Becoming more sustainable is important for the future of the planet, but for grocers, it can be a great way to attract new customers and retain existing footfall, as well as save money.

There are statistics to support the reasons why grocers should focus on sustainability. One third of shoppers (33% – Unilever research) are now choosing to buy from brands that they believe are doing social or environmental good, and 92% (The Innovation Group) of consumers say sustainable business practices should now be standard.

Matt Gouldsmith, Channel Director, Wholesale, Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I, comments: “Here at Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I (SBF GB&I) we are using our position in the industry to lead the soft drinks category in driving positive change as part of the Suntory Group vision of Growing For Good.

“This means everything we do as a company always benefits its community, and by continuing to do good things for society and the environment we will help make a better, brighter future post-Covid-19 and beyond.”

The company has an ambitious target to move to using only 100% sustainable plastic bottles by 2030, as part of a wider 2050 environmental vision, aiming to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions across the entire value chain.

“By stocking popular soft drinks brands which also invest in being as sustainable as possible, grocers can make the first steps towards a more environmentally friendly range that will drive long-term sales success,” adds Gouldsmith. “Not only will this help grocers make changes to their store, but it is crucial to appeal to what the shoppers want and are looking for.”

Suntory has unveiled new transparent sleeves to enable bottle-to-bottle recycling on its biggest brand, Lucozade Energy. The new transparent sleeves mean that all the brand’s bottles can be funnelled into a clear plastic waste stream, helping give every bottle the optimum chance of getting recycled back into a new bottle.

In addition, Suntory launched new packaging for the Ribena 500ml RTD range last year. The packaging overhaul made Ribena the largest selling soft drinks brand with bottles made from 100% rPET that are also 100% recyclable (IRI) giving it the optimum chance of being turned back into a bottle once recycled. Alongside this, the Lucozade Sport bottle will be redesigned with a smaller label – reducing the volume of plastic used previously and ensuring that every bottle can be recycled back into another bottle. In total, the changes would represent a saving of 3,500 tonnes of virgin plastic as the shift from using the virgin plastic made from fossil fuels to recycled plastic (rPET) reduces CO2 emissions by approximately 79%.

Adam Platts, SMI Director – UK Packaging at DS Smith, comments: “What is clear is that there has been a seismic shift in the way consumers have been shopping since the start of the pandemic, leading to the birth of a brand-new type of consumer – the fusion shopper. They are splitting their time across bricks and mortar, online, and click & collect – for many retailers, this means adopting a hybrid model. And, with the eco-conscious consumer remaining ever more prevalent, it will be those companies that implement sustainable packaging within their business models that will allow them to remain front of mind for the consumer.”

Finding the balance between protecting goods and limiting the amount of materials used is a constant source of concern for retailers – so DS Smith uses DISCS technology, (named after the types of testing – Drop, Impact, Shock, Crush, Shake). Each part of the product journey is replicated, providing real world testing that allows for the development of specific sustainable performance solutions using no more packaging than is necessary.

As consumers continue to champion sustainability, FMCG brands and retailers are finding themselves deeper in the era of the value-driven consumer, with shoppers increasingly in favour of buying products that do not have a negative impact on the environment.

DS Smith teamed up with MULTIVAC to design and produce ECO Bowl – an innovative solution for fresh foods made from corrugated carboard. ECO Bowl allows for companies that are looking to achieve their ambitious sustainability targets, to significantly reduce the amount of single-use plastic in-store and better align with the major retailer environmental agenda.

As a purely fibre-based business DS Smith is benefiting from accelerating consumer trends in online shopping and the drive for a more environmentally conscious life.

“It has never been more important for companies to manage their impact on the environment, especially as consumers increasingly make eco-conscious purchasing decisions,” adds Platts. “By considering a product’s specific supply chain upfront and applying DS Smith’s Circular Design Principles, customers can work with DS Smith packaging experts to design out waste and pollution to make sure materials are kept in use by optimising recyclability, material use, the potential to replace problem plastic, reuse and more.”

