Here are some great resources that can answer many of your questions about quality and sustainability!
Bulk Food Facts from the Bulk is Green Council
FACT: Organic bulk foods on average cost over 50% less than their packaged counterparts. Bulk foods also prevent a significant amount of packaging from entering landfills.
FACT: Bulk goods require less overall transportation to deliver to consumers. Bulk foods do not require the packaging components that must be produced and transported prior to being filled. And the transportation of bulk product to retailers is efficient because it can be packed more densely on a truck."
FACT: The manufacture of paper and cardboard pulls trees from our forests, dumps contaminated water into our streams and uses enormous amounts of energy resulting in grotesque levels of CO2 emissions pumped into our atmosphere.
FACT: Food packaging may limit a consumer’s ability to buy in quantities desired which can result in food surplus and ultimately waste.
FACT: Although most natural food companies sell their food products in recyclable packaging, there are still some food companies that use non-recyclable materials. And some consumers choose not to recycle which creates additional burden in our country's landfills.
FACT: Packaging often limits a consumer’s ability to actually see the product they are buying.
FACT: In a grocery store, packaged products require more labor to ensure fresh product. Shelves must constantly be rearranged.
FACT: With bulk, product density at the store level can be significantly higher. So stores can provide a wider variety of foods in the same space.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Do bulk foods offer the same quality and consistency of packaged products?
A. The quality of bulk foods is the same and often greater than that of their packaged counterparts. Bulk and packaged products (say granola or rice, for example) often come from the same source. However, with packaged products, consumers pay a premium for the brand name, advertising, special packaging, etc. Bulk foods rely on their quality, price, taste and overall value for sales.
Q. Some natural and organic food packaging is made with recycled material. Why is bulk better?
A. The bags and packages provided for bulk foods are usually fit to the size of the purchase and made of low-grade, recycled paper or plastic. This means that less packaging waste ends up in the landfill and fewer resources are consumed during packaging and shipping process, since more large bulk bags can fit on a pallet when shipped from the producer to the retailer.
Q. How is it that people waste less food (and therefore, money) by buying in bulk?
A. With bulk foods, only the amount needed is purchased. Consumers decide the portion, so they’re not forced to purchase a large amount of unneeded product that goes to waste. Bulk items are also less likely to be thrown away than packaged items, which results in less wasted food.
Q. How can shoppers be sure that bulk foods are fresh if they’re not in a sealed package?
A. Bulk foods mostly come in gravity-fed bulk food dispensing systems that automatically rotate product to ensure fresh food is constantly available. What you see is what you get, so consumers can quickly tell the quality and freshness of the product.
Q. Why are bulk foods more affordable than their packaged counterparts? Is something being sacrificed?
A. When buying bulk foods, shoppers are paying for the product and nothing more (no extra fancy packaging, production, and distribution costs for said package) saving an average of 89 percent over packaged goods. The trend in packaged foods is to reduce the amount of food in the package without reducing the price and to charge premiums for overhead costs, meaning consumers end up paying for more than they get.