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Ontario Centre of Innovation
Rootree: Making Sustainability a Standard Through Customizable Digital Packaging

Success Stories

Rootree: Making Sustainability a Standard Through Customizable Digital Packaging

Based out of Burlington, Ontario, Rootree is a homegrown source of eco-friendly packaging. The company also uses digital printing technology that allows for endless customization and personalization. With a vision to create a world where sustainability is a standard rather than a buzzword, it provides companies of all sizes with compostable and recyclable packaging.

Founded by Phil St-Cyr, his partner, Sjonum, and his brother-in-law, Soek, Rootree was born from a passion Phil developed for nutritional science while he was living abroad.

When he returned to Canada, with the support of their family, the trio launched a small business selling superfoods, but found that sourcing packaging that met the needs of a business their size was difficult to come by.

“At the time, most manufacturers in Canada required an upfront printing plate investments from $1000 to $3000 for one design, and had minimum order quantities for packaging of 10,000 to 20,000 units for a single SKU,” explains Phil. “This was not conducive to the needs of a small business with several SKUs and changing requirements on artwork. They wouldn’t even give us the time of day when we called, so we had to source packaging from manufacturers overseas.”

After facing this setback over and over, with mentorship from his father-in-law, they found a way to supply their own packaging.

After researching options online, they started to bring in packaging from overseas. From there, they started to sell packaging to other companies like them across Canada and saw that there was considerable demand for the solutions they had started to grow rapidly.

Given the unique needs of the small companies they served, they needed to develop a highly agile manufacturing system that would allow them to appeal to a client base that had a limited budget, needed small orders, and had many different types of products. The clients they served needed quick packaging solutions and prioritized local solutions. So their focus switched to improving an industry that they knew was in need of disruption.

That’s when they sought out to make their own packaging in-house, with digital printing technology that would enable them to meet all of these demands. However, their business was just getting off the ground and the technology would cost $2 million to implement.

Not ready to give up on the technology they knew would drive them forward, they eventually met a representative from Hewlett-Packard (HP) who understood their vision and helped make the dream come true. In 2016, HP Indigo technology was installed and soon after, they became Rootree.

Rootree has received support from Ontario Centre of Innovation (OCI), which provided funding through both the Collaborate 2 Commercialize program as well as the Digitalization Competence Centre. This enabled it to create its own polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), a type of biodegradable polymer that’s produced naturally by various microorganisms.

Since launching, Rootree, a Made-in-Ontario business, has continued to produce innovative new designs rooted in sustainability, which has empowered its clients to present their products in high-quality packaging they can truly be proud of. This includes the release of its lightweight Pillow Pouches, and the creation of a truly recyclable mono-layer polyethylene (PE) Spout Pouch.

Other notable milestones include signing the PAC IOU Charter, which brings organizations together in the name of creating inclusive packaging workforces, winning multiple PAC Global Awards that celebrate the best in packaging brand design and innovation, producing high-quality compostable packaging, and offering solutions such as the Pouch Collective to help businesses bring packaging costs down.

Looking ahead, Rootree aims to optimize its PHA production method and evaluate the use of waste cooking oil as a feedstock. This project could lead to technology and expertise that would enable Rootree to develop the first PHA bioplastic manufacturing plant in Ontario.

In 2024, Rootree has already announced two new partnerships that will champion its vision for a world where sustainability is a standard. The first is with rePurpose Global, which empowers them and their clients to act on plastic pollution by providing robust plastic footprint accounting tools and supporting the removal of plastic waste from the environment. The second is with veritree, to plant 25% more trees and kelp needed to sequester annual carbon emissions.

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Alicia Pereira,
Director, Communications & Strategy

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