Marketers are eyeing environmentally friendly alternatives to plastic for their gift and loyalty cards.
Last week, card maker Arthur Blank & Co. launched a corn-based card that has the same appearance and durability of plastic cards. Blank’s CornCard USA can be used for gift, debit, loyalty and membership cards.
“Major national retailers and quick service restaurants are already considering alternatives to traditional petroleum-based plastics for a variety of reasons, such as the stable prices and more environmentally friendly nature of corn produced right here in the U.S.,” said executive VP Eric Blank in a statement. “If you compare bushels of corn to barrels of oil over the past 5 years, crude oil prices have skyrocketed, while U.S. corn supplies and prices have remained relatively constant.”
Corn-based cards have three advantages over plastic: They’re biodegradable, renewable and consistently priced— important consideration as petroleum prices fluctuate widely.
Corn-based cards are a fledgling business— just began showing its cards last week, and hasn’t shipped any yet— several retailers are already using corn-based plastics for packaging.
Wal-Mart began adopting corn-based plastic packaging in November, replacing petroleum-plastic containers for some fresh produce and the see-through windows on boxes for baked goods—114 million packages in all. Some of Wal-Mart’s 2005 holiday gift cards and calling cards used corn-based plastic, too. The material comes from NatureWorks LLC, a Minnetonka, MN-based division of Cargill.
Last month, NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves swapped its cold-beverage cups at Target Center for corn-based plastic cups from NatureWorks. The team expects to use 175,000 cups by September 2006, and will tout the switch with in-stadium promotions during games.
NatureWorks’ packaging business has grown substantially since 2004, with 1,500 supermarkets selling products in corn-based packages, and 3,000 retail stores (including Bed, Bath & Beyond and Neiman Marcus) selling goods made from corn-based plastic from NatureWorks. A new CEO took charge at the company last month: Dennis McGrew was named president-CEO on Jan. 20, replacing Kathleen Bader, who retired after two years at the helm and is credited with shifting NatureWorks from a research endeavor to a commercial business. McGrew had been VP-CMO since joining NatureWorks in April 2004.