Can cardboard be cool?










I recently came across an innovation designed to make outdoor fun more sustainable. Aiming to replace the omnipresent but environmentally hostile styrofoam cooler, Quebec based Cascades offers a reusable cardboard alternative that is fully recyclable and keeps contents just as cold as its styrofoam counterpart. The Cascades ThermaFresh recycled cardboard picnic cooler  is composed of 70 percent recycled cardboard and lined with a waterproof coating that makes it both weatherproof and reusable. Cooling performance, the company says, is on par with what styrofoam coolers offer.

Shortly after I discovered The Cascades ThermaFresh cooler, I had the pleasure of exchanging a few words with two people who work for Cascades — Marc-Henri Faure and Martin Brière, and they graciously agreed to conduct a quick interview for

Jenan: How did this product (a reusable cardboard cooler) get made—what inspired you guys to develop it?
Martin Brière: Cascades’ main objective is to innovate with products made of recycled and recyclable materials. The online boutique is the ideal platform to promote our green solutions and what we can do with paper based materials.

This new recyclable cardboard cooler was designed with ThermaFresh Technology used for conserving and distributing fresh fish. In fact, the technology was first designed for industrial applications (fisheries). This cooler was especially redesigned for customers. Cascades therefore offers a green alternative to non-recyclable limited-use coolers.

Jenan: How did you guys chose your niche?
Martin Brière: In order to position the project, we conducted interviews with people who engage in outdoor activities. One of our main findings was that women showed significantly more interest in the product than men. Mainly, young people (18-34 years old) showed more interest for the product. Our target is mainly urban young families who practice outdoor activities, do not have a lot of space at home and are sensitive to environmental concern. Furthermore, the design is a nice value added that no other cooler presently offers.

Jenan: Do you have any other exciting products you’d like to tell us about?
Marc-Henri Faure: Our boutique offers many innovative products made out of recycled materials, products such as: recycled cardboard briefcases, recycled plastic outdoor furniture, cardboard children’s furniture, table napkins made with recycled paper, pet homes and our traditional Christmas trees in recycled cardboard.

Jenan: Any advice for someone considering starting a niche business? (I often refer to this as the “If I started today…” segment.)
Marc-Henri Faure: It all depends on the objectives, which can be either to use a niche as a technological showcase (which here applies to the ThermaFresh Cooler) and/or as a diversification of the product portfolio. In most cases, it’s usually a good idea to test your concept prior to go to market on a higher production scale. If I started today, … I would focus on the business case first and foremost.

Jenan: Thank you both for your time and consideration!

Oct 10, 2011