers are attractive and look great, but they’re heavy and expensive, and you need a program for cleaning and re-using them to make it worth it. Breakable packaging ends up being expensive.
So does losing product because the material isn’t strong enough to stack during shipping.
Packaging can also be a great way to increase perceived value. Sometimes spending $0.50 more on packaging can make your $5 product look like a $10 product. That’s a good return on investment.
Lower Budget Options
Packaging can come in a lot of budget-friendly forms too. Paper and cardboard are commonly used in the food service industry, and they have great mechanical properties for the price. But they’re not good at dealing with moisture unless coatings are applied, and microgreen shelf life is lot lower once they lose moisture.
Plastics, especially bags, can be on the lower end of the price spectrum. They come in a lot of different forms, some are recyclable, and some are compostable, and some are single-use. The thickness can vary too.
Lowering your packaging budget can make sense, but consider it in the wider picture of how it impacts your brand, the perceived value of your products, and how it could complicate your process, transportation, and storage.
Materials and Sustainability of Microgreens Packaging
Consider how much energy and materials your packaging demands. Larger, heavier packaging takes up more fuel and space during shipping. Cooler space is problem with larger packaging too. This is why it’s important to choose your materials and the size of your package to be the most efficient while still allowing your product, design and branding to shine.
Imagine how unhappy your customers would be if you dumped their microgreens in their mailbox. No amount of sustainability talk would fix that! What a ridiculous example, but you get the point.
At the very least, your packaging needs to be made from a material that’s FDA approved for Food Contact. You can find out more information directly from the FDA.
It’s always best to go straight to the source.
Materials potentially suitable for microgreens packaging
- High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
- Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
- Shrink Films
- Coated Cardboard
- Compostable plastics
- Plastic Bags
- PLA (compostable)
Not suitable or less suitable
- Skin packs, think of how meat is typically packaged at supermarkets
- Blister Packs, generally aren’t suitable, but their close cousin: clam shells are
- Paper isn’t rigid enough, and like cardboard, won’t seal in humidity
- Raw Cardboard is too porous, and won’t seal in the humidity that microgreens need to keep from wilting
There are also a lot of compostable options that are coming on to the market. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on these. While you choose a material, a big consideration should be your city’s recycling and composting facilities.
If you’re buying the most expensive easily recyclable packaging you can find, but your city isn’t set up to recycle that type of plastic, you’re just throwing money away. But, it doesn’t hurt to scope out the more sustainable options so you can pull the trigger when it makes sense.
Another consideration is that your customers might not know what your city can handle. So compostable or certain recyclables might increase your product’s perceived value, even though they can’t actually be recycled or composted in your locale. And the bonus in that situation is that you’re already doing your part, and the catching up needs to be done by your city, not you.
Let’s take a look at each option and lay out some pros and cons.
It might seem like there are a huge number of types of plastic out there to consider, but the list is actually pretty manageable.
High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
HDPE is the most common plastic you’ll find in your house for packaging food and beverages. It’s used for all kinds of things like water, juice and pop bottles, often the bags in cereal boxes, and all kinds of things.
Be careful when shopping for HDPE if it’s recycled. Not all recycled HDPE is food safe. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) tests plastics to determine if they’re food-safe. Recycled HDPE plastics are handled on a case-by-case basis by the FDA. Recycling can be a variable process, so one recycling plant might produce food-safe plastic, but another one doesn’t. Always check for a food-safe rating.
Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
LDPE is similar to HDPE but with more flexibility, excellent chemical resistance, and safe at a variety of temperatures. You can imagine a ketchup or mustard squeeze bottle, that’s probably LDPE.
Recycled LDPE is generally not food safe, so be extra careful if you’re buying LDPE packaging that is made with recycled plastic.
The main concern with Polycarbonate is BPA (bisphenol A), and while the regulating body (the FDA) considers polycarbonates safe, there is considerable discussion and concern about the subject in health-food circles. Leachable Lead and Cadmium can also be a problem in Polycarbonates depending on the manufacturing process.
BPA can be present in polycarbonate resins. Some people are concerned that BPA can leech from polycarbonates and negatively impact health. The FDA has found that the amount of BPA that makes it into consumers is so low that there are no negative health consequences. But, there are always variations in manufacturing and testing processes. No system is perfect.
While there is a lot of great information on the internet and in healthy lifestyle magazines, there’s also a lot of fear-mongering and mis-information. While it’s probably the case that in the grand scheme of things the FDA is keeping unsafe food practices out of the market, we’re all skeptics to some degree, and some of those skeptics are probably your customers.