Most recently, DS Smith also announced its new Circular Design Metrics – a new breakthrough tool that shows the performance of a packaging design across a range of indicators, such as recyclability, renewable content and supply chain optimisation. With this key milestone it will be possible to rate the impact of every design decision; helping customers large and small create the most circular packaging solutions and drive environmental performance.

“The average British person has an average attention span of 14 seconds, and together with poorly designed packaging, retailers are at high-risk of losing sales,” Platts continues. “Shelf-Ready Packaging is there to help retailers and brands to disrupt shopper journeys more effectively and drive sales. And, simple structural and artwork changes like implementing an asymmetrical front face on the pack, simplifying marketing messages and using colour to brand block are a few strategies that can improve the engagement with consumers.”

From shelf-ready and consumer packaging into major international FMCG businesses, through to industrial solutions for the Automotive sector, DS Smith innovates on a case-by-case basis, using minimum fibre and ensuring it facilitates a collaborative approach to drive sustainable innovation and lowest total cost solutions. The firm also works across multiple channels providing creative solutions to its customers’ e-commerce and display needs.

“Despite the general macro-economic uncertainty, demand for sustainable solutions continues to grow,” adds Platts. “Environmental sustainability is at the heart of our strategy, and we are excited at the significant opportunities this presents for our packaging solutions.”

Gavin Ashe, Managing Partner at Kite Packaging Ltd, comments: “As the largest online packaging distributor in the UK, we have seen some significant changes in shopping habits over the last couple of years. Firstly, almost our entire range of products has seen record sales as most vendors moved online due to coronavirus lockdowns. This has meant that businesses which have never previously operated virtually have recently entered the ecommerce sector. As such, products such as our postal boxes, polythene mailing bags, tape and stretch film, essentially our standard packaging range, have been bestsellers alongside a steady increase in interest for environmentally friendly solutions.”

This has prompted Kite Packaging to develop sustainable alternatives to many of these popular items. A recent advancement has been the extension to the chilled packaging range: to compete with polystyrene, the industry standard, Kite Packaging has developed corrugated cardboard lining that offers the same exceptional thermal qualities.

A crucial difference is that the new liner is 100% recyclable, FSC certified and fully paper-based, in addition to arriving flat-packed for superior space conservation. The double walled corrugated paper is eco-friendly, low-cost and a completely unique form of chilled packaging.

Of particular relevance to grocery traders or supermarkets, is the functionally adept bale arm crates that have been added to Kite’s plastic packaging range. To act as either secondary or tertiary packaging, these boxes are made of 100% recycled plastic and are highly durable to aid long-lasting reusability. Hence, they are environmentally conscious and an economically smart investment for long-term operation. Although designed for use within supermarkets, these highly versatile storage solutions have a near infinite number of applications. The extendable and retractable bale arms allow easy transportation and the ability to nest and stack the boxes as needed.

A huge amount of attention is being given to product packaging with 74% of consumers willing to pay more for sustainable packaging and actively avoiding brands that are slow to adapt. Expressing green credentials through a clean supply chain and environmentally friendly practices is an excellent marketing tool alongside showing social responsibility.

“At Kite, we ensure that each sustainable swap also features the same if not better physical properties and is economically viable, often reducing costs due to an emphasis on reusability where possible,” says Ashe. “As a result, both supplier and consumer can enjoy greater satisfaction and increased loyalty due to this alignment of values.”

‘Looking forward, Kite will continue targeting ecommerce businesses and providing professional, industrial packaging solutions,” Ashe continues. “These areas are predicted to only accelerate in growth, prompting our drive to similarly grow to satisfy the market demands.”

