Highlands Ranch moms create reusable produce bags | VailDaily.com

Highlands Ranch moms create reusable produce bags

Sara Castellanos
The Denver Post

DENVER, Colorado –Three Highlands Ranch women have brought their startup company’s products to the shelves of big-name grocers in just over a year, with the latest addition being Whole Foods Market.

Belief Beyond Bags, which markets 3B Bags, was started in an effort to reduce the number of plastic produce bags that find their way into landfills.

Company founders Jeanie Waner, Amy Wade and Staci Samuelson first launched their company in March 2008 with the motto, “Catch the bug and reuse.”

Now, more than 200 stores in Colorado and Texas have caught the bug and sell 3B’s mesh reusable produce bags at $7.50 for a pack of three.

King Soopers, a division of Cincinnati-based Kroger Co., also has co-branded with 3B to sell “sock bags” in sets of four in 130 out of its 142 locations. The soft bags compress into balls for easy carrying and retail for $19.99.

“In an effort to reduce plastic across the board, we decided what was missing in the whole shopping experience and reusing experience is a bag for produce,” Waner said.

The trio thought reusable produce bags were a good niche market, although they’re competing against free plastic bags that come right off the roll at markets.

“These cost money, and we know that, but in the end, you feel good about yourself – that you are reusing across the board, not just in one area, when you go shopping,” Waner said.

She stressed that the products aren’t green but sustainable.

John Byrd, a finance professor who specializes in sustainability issues at University of Colorado-Denver’s business school, said the term “sustainable” means a consumer can get many uses out of the product.

However, to qualify as “green,” the product should be decomposable.

Byrd said the bags do reduce the environmental costs associated with plastic produce bags.

“This is kind of a neat idea, and my guess is that they’ll be able to push this product pretty far,” he said. “Hopefully, in time, they go back through the production cycle and clean it up to be both green and sustainable.”

The full-time moms said starting their own business was a challenge because they didn’t have any previous experience, but they are all responsible for marketing, finance and brand-imaging.

They each had to put in “more than a few thousand dollars” for start-up costs.

They declined to disclose sales information, but Wade said the company is profitable and that they are happy with their accomplishment.

“Walking into our local grocery store, seeing the bags and seeing other people buying it is wonderful,” Waner said.

Kelli McGannon, community-affairs spokeswoman for King Soopers, said the bags have been selling well, but she declined to disclose sales data.

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