Regardless of your personal opinion, it’s worth thinking about your customer base. Microgreens customers are often on the more skeptical, health-conscious end of the spectrum. So even if there’s a chance there could be health concerns with a packaging material, it’s probably best to avoid it.
Check out this link for more info directly from the FDA on polycarbonates and BPA in Food Contact applications.
Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)
PET is generally clear, mechanically strong, and lightweight. It’s used for packaging all kinds of foods and beverages. Soft-drinks, juice, and water are commonly packaged in PET. Plastic clam shells used for fruits and vegetables are often PET.
Recycled PET is generally food-safe, so that’s a big boost to the sustainability of the material. It’s a very stable plastic, which means it won’t break down and contaminate your food, but it also means it will last longer in the environment, a double edged sword.
Polypropylene is another commonly used plastic for food packaging and can be a good option for microgreens.
Polypropylene has a high melting point (130 to 171 °C or 266°F to 340 °F or 403K to 444K). This high melting point means it’s generally microwave safe and non-volatile.
Not easily recyclable, it can be, but usually isn’t. It’s worth checking with your city if polystyrene is recycled, because your customers might be checking too. You want to be one step ahead on the sustainability front, and it can really help you avoid some awkward conversations about plastic sustainability.
Polystyrene is considered food safe by the FDA, USDA and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
For example, these clear hinged takeout containers from Uline are made from polystyrene.
Poly lactic acid (PLA)
This is our first truly compostable plastic. It’s worth taking a minute to get into some details here.
Just because it’s compostable, doesn’t mean you can mix it into your garden and it will compost like last year’s leaves, or your banana peels. Compostable means that under the right conditions this plastic will compost.
Commercial composting facilities (which hopefully your city has) will be setup to certain specifications. These specifications will include how hot, how moist and for how low the composting takes place. Some commercial composting facilities won’t reliably compost PLA during their usual process, so they won’t accept it.
Just because PLA can be composted doesn’t mean it will be, it’s worth checking locally with your city if they do.
But, it’s still a step in the right direction, because any PLA that makes it into the ocean, or into a natural setting will break down a lot quicker than other types of plastic. That’s a win.
Choosing a Microgreen Label Supplier
Choosing an adhesive might not seem like a big deal, but it can really cause problems down the line once your packages end up being recycled.
As an example, here’s a city that racked up a $330k in storage fees. It took another $130k to finally solve the problem. The cause was difficult to remove stickers. The plastic was perfectly recyclable, but only once the difficult-to-remove stickers were off.
Look for compostable or eco-friendly options if your city has limited facilities for removing stickers. It’s really a good chance to save a lot of headache down the road.
Sustainability: Where to order packaging from?
Often the most sustainable option is to go local. When purchasing local products there’s less transportation, which means less fuel consumed. This can be more sustainable, but unless you’re in a high population area your options will be more limited.
Sold locally, manufactured Internationally
When a local packaging supplier imports huge quantities from international sources there’s an efficiency to it. 1 Larger order is more efficient than a bunch of smaller ones. This can be a great middle ground between sustainability and selection.
Especially for smaller orders, ordering internationally generally means more shipping for less packaging.
Internationally the sky’s the limit when it comes to selection. Unless you’re really having trouble finding what you’re looking for, it’s probably not worth ordering internationally unless you’re placing larger orders.
And if you find something that really meets your needs, a local outfit might be able to order it for you and they might even have a discount that makes it more affordable. It’s worth investigating.
Packaging Specifications: strength, size, and quantity
Consider how your packaging will function during transportation. If you’re selling direct to consumer, you can probably get away with bags (keep in mind this might lower your brand’s perceived value). On the other hand, if you’re selling through a distributor, where shipping and handling is rougher, you’ll need something sturdier.
Make sure form follows function and you’ll be just fine.
A common option is plastic clam-shells. They’re available in materials that can be composted and recycled. Make sure you can stack them up as you would during delivery or shipping, and that they can take the weight.
How much of your product are you selling at once? Choosing the size of your microgreen packaging to just-fit your product will save on packaging cost, and require less cooler space while your greens are ready to go.
Consider flatter, wider packages. A cube is the most efficient space for the amount of packaging, but a shorter wider package has more area on the front. This can allow you to show off your greens more through the transparent plastic (highly recommended), and also give you more surface area for a nice label with all the great information your customers are looking for.
I find that 16 fluid oz containers are a perfect fit for 2oz of microgreens, but something in the ballpark will probably work just fine.
