Demand for circular packaging from both consumer and regulatory pressures is continuing to prompt businesses to choose packaging which contains recycled content, is reusable, refillable or recyclable.

This growth in public awareness of the need to build a circular economy and transition away from a linear production system will continue to drive such innovations.

Due to the increasing vilification of plastic coupled with the growing awareness of sustainability in the UK public, some companies have responded by shifting to paper-based packaging to avoid the plastic backlash.

These “knee-jerk” reactions are not without consequences however. As reported by Global Forest Watch, “40% of global deforestation is commodity driven” with packaging identified as one of the contributing factors to this unwelcome development. In fact, it is estimated that 361 million hectares of trees were cut down between 2001 to 2018, which is equivalent to a reduction of the world’s forests by 9%. During the same period, there was an increase in paper consumption by 26% with packaging demand responsible for 55% of this volume. Further, paper has a larger carbon footprint than plastic with paper bags generating 70% more air and 50% more water pollutants than plastic.

In the age of social media where consumers are sharing images on an everyday basis, packaging aesthetics are more important than ever. Aesthetic appeal and brand identity have long been marketing essentials for packaging, which is why businesses continue to dedicate time and effort to come up with unique designs with shelf-appeal. From a brand perspective, increasing sales while also gaining free exposure through social media is a win-win situation.

While sustainability remains a high priority for UK consumers, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has heightened both business’ and consumers’ concerns for packaging hygiene. As sensitivities around hygiene are now being reflected in people’s behaviour, the packaging industry has been quick to respond with innovations such as self-cleaning plastic or anti-microbial film as shoppers want to see companies raise their hygiene standards. We can continue to expect packaging designs that emphasise hygiene aspects.

From hygiene standards to sustainability expectations, PakTech’s solutions help UK businesses meet consumers’ demands when it comes to secondary packaging. PakTech handles wholly embody circularity, made from 100% recycled HDPE, reusable many times over and infinitely recyclable. They also enhance the aesthetic appeal of products they are applied to – not only do the PakTech handle’s minimalist design allow for a product’s visuals to be fully displayed, they come in an array of colours to complement the product’s aesthetics. Finally, PakTech carrier handles for cans offer additional hygiene value by covering can tops entirely, protecting them from contamination when being handled in warehouses.

Matt Francklow, Director at Eco Flexibles, comments: “The grocery sector is embracing the wider benefits of sustainable flexible packaging, in response to surging consumer demand for ‘greener’ brands. We are seeing strong momentum for more lightweight solutions that reduce CO2 burden in logistics, as well as recyclable packaging to replace mixed plastic designs that have been so prevalent in stores.”

Shoppers are more engaged with sustainability than ever before and are increasingly using eco-friendly packaging to inform purchase decisions. Because of this shift, sustainable packaging is no longer just a ‘nice-to-have’, it is core to brand marketing.

Eco Flexibles is renowned for offering next generation lightweight, recyclable and compostable flexible packaging solutions. Working closely with brands and packers to redesign incumbent ranges to more closely align to sustainability objectives, the company offers both bespoke and off the shelf designs depending on the application and the unique requirement of the product.

In particular, it offers EcoLamm, a range of lightweight, recyclable or mono polymer film-on-a-reel products. Designed for both vertical and horizontal form, fill, seal lines, EcoLamm is a great example of how sustainable packaging substrates don’t need to compromise quality or performance. Suitable for Pillow Pack, Stablilo, Block Bottom and Flowrap packs, EcoLamm provides extended shelf life, superior seal integrity to minimise leaks and is highly robust to meet the needs of the grocery supply chain.

Eco Flexibles works closely with major grocery and FMCG brands, as well as retailers and packers across Europe and North America. The business has grown rapidly in a very short space of time due to the product range and approach it takes to revolutionary sustainable packaging design.

“Having launched in 2018, the Eco Flexibles entire product portfolio is reflective of our commitment to innovation for sustainability and the environment,” adds Francklow. “Our work with customers revolves around the waste hierarchy – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – in that order. We seek to first reduce packaging material consumption – lightweight designs – wherever possible, design for reuse or refill and then for recyclability post use. Of course, we also seek to incorporate recycled materials wherever appropriate too.”

With the advent of the UK Plastics Tax slated for April 2022, Eco Flexibles has just launched a link to a Plastics Tax calculator on its website to support its customers in managing the impact of the legislation. Many businesses are now trying to understand what the new £200 levy will mean for them and this is Eco Flexibles’ way of supporting its customers to get prepared.

“From the outset, we wanted Eco Flexibles to be a business that fits effortlessly into our customers’ operations to simplify the process, which can often be intricate when it comes to substrate development and regulatory compliance,” says Francklow.

“We understand that there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to developing sustainable flexible packaging – today’s products and brands are too complex for that! Instead, we take time to get under the skin of a business, learn how packaging fits into its wider sustainability goals and engineer a solution that delivers on all fronts. Our approach is certainly proving a hit with our customers.”

