Restaurant Supplies Go Compostable

Berk Enterprises

3. Good Health and Well-Being 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities 12. Responsible Consumption and Production

Overview

Berk Enterprises sells paper and plastic restaurant supplies to national chains like Chipotle and smaller mom and pop restaurants. The company sells plastic cutlery, plastic and paper straws, cups, plates, napkins, etc. Recently, there has been a demand in the world to be more sustainable and with this, Berk Enterprises has brought in a compostable and biodegradable product line.

Authors

Reilly Berk

Reilly Berk

Ryan Tucholski

Ryan Tucholski

Isabella Haas

Isabella Haas

School

Kent State University

Kent State University

Professor

David DuBois

David DuBois

Innovation

CEO of Berk Enterprises, Rob Berk has been with Berk Enterprises for over 40 years. The company is made up of 3 divisions: Berkley Square (cutlery line) Berk Concession Supply (novelty drink-ware items you would see at a fair or circus) and Environ (our compostable and biodegradable line). The company sells mostly plastic cutlery, straws, cups, to go containers, etc, anything you would see at a restaurant. The company sells to national restaurant chains and also family owned businesses.

Mr. Berk recalls that the trend for biodegradable and compostable products started about 4 years ago and soon after pictures of the oceans and garbage piling up went viral. This really turned the food service industry upside down and everyone needed to adjust their product lines. People didn't want to use plastic straws anymore, suddenly everyone wanted these paper straws. Mr. Berk and the rest of the company felt like it was time to add a biodegradable and compostable line of products.

This innovation of carrying a compostable product line is important to the company. Mr. Berk and his team care about protecting the environment and if they can do their part by selling more “safe” products for the earth, then that's what they're going to do. By selling these products hopefully we can start a movement of using more eco-friendly products. Eventually, I would predict that most restaurants will only want to use compostable or biodegradable products.

Restaurant Supplies Go Compostable

Inspiration

Rob explains that he always knew the green movement was coming. “The more national chain restaurants move towards sustainable packaging, the more the general public becomes aware of it and demands it. "We move with the changes of society in the world. If people want something we work with what the people want. Our company is flexible to the needs of our customer base as well as the needs of the masses". There was motivation from seeing what was happening to the world - garbage in oceans, problems with air, etc. Mr. Berk knew it was time to introduce a new line of compostable and biodegradable products into the company and it is a huge success today.

Overall impact

There are many impacts from this innovation. One of the company's largest accounts, Chipotle, is buying all compostable and biodegradable products from Berk Enterprises. When large national chains begin using "earth friendly" products, lots of other restaurants tend to follow behind. Eventually, I would assume that almost all restaurants will have some type of compostable product they are using.

Mr. Berk explains that most bagasse products (the products made from sugar cane that are compostable) are made over seas. "I see a trend where the bagasse manufactures of this product will be moving to the U.S." I see the needs escalating more domestically so I think more manufactures will move to America".

Business benefit

As the trend for compostable and biodegradable restaurant supplies increases, our company is gaining more attraction. Even though we still have our "normal" plastic cutlery line, the biodegradable line has done extremely well for our company.

We have a team of about 10 sales people who promote the biodegradable line to restaurants and amusement parks around the globe. Of course there is competition because now everyone is selling these sustainable products, but it has brought us a lot of new opportunities and we feel better selling products that are better for the earth.

Social and environmental benefit

The products Berk is selling are compostable and biodegradable. This will help avoid garbage piling up and animals choking on plastic and other harmful chemicals. "By using innovative packaging, we are trying to make changes towards a more safe and clean society".

Interview

Rob Berk, CEO and owner

Photo of interviewee

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Berk Enterprises

Berk Enterprises

Warren, Ohio, US

Business Website: www.berkbrands.com

Year Founded: 1987

Number of Employees: 51 to 200

Berk Brands is a distributor of food service disposables. The company is comprised of 3 brands: Berkley Square, Berk Concession Supply and Environ (which is the biodegradable and compostable line).