Consider how much packaging you need to meet your needs. Are you looking for a quick hands-on test of a new packaging style? Or are you willing to commit to a week, or a month or more to drive down the cost and really put a new packaging through its paces.
There’s more information in the Placing your first order and Optimization sections below.
Packing Design and Branding:
Consider how your packaging choice will impact the design and branding of your microgreens. You want to show off the greens, because they’re really beautiful, so transparency is key, but you also want to get across the required information, and anything extra you want to communicate to the customer through your label.
A lot of your package design comes down to your labels.
Styles of Packaging suitable for microgreens
There are a lot of styles of containers you could use for microgreens, but these are some of the most popular options:
- Clear hinged take-out containers (clamshells)
- Window-front lined bakery bags (paper bags)
- Plastic poly bags
Clear Hinged Take-out Containers (Clamshells) for Microgreens
Think about berries from the supermarket. They probably came in a clear hinged container. These are a great option because they keep moisture in well, they’re somewhat rigid for stacking, and they have a nice flat spot for your label and branding.
Watch out for the material, these can come in a lot of different options, for example the ones available from Uline are made from Polystyrene, a difficult to recycle plastic that doesn’t easily decompose. While is can be, it usually isn’t recycled. Call your city and ask, or check their recycling website.
This style of container is available in compostable options too, but again, just because something can be recycled or composted, doesn’t mean it will be. Call your city or check their website for info on compostable plastics, many cities don’t accept them for recycling or compost, so they can actually be less sustainable that non compostable plastics (that can be recycled).
PLA is a great compostable option.
Window-Front, Lined Bakery Bags (Paper Bags) for Microgreens
Window front Bakery Bags come in FDA and USDA compliant options. They can be sourced with a poly liner that keeps moisture levels consistent, keeping greens fresher longer.
Here’s a great example in 6” x 2 ¾” x 9 ½” size, which works great for 2oz (60g) of microgreens.
The cost for this style of bag is around $53 USD ($68 CAD) for 250 bags, which works out to 21 American cents (27 Canadian cents) each. Pretty reasonable.
The other cool thing about these bags is you can put your branding on a stamp. The paper bag absorbs ink, unlike plastics.
A drawback is that you can’t stack these the same way you would a clamshell. They can’t reliably support a lot of weight before the microgreens start to get crushed.
If you don’t put the size on your packaging, you can use the same labels for multiple sizes, then add a separate sticker indicating the size. This can be a way to cut down on packaging costs initially. Or include a blank line and write in the size with a sharpie.
You can also include the two sizes on the packaging and circle which one it is.
Label should include whether or not the microgreens are washed. You don’t an to give the impression that they are washed when you leave it off. Let people know if they’re grown outdoors, in a greenhouse, or indoors (increasing order of cleanliness).
Make sure you include your website and great thorough contact information so customers and vendors can easily reach out. Make it as easy for them as possible.
Staples or Avery labels work. Cost is around $0.1/label or less. Move towards glossy professionally printed ones when you can justify it.
Get a date stamp, leave a spot to put date on the label.
If your packaging has a weak closure (like some cheap plastic clam shells), you can design your sticker to hold your packaging shut.
Sticker Size: You want a nice big sticker so it’s easy to read, and you have good area to show off your logo and start building some brand recognition. And you also want the customer to be able to see the product. Microgreens look great so they do a lot of the selling for you.
I wrote a guide on how to design and some options for printing microgreen labels/stickers here:
Creating Label Stickers: How to Sell Microgreens (Links to Article)
Sample Order for Testing
You have a few goals when ordering samples. Test that your stickers actually stick to the package! This is a big one. Test that the size is right, it’s a huge disappointment to order a big case of packaging that turns out to be the wrong size.
I’m not saying that’s happened to me… but I’m not denying it either.
And the other thing is to test the packaging through the full product cycle:
Harvest some microgreens
Apply your labels/stickers
- Check: Do the stickers actually stick? Are they the right size for the packaging? Is there anything you should change before a big order?
Stack them up and load them into your delivery vehicle
- Check: Do they stack nicely? If they fall a few inches or a foot are they going to pop open? Is the closure robust but still convenient for the customer?
Drive around, look for some speed bumps or rough road
- Check: Do the packages pop open from vibration or movement during transport, watch for this problem with cheap plastic clam-shells. You could design your sticker to hold the packaging shut if needed, but think about the customer experience.
Then put them in your fridge for a week
- Check: Do the stickers start to peel off from the conditions in your fridge? Is the container fairly air-tight? Or are the microgreens losing moisture and drying out?