Following a successful trial that made Ribena the first major juice drinks brand in the UK to introduce paper straws, Suntory Beverage and Food GB&I (SBF GB&I) is now making the 100% recyclable paper alternative available on every carton, across all stores.

The trial of the paper straws began exclusively in Tesco stores in May 2020 and brand owner SBF GB&I is now making the paper straws a permanent feature on its Ribena cartons. This will save up to 16 tonnes of plastic from being produced per year in another step towards the company’s ambition to reach 100% sustainable packaging by 2030.

Plastic straws are currently hard to recycle in the UK, largely due to their size. If people don’t push the straw back into the carton when finished, it can get lost in the recycling process, often falling through gaps on recycling centre sorting belts.

Ribena’s trial of the paper alternative was met with positive feedback from customers. One Ribena fan commented that they “love the new addition of a cardboard straw instead of the usual plastic ones you get”, commenting favourably that it creates “far less plastic waste and is better for the environment”. Another customer was pleased to see that the straw was strong enough to pierce the hole effectively and that it didn’t go soggy when they were drinking from the carton.

Since the initial trial, Ribena has strengthened the straw further with a second improved version ready to hit the shelves.

Jo Padwick, Transformation Manager at Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I, comments: “It is great to see our years of hard work getting such positive reviews from Ribena drinkers. We have taken into account all of the feedback to help us improve the new paper straw that is now being launched on the range across all stores.

“Saying goodbye to the final plastic straw is a great step on our journey towards 100% sustainable packaging by 2030.”

James Bull, Tesco’s Head of Packaging, said: “This is fantastic news from Ribena – I’m pleased that the trials in our stores were successful. Supermarkets and brands need to work together to remove and reduce unnecessary and excessive plastic, reuse more, and make sure everything that’s left is recycled. Our door remains firmly open for other brands who want to test and learn new ways to use less plastic.”

SBF GB&I is continuing to develop a hygienic wrapper for the new straws from alternative materials that will still stand up to the rigours of rucksacks and refrigerators.

This announcement follows the launch of SBF GB&I’s new Ribena bottle, which made it the UK’s largest soft drinks brand to use bottles which are made from 100% recycled plastic and 100% bottle-to-bottle recyclable.

DS Smith has announced another milestone in its commitment to lead the way towards a more Circular Economy. The sustainable packaging giant unveiled its Circular Design Metrics, an industry first that allows customers to rate circularity of their packaging.

The pioneering initiative provides a unique insight into how companies’ packaging choices can reduce their impact on the environment. Through the collaborative design process customers will be able compare the environmental performance of different solutions to create more circular packaging.

Stefano Rossi, Packaging CEO at DS Smith, comments: “It has never been more important for companies to manage their impact on the environment. We want to show brands the beauty of the circular economy and allow them to explicitly understand what their packaging choices mean for that model. Our new Circular Design Metrics is a game changer in driving environmental performance in packaging. We’re excited to use our expertise to help companies, large and small, on their journey to become circular ready.”

The Circular Design Metrics is a new breakthrough tool that makes it possible to see and compare the performance of a packaging design across a range of indicators, such as recyclability, renewable content, supply chain optimization. The metrics include eight different indicators that provide a clear indication of circularity performance and help identify areas with potential for improvement. The tool is a first of its kind for brands that want to drive sustainability performance through their packaging.

DS Smith launched its Circular Design Principles for packaging in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in 2020. The Principles was developed to help companies design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use, and regenerate natural systems. Now, one year later, the company has trained its 700 packaging designers to apply the Circular Design Principles in the packaging design process. With the addition of the new Circular Design Metrics it will be possible to rate the impact of every design decision, and help customers create the most circular packaging solutions. DS Smith will embed the new metrics in the packaging design process with customers over the coming months.

Rustlers, the £115.6m (Nielsen) chilled ready meals brand from Kepak Consumer Foods, is rolling out its innovative packaging format – the brand’s most convenient solution yet.

Rustlers Cook in Box concept enables consumers to heat a fully assembled burger without even opening the pack. The packaging performs a dual role, creating a protective barrier around the product, eliminating any messy preparation, whilst also acting as a product carrier to enable easy consumption on the go.

The Cook in Box packaging, which contains a Kepak patented packaging format, includes a ‘micro-crisping sleeve’, which has been developed to ensure the bun is perfectly cooked.

Monisha Singh, Shopper Marketing Manager at Kepak Consumer Foods, explains how Rustlers Cook in Box strengthens the brand’s position in Food to Go: “Rustlers has been capitalising on consumer demand for great tasting convenient food solutions for many years and, with the brand growing 13% YoY (Nielsen), it’s clear that demand for these products continues to be high.

“Our patented Cook in Box format enables us to go one step further and offer an innovative packaging solution for retailers in need of a low wastage, low cost approach to Food to Go, optimising their hot food offering in store.”

“We’re committed to developing incremental opportunities for us and our customers by providing convenient options that can be enjoyed in and out of the home,” concludes Singh.



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