Tanbark designs and manufactures high-end packaging solutions with molded fiber, a compostable material made from sustainably harvested plant and wood fiber from Maine. The company was founded in 2021 by husband-and-wife Chris and Melissa LaCasse who saw an opportunity to address the environmental crisis caused by single-use plastics through the expanded use of molded fibers beyond the large run, commodity applications where it currently thrives (such as egg cartons). Existing machinery was simply too expensive to serve customers with low to medium order sizes, despite the increasing social and policy imperatives to move beyond plastics. Tanbark’s innovative machinery allows for price-competitive small volume runs of molded fiber packaging that can be customized with color, texture, embossments, and shapes.

Tanbark is committed to livable wages for their staff (starting salaries for production workers is $20-22/hr with benefits) and locally sourcing raw materials. The molded fiber is made from FSC certified wood fiber that is a byproduct of timber harvests in Maine, thus Tanbark provides additional income to loggers and processors who have struggled since the decline of the paper industry.

The Flex Fund invested $50,000 in Tanbark’s Series Seed 1 Preferred Stock round in 2023. The raise enabled Tanbark to expand capability and capacity at their production facility in Saco, ME and to gear up operations to serve their first two customers- Luke’s Lobster (a quick service restaurant chain focused on seafood) and Hannaford’s grocery store.

Melissa LaCasse, CEO

“Tanbark is committed to helping replace rigid, single-use plastic packaging. We recognize this is a Herculean effort requiring collaboration among industries, including the investment community. Capital from Flex Fund is helping us increase production and ramp up staff, capacity, and resources. Our first-to-market small machines level the playing field for businesses that want to switch to sustainable, Type 3 molded fiber packaging by providing affordable, low-volume access. Then, we scale as they grow. Partners like Flex Fund help make this possible.”