Through this testing you should get a pretty good idea what packages you like most, and if you missed any of the finer details that could cause problems later-on.
I hope that’s helpful!
Packaging Testing Shortcuts and Quick Tips
And if you want to bypass all the testing and get started quickly, here’s a tip:
Stop by your local boutique grocery store or health food store and see what the competitor microgreen companies are using. Chances are they put a bit of thought into this, and
Test order: Ordering small quantities or looking at the packaging commonly used at stores near you
Once you settle on the package you like, you might have a bunch of the other designs and sizes left-over, what should you do with them? You have a few options.
You could recycle or compost them (you did buy recyclable or compostable ones…right?). But that’s kind of a waste.
I’d recommend filling them up with microgreens or whatever product you’re selling, and giving them out as free samples. Give them to your friends or family that haven’t tried your product.
Placing a first order, MOQs
Checklist for placing a first (large) order for packaging:
- Your stickers have all the information you need according to local regulations
- You’ve tested or are reasonably sure that the stickers actually stick to the material your packaging is made from
- Your packaging keeps microgreens fresh (paper bags or perforated plastic probably won’t).
- You’re confident you have exactly the right size.
- Your order is large enough, (free shipping above a certain volume often)
- The material is recyclable or compostable in your city’s facilities (this can get you huge points with sustainability-minded consumers), explain it on a page on your website
- You’ve run the numbers and it’s not going to consume a huge portion of your profits
Optimizing Inventory once things are rolling
Deciding how large of an order to place, and when for microgreen packaging is a balancing act. Consider your expected orders, storage space, alternatives, and your budget.
Ask yourself honestly how much business you’ll be doing in the near future. You don’t want to place an order that will take up half your space, and supply you for the next 5 years.
To begin with, order the amount of packaging you’ll need for the next couple months. This gives you some breathing room, and
Call a few local suppliers (or check Amazon if you don’t have any) to get an idea of what they keep on-hand. These are options that you can order in a pinch if you run out, or there’s some problem with your regular supply chain. This way you have a backup plan in place, and you can safely order a smaller quantity for your first order.
How do you package microgreens at a farmer’s market?
A popular option that can work is to live cut and bag. There are different regulations across the world, but in some situations you need a commercial kitchen to “process” microgreens, and the simple act of cutting them and bagging them ahead of time can count as processing.
If you sell the microgreens while they’re still growing at a farmer’s market, and cut and bag them in front of the customer this can sometimes bypass any regulatory issues. Check into your local laws, it’s worth it
One great option is poly bags, 5” x 3” by 10+” will give you lots of room for 2oz of microgreens. 2 Mil bags are the most commonly used across industry.
Here’s an example of a Canadian bag that would work great for bagging and cutting at a farmer’s market: 48-250 Ronco bags 6 lb bags.
Here is a great list of 2 Mil bag options available in the USA.
And the price comes out to less than $0.03 per bag (before your label sticker). That’s pretty good value if you want to get up and running quickly at low cost.
Bag closing device can really speed things up and seal in the freshness, but you can get away without one initially.
Good online sources for microgreens packaging by Country
And here are the sources (and where they ship to)
Can I package and sell microgreens in bags?
While microgreens can be packaged and sold in bags, it’s a trade-off between the affordability of bags, and the impression they give. The quality of your packaging impact the perceived value of your product.
If you do decide to sell microgreens in bags, use a waterproof bag. Coated paper, or plastic bags will retain humidity and help prevent your microgreens from wilting prematurely.
Should I Add paper towel when packaging microgreens?
The reason people sometimes add paper towels when growing microgreens is to absorb excess moisture and keep the microgreens from sitting in water on the bottom of the package. By controlling watering and humidity right before harvest you shouldn’t need to.
If washing the microgreens post-harvest, make sure they dry sufficiently and you won’t need paper towels.
What’s the best way to deliver microgreens?
Group customers that live close-by into one “run”. Keep your microgreens cool while you transport them. Try to deliver as much as you can in one day to reduce time lost from switching tasks and loading/unloading your vehicle.
Ask customers to place a cooler outside if they don’t think they’ll be home to receive the delivery, otherwise the microgreens can wilt from heat or cold.
I’m Alex Lafreniere. I learned a lot about plants when I built and operated a landscaping company. But, there’s always more to learn. Ever since travelling across the world, I’ve wanted to find ways to bring more tropical and exotic plants into my life. This is the site where I share everything I’ve learned with you.
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