Lockdown first necessitated online shopping and then illustrated the numerous advantages that have convinced customers to continue this changed behaviour in spite of physical shop fronts reopening. The convenience, increased range of goods available and fast delivery times are now intrinsically linked to virtual vendors. To this end, Kite is due to expand into the largest dedicated site for packaging distribution in the UK in 2022.

Christine Bettinson, Global Marketing Leader at Krehalon, comments: “With the packaging industry shifting towards simplification – from multilayer to monolayer structures and toward Polyolefin-only substrates, there have been some promising innovations in recyclability. In many respects, flexible packaging has a smaller environmental footprint compared to alternative packaging formats due to its light weight and resource efficiency. Until recently, these benefits have made post-consumer flexibles less financially compelling to collect and recycle when compared to heavier packaging alternatives. But the tide is changing, often led by consumers keen to contribute their part to creating a more sustainable world. Leading mainstream supermarkets are also playing their part by setting up front-of-store collection points for flexible packaging previously considered unrecyclable.”

Krehalon – a global manufacturer of flexible barrier packaging for the fresh food industry – has launched its range of readily recyclable high barrier flexible films for fresh food applications to meet the request for more sustainable packaging options.

KreCycle does not compromise shelf-life expectations or sealing performance. It is ideally suited for packaging fresh protein – red meat, poultry, processed meat, seafood, and hard cheese. Products include flexible thermoforming films, flowrap films including a high barrier option, lidding films, and vacuum pouches.

The KreCycle range includes polyester (PET), polyethylene (PE) and Polypropylene (PP) based products that offer tailored barrier properties to suit specific application needs. There are also lock and peel seal options for consumer convenience. The development of these structures is based on CEFLEX Design for a Circular Economy (D4ACE) Guidelines where it is advised that EVOH barrier in PO-based structures should be no more than 5% of total weight. As such, KreCycle can be used as a recyclable replacement to non-recyclable multilayer structures such as PA/PE, PA/EVOH/PE, PET/EVOH/PE and OPA/PE.

Furthermore, the KreCycle PE range has been certified by Cyclos and is suitable for Front-of-Store collection. This range includes a high-quality paper-feel print option offering a recyclable paper-look alternative to non-recyclable, hard-to-separate-paper/plastic laminates.

Successful trials and commercial orders are already in place for thermoform, flowrap and pouch applications for packing of sausage, cheese, mince and bacon.

Packaging solutions provider, Parkside, has announced it has joined the International Sustainability & Carbon Certification (ISCC) scheme as it continues to encourage the industry to move closer towards a circular economy.

The ISCC is a globally leading certification system that aims to address and offer solutions to sustainability concerns across all markets. Parkside’s certification now provides brand owners and consumers with the assurance that the company meets the high sustainability requirements set out by the awarding body.

The certification will also see the company directly involved in the chain of custody for Post-consumer Recycled (PCR) material made from polypropylene once it comes online.

Parkside Global Sales Director Paula Birch commented: “Joining the ISCC is a key part of our business strategy to accelerate our push towards a circular economy, alongside the industry. As a globally respected organisation, we are very excited to become certified and have an involvement in the handling of PCR material.”

The ISCC is currently among the world’s largest certification schemes and is active in over 100 countries. Developed through various multi-stakeholder processes and governed by groups of research institutes and NGOs, ISCC strives for a world where biomass and other raw materials are produced in an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable manner.

Birch continued: “Sustainability is and will remain a key driver for the packaging industry, particularly in light of the recent damning IPCC climate change report, so certifications like this one are vital for reducing our impact on the planet. By gaining this certification, we are showcasing our commitment to sustainability and a shift towards the circular economy.”

Parkside also recently launched a new range of sustainable packaging solutions that respond to growing consumer concerns regarding plastics and the environment. The portfolio is aimed at boosting the recyclability of the company’s existing range of flexible packaging designs, which is used across a wide range of markets including food and drink.

