General Mills has found a way to reduce the amount of packaging it uses for its bulk boxes of Cheerios. Thanks to a proprietary technology that had been under development for five years, the cereal now settles on the production line instead of during shipping, says Liz Mahler, General Mills’ marketing manager for the product. As a result, 10% more cereal fits into the boxes, reducing the packaging per volume and the related shipping costs and emissions.
The new boxes hit the shelves at Sam’s Club, Costco and BJ’s in February. Even though they contain 10% more cereal, the boxes are actually smaller, too: the new bulk packages consume roughly 4% fewer materials, resulting in an estimated reduction of 200,000 pounds of paperboard a year. That's the equivalent of more than 1,000 trees. Between the smaller boxes and the higher volume of cereal, the boxes are now 92% full instead of 75% full, says Ron Sasine, Walmart’s senior director for private label packaging.
Fitting more cereal into less space means fewer trucks are needed to transport the same volume of Cheerios. General Mills estimates it will need 10% less trucking for these boxes, which will save 25,000 gallons of fuel and reduce its carbon footprint by 220 metric tons annually. The company accomplished the smaller packaging – and more cereal per package – in spite of trading a single big box for a package of two smaller, connected boxes that can be split apart.
General Mills used the redesign to tackle one challenge it had been having with its previous bulk boxes: It turns out customers don't like big boxes. “They’re just bulky,” Mahler says of the old packages. She says ease of storing and pouring is the biggest barrier to the bigger sizes, although customer research showed that consumers like the value of larger packages.