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Green Day


Driven by business as well as environmental concerns, more CPG and packaging companies are introducing sustainable containers across all grocery categories.

When it comes to the containers products come in, an increasing number of companies are going for the green — in more ways than one. According to a recent report from Cleveland-based Freedonia Group, U.S. demand for recycled content, reusable and biodegradable packaging is poised to surpass $42 billion in 2014.

The report found that growth in this sector will outpace that of overall packaging but will be moderated by the maturity of many products and the already high prevalence of recycled content in paperboard and metal packaging. Helping to drive advances in green packaging will be the higher profile of environmental issues as a result of increased raw material and fuel costs, which will cause more product manufacturers and packaging companies to roll out product lines that lower costs and are more eco-friendly.

Among the new sustainable packaging materials the market can look forward to is polyethylene derived from sugar cane-based ethanol, which is slated to make its U.S. debut this year. Although it's higher in price than traditional resins, the willingness of many consumers to pay a small premium for bio-based materials will ensure their use in packaging applications, according to the Freedonia report.

Further, despite the initial outlay on the part of food and beverage businesses, the decision to go green in packaging could end up paying rich rewards, notes Rita Schenck, executive director at Vashon, Wash.-based nonprofit Institute for Environmental Research and Education (IERE).

“Executives are under pressure to improve the environmental impacts of the packaging of their products,” explains Schenck. “But what may initially appear to be a burden could actually benefit their bottom line. In product design, there are many business advantages to taking the green approach. The cost of packaging and shipping goes down when the package gets smaller. That makes sense, but there are less direct benefits as well. For instance, the cost of shipping can be reduced, as a decrease in package size means you can ship more products than before. There is also a marketing opportunity for corporations who make these types of changes to improve their environmental profile, to say they are green and that they care about the environment with proof of their actions.”

Besides those obvious advantages, there are other pluses to adopting environmentally friendly packaging, she adds. “Using only as much material as needed not only makes sense, it [also] conserves limited resources,” observes Schenck. “But there are actually big opportunities that are important for food and beverage producers, like the opportunity not to waste the contents of their products. When we look at the life-cycle impact of a package vs. its contents, the packaging is often only 10 percent of the total environmental impact of the product. Smart packaging can preserve the product and extend its life cycle, thereby decreasing its environmental impact while increasing its shelf life.”

These clear incentives to go green in regard to packaging are inspiring innovative solutions that can be seen across the grocery store.


Among the many prominent consumer packaged goods names that have recently unveiled environmentally responsible packaging initiatives are Kashi and Stonyfield Farm. Kashi, a brand of Battle Creek, Mich.-based Kellogg Co., has undertaken to reduce several of its packages by as much as 12.4 percent to eliminate waste. Affected products include all varieties of TLC crackers, TLC Fruit & Grain Bars, TLC Chewy Granola Bars, GOLEAN Crunch! Honey Almond Flax cereal and GOLEAN Crisp! Toasted Berry Crumble cereal, with all calculations determined by weight vs. previous packaging design. Despite the reduction, the total volume of food within each package remains the same, the La Jolla, Calif.-based better-for-you brand is quick to note.

“Smart packaging can preserve the product and extend its life cycle, thereby decreasing its environmental impact while increasing its shelf life.” —Rita Schenck, Institute for Environmental Researchand Education

“Optimal health is not only essential for people, but is just as important for our environment,” says Kashi senior nutritionist and natural lifestyle expert Jeff Johnson. “We have a real passion for nurturing and improving the health of the world we live in, and reducing our packaging is just one way Kashi can make a positive difference.”

In an unprecedented application for the yogurt category, the industry's first plant-based plastic for the form, fill and seal machine has replaced the traditional petroleum-based polystyrene plastic (PS #6) used for Stonyfield Farm yogurt multipacks. The new plastic uses 93 percent renewable resources, primarily plant-based Ingeo PLA (polylactic acid). Developed exclusively by Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based Clear Lam Packaging Inc. as part of its “Project EarthClear” program, the packaging is being used for every Stonyfield Farm multipack yogurt cup, including YoBaby, YoToddler, YoKids, B-Healthy, B-Well, Probiotic and O'Soy.

“Stonyfield Farm has invested significantly in finding innovative new packaging alternatives that reduce our dependency on oil and other finite resources, and we're thrilled that Clear Lam was able to offer an industry-leading packaging solution to help support their sustainable packaging initiatives,” notes James Sanfilippo, president and CEO of Clear Lam, which under EarthClear has developed three separate product lines: packaging made from renewable raw materials, packaging made from recycled content, and lightweighting materials. The company is also one of the world's largest extruders and thermoformers of plant-based Ingeo PLA, produced by Minnetonka, Minn.-based Nature Works LLC.

Produced on equipment by Londonderry, N.H.-based Stonyfield, the formed cups are stronger than those made from the earlier polystyