26 April 2012

Typical Product Packaging in Costa Rica

Ketchup, Mustard, Mayo, Sour Cream & Refried Beans
We've been meaning to blog about the product packaging you find here in Costa Rica compared to the methods used in North America.  Back at H.E.B, our favorite grocery store in Houston, the top three products in this photo would be in either glass or plastic bottles.  The sour cream would be in a plastic tub and you'd find the beans in a metal can.

These Costa Rican packaging choices may have happened because they didn't have the USA's huge glass jar and metal can infrastructure in place but whatever the reason, this way of doing things is simply sensible.

The sour cream is the real stuff (not full of guar gum and thickeners -- it almost pours) and we simply snip off the edge of the recyclable polyethylene bag and squeeze the contents into our own little tub.  Either the empty is off to be recycled or it is very low profile land fill.  We're talking "sandwich bag" vs., plastic tub, plastic lid, and foil safety liner.

The other products in the picture are all squeeze pouches.  Not only do they recycle, take up less room on the shelf and reseal like magic but think about never again digging around in the bottom of the Hellman's jar while your knuckles get smeared with mayo; or never shaking that danged Heinz ketchup bottle; or, don't go get a knife dirty -- lay down a perfect bead of mustard on your bratwurst.

Another great aspect of this is if you're any kind of a refried bean fan.  In the USA, what do you do with the rest of the can after you open it up and only want to use a few tablespoons?  Scoop it into Tupperware?  Then it either gets pushed to the back of the refrigerator and turns into a "strange biological growths" science project, or you take it out a few days later and it has that nasty crust all over it.  With the CR packaging, we just unscrew the little cap, squeeze out a dollop, or ten, and stand it back up in the refer door.  Better yet, we can have a pouch of regular refried black beans; some with jalapeños; some with Salsa Lizano; some red bean; and, oh, the flavors go on and on.

Almost everything that is a watery liquid comes in refill-size poly bags.  Lysol in a bag?  Weird.  Floor polish?  Windex?  Hand soap?  Weird, weird, weird.  It's a recycle thing again and an efficiency benefit.  One quickly gets used to it.

Pump bottles and sprays:  Here, if you're smart, you get a good pump or spray bottle and keep it forever (with a smile.)  Almost everything is sold as a refill, rather than with the pump every time.

We were a little unprepared for the laundry detergent powder to come in a giant, floppy poly bag until we realized that they're sized to fit neatly into a snap-on-lid 5-gallon bucket.  Way-hey-hey-hey more convenient than those big cardboard boxes and in this climate, no clumping.

A few things need a little work here in the CR packaging industry.  Although aseptic packaging puts myriad tropical fruit juices at our fingertips, the pouring spouts are awfully splashy unless you pour awfully slowly.  Aseptic boxed milk is ultra convenient (and we try to always keep some, "just in case") but they still haven't figured out how to get it to taste as great as the fresh stuff.  

Now the downside.  Coffee is all in form-fill-seal bags.  No cans.  What the heck am I supposed to use for nuts, bolts and shop junk?!?  These barbarians.


  1. Righto!

    But I miss all those easy-open packages of cookies. I can't even tear them by gnawing at them. Hate that.

    You probably only get fresh baked.

    Hate that too.

  2. Thank you for giving the information. I too purchase packed products but, I usually purchase only those products which are eco-friendly.
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