Organic blueberries on display at Staff of Life in Watsonville use ReadyCycle sustainable packaging. —Sambrailo

WATSONVILLE—When Santa Cruz-based natural foods store Staff of Life opened its second location in Watsonville in March, employees from Sambrailo were pleased to see their products featured front and center.

Fresh, organic vegetables and fruit in the store’s produce aisle were nestled inside Sambrailo’s sustainable packaging line, ReadyCycle. Blueberries from Forbidden Fruit Orchards and strawberries from Sun Valley Berries, both in ReadyCyle products, were among the first things shoppers saw as they walked through the doors.

“It was so cool to quietly be part of the store launch, to have our packaging be the first thing people saw,” said Sara Lozano of Sambrailo’s Marketing and Product Department. “It’s extremely gratifying, seeing it being part of a brand new natural foods store opening right in our community.”

Sambrailo, based in Watsonville, has been a fixture in the agricultural packaging game for nearly a century, often leading trends in the industry and transforming the way crops are delivered, stored and sold.

In 2017, they launched ReadyCycle, a line of 100% recyclable packaging made from corrugated cardboard (also known as paperboard). It does not use any sort of wax, labeling or plastic coatings—things that prevent other cardboard products from being recyclable.

Slowly but surely, the line has taken off in popularity, being adopted by companies across the U.S. and Mexico. And in the past year, Sambrailo has seen an increase in usage of ReadyCycle. Not only in markets such as Staff of Life, but also at farmers markets and for community supported agriculture programs, which have become very popular during the pandemic. 

More farms began approaching the company about using ReadyCycle. Vegetable box business “blossomed,” Lozano said, growing from a couple bundles a week to an entire pallet.

In addition, Lozano guessed that people were looking for new ways to help the environment, in a time marred by takeout containers and a temporary ban on things like reusable grocery bags and coffee tumblers. 

“You’re coming home with lots more packaging, more trash,” she said. “Trash and recycling bins were getting fuller faster.”

ReadyCycle has been praised by various environmental organizations, including the Plastic Pollution Coalition, Oceans International and The Last Plastic Straw. Sambrailo works with these organizations, as well as with governments across the Monterey Bay Area, to promote sustainability. Lozano runs a blog focusing on subjects related to ReadyCycle, citing sources for those who want to dig deeper.

During Earth Week in April, Sambrailo published its second sustainability report for ReadyCycle, which included a “deep dive” into why the company chose to use paperboard.

To read the report, go here.

“We want customers and people in the industry to know how much more there is to just packaging,” Lozano said, “and how detailed our services actually go. It’s not just transactional. And these services don’t just happen. Customers come to us and ask for things. That’s how services evolve.”

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Reporter Johanna Miller grew up in Watsonville, attending local public schools and Cabrillo College before transferring to Pacific University Oregon to study Literature. She covers arts and culture, business, nonprofits and agriculture.


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