by Vicki Matranga
Vicki Matranga, Design Programs Coordinator at International Housewares Association, speaks with Kat Nouri, CEO and founder of Stasher, to learn about how a mom’s frustration with packing kids’ lunchboxes inspired an award-winning new product and social activism.
A California mother of three, Kat Nouri tired of using wasteful, disposable plastic snack bags in her children’s lunches. Searching in kitchen cabinets for lids to mismatched containers and the single-use nature of most plastics also irritated her. So Kat set out to develop a reusable bag that would offer the market a better solution.
“As a consumer, a mother, a designer and a responsible manufacturer, I believed the food storage category begged for innovation – in design, functionality, as well as sustainability,” Kat explains. “I set out to disrupt the market by designing the first radically functional and plastic-free bag made from silicone that could be used for cooking, storing and freezing food,” she continues. “Stasher was that product – not only versatile but intended to be repurposed and endlessly reused.”
The market responded immediately. In 2016 Stasher premiered at the International Home + Housewares Show and won the Global Innovation Award (gia) for product design. It was also featured in Inc. magazine as one of the Seven Most Brilliant Product Designs of the year.
Kat, give us some background on how you developed Stasher.
At the time I conceptualized Stasher, social consciousness around plastic was just starting to gain some global traction. I had prior experience with owning a business that championed better alternatives to plastic by utilizing silicone as a superior and more innovative base material. I was fascinated by the functional qualities of silicone – it could take the heat and temperature variance better than other plastic alternatives and was made to be more durable and long-lasting than the thin film plastics that are so prevalent in the marketplace. At the time, broader market adoption had not reached mass awareness and the single-use plastic epidemic was not at the level that it is today.
I also aimed to create a business that not only provided a healthier and more sustainable product but bettered the world for future generations. We are a B Corp, Women-Owned, and a 1% for the Planet member, which are organizations and certifications committed to better business practices, supporting others to become future women leaders, as well as actively engaging and providing support of nonprofits and organizations tackling our largest environmental challenges.
How has your experience at our Show contributed to your success?
The Show has been instrumental to our success since our debut in 2016. We were awarded the Global Innovation Award, not once but twice in the past three years. It was such an honor to be among the best from around the world and to be recognized for disrupting a category that traditionally belonged to multinational organizations.
Is there an approach or look that joins the functionality, form or emotional appeal of your product line?
At first glance, Stasher is super unique in its design aesthetics. It is a beautifully-designed bag that’s more functional, durable and a more modern take on a familiar household essential product, single-use plastic bags. All of our products function much like their single-use plastic counterpart does, which has helped consumers make that transition to plastic-free. Their small change of switching to an endlessly reusable and plastic-free option has an important impact.
How do you use social media?
We launched the product line for everyone. But it was millennials and young moms who championed Stasher, mostly through social media. As more awareness swelled up around the plastic-free movement our customer base exploded.
We’ve used Instagram to help educate, celebrate, guide and provide broader awareness with an inclusive approach where we can all play a role in the universal challenge of tackling plastic pollution. Our 228,000 Instagram followers are vocal advocates. We love celebrating our customers’ passion and love for the brand through social media.
How do you see design’s importance in our industry as it moves forward?
We believe that smart, beautiful design is essential in a modern world where consumers are inspired by design and have an eye for detail. Design and function are two critically important factors to our success. For the industry as a whole, design will continue to play a vitally important role.
Stasher’s multi-purpose bags continue to merit industry acclaim. In 2018, Fast Company named Stasher as a World Changing Ideas Finalist.
For more information on Stasher, click here.