Arco Berkenbosch, vice president of innovation and development at Smurfit Kappa, comments: “One trend that is continuing to drive change for retailers is the demand for more sustainable options from consumers. This is putting increased demand on brands and retailers to meet those expectations. And one area that continues to be a central focus is packaging and specifically, more sustainable packaging. This shift towards more sustainable packaging has intensified within the last few years, and businesses are making it a priority to invest in innovative solutions. We have been working with a number of customers to help them switch to more sustainable options.”

Leading beer brewer Royal Grolsch selected Smurfit Kappa’s TopClip product as a paper-based replacement for the plastic shrink wrap it used on its can multi-packs. TopClip eliminates the need for single-use plastic and is 100% renewable, recyclable and biodegradable. By replacing all the shrink wrap with the sustainable TopClip product in the Netherlands, Grolsch will remove 100,000kg of plastic annually which is equivalent to more than 4 million plastic bags.

Smurfit Kappa’s Better Planet Packaging portfolio of products are all designed to improve the packaging environmental footprint and reduce packaging traces on the planet. The packaging products are renewable, recyclable and recycled and, biodegradable.

“Innovation and continuously developing new product solutions for our customers has been at the core of our business for decades,” says Berkenbosch.

So far this year, Smurfit Kappa has introduced several new products across its Better Planet Packaging portfolio. The eBottle range launched earlier this year has been a phenomenal success. It offers beverage businesses a suite of fit-for-purpose and bespoke packaging solutions which address the key challenges for their e-commerce channel. The innovative range, combined with Smurfit Kappa’s focus on e-commerce processes, supply chain and consumer experience, have all contributed to increased sales and greater efficiencies for our customers.

In February Smurfit Kappa launched an innovative ‘Safe & Green’ punnet portfolio in Europe. The firm wanted to create a paper-based, sustainable solution to plastic packaging for fresh produce that would be 100% renewable, recyclable, and biodegradable. This followed research which found that over 58% of consumers prefer a punnet that balances visibility of the contents with sustainability and 75% of consumers stated that paper-based punnets were the most sustainable choice.

Smurfit Kappa also introduced a TopClip solution for smaller brands, which offered those customers a completely plastic-free, renewable, recyclable, and biodegradable packaging alternative, that was also made from far less material than any other same-purpose packaging solutions on the market. Previously, customers were using far less sustainable alternatives such as plastic shrink film to package their beverages.

Alex Henriksen, Managing Director, Tetra Pak North Europe, comments: “In 2020, close to 183 billion Tetra Pak packages were sold. 65% of our packaging material net sales are for liquid dairy products, followed by 12% for juice and nectar and 9% dairy alternatives.”

Tetra Pak is the world leader in food processing and packaging solutions. For more than 65 years, it has worked with customers around the globe to help make food safe and available, everywhere.

“Our workstream is geared towards delivering the world’s most sustainable food package, and we’re investing approximately €100 million per year over the next ten years to achieve this,” says Henriksen.

“Through innovation, we’re addressing a broad range of customer sustainability needs without compromising on food safety, while still meeting the end-user drinking experience.”

Tetra Pak recently announced new action towards reducing litter and creating a sustainable future as the firm is ready to deploy a range of tethered cap solutions which will help customers to minimise litter, with caps staying attached to the package, and reduce the carton’s carbon footprint, with caps available in plant-based options. Alongside this, the firm is accelerating the expansion of its paper straw offering to ensure further renewable and low carbon materials are available across its packaging ranges.

Bioplastics developed from sugarcane are an exciting area of innovation and Tetra Pak is continuing to innovate with sugarcane-derived polymers. In February, Tetra Pak introduced certified recycled polymers to help contribute to increased recycling rates and make recycling more economically viable. In addition, the firm plans to trial its first packages with significantly increased fibre content by 2025. In these packages, the paperboard and all barriers will be derived from fibres, with minimal plastic. Before the end of the decade, Tetra Pak is also working towards launching a package that is almost fully fibre based.


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