Zingerman's Delicatessen: Sustainable Packaging Initiatives at a Local Michigan Business

by: Andrew Hoffman

Publication Date: February 22, 2023
Length: 18 pages
Product ID#: 9-219-026

Core Disciplines: Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Social Impact, Sustainability

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Teaching Note

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Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan, began operations as a corner delicatessen selling sandwiches. It grew to become a community of ten businesses, establishing itself as a local favorite and a nationally known achiever. This case analyzes factors that Mark Fate—a recently promoted purchasing manager for Zingerman’s Deli—is considering as he determines how to transition from using traditional plastic and paper packaging to more sustainable packaging alternatives, both in-house and for take-out. The case delves into the details of current and alternative packaging materials used in the food industry, highlighting the benefits and shortcomings of each. It then transitions to considerations regarding Fate’s proposal, emphasizing aspects that are imperative for Zingerman’s in making such a change. Overall, the case encourages students to consider the factors and challenges Fate faced in his efforts to integrate more sustainable packaging while enabling Zingerman’s Deli to continue as a profitable business that satisfies both customers and employees.

Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Understand Zingerman’s unique business model and its values.
  • Gain insight into the current materials used to package food and alternatives for sustainable packaging in the food industry.
  • Recognize the challenges of switching to sustainable packaging for a business like Zingerman’s.