Reinventing The Iconic Paper Bag

Did you know that Americans use nearly 10 billion paper bags every year? And that it takes 14 million trees to meet this demand? An estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year as well. That comes out to over one million per minute. But while many believe that paper is better than plastic, it's important for us to consider the impact of each part of the product’s life cycle from cradle to grave to truly create an environmentally-friendly bag alternative. The winner is the reusable bag.


Paper Loves Food and Food Loves Paper

Akin has partnered with Keep Cool Bags, the creator of the first polyurethane reusable bag, to build multiple lines of Keep Cool insulated, reusable bags that are beautiful, functional bags at great value for mass retailers such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Costco. This program's goal was to redesign the iconic paper bag, giving it longer life while maintaining the beauty and functionality of that brown paper carry-all we love. 


The Power Of Paper

We began by examining the entire shopping journey, how it’s evolved, and the players. We shopped along with mothers and singles, city dwellers and suburbanites, the bag fanatic and the bag indifferent, walkers and motorcycle riders. We immersed ourselves in the act of bagging in a busy supermarket. The seasoned baggers gave us our first big insight, that the paper bag was powerful. It was more than how well the humble icon functioned, the perfect proportions and stand up qualities that users love, but the connection to our collective food experience.

The world of reusable bags may solve the sustainable issue but tends to miss on the basic shopping experience, the connection to food and the transport to home. We care about the environmental impact of manufactured bags and yet don't we miss the good old days of paper bags? Still, users are foregoing the traditional paper bag in lieu of reusable bags.

Like most design icons the paper bag blends superior function, simplicity, and an everyday price. And while it’s under appreciated, the paper bag is inextricably linked to food shopping. 


The Process + Strategy

We led a two-day design deep dive comprised of designers, materials experts and Keep Cool executives to push the boundaries of new bag construction while overlaying our research of grocery shopping behaviors.

This two-day immersion led to 12 prototypes across four product categories and a full understanding of the materials and development strategies that would lead us into the next stage of bag development.

After years of research and development, Akin and Keep Cool have developed a series of paper materials that withstand the wear and tear of everyday use, can be used over and over again, and maintain the inherent qualities of mass-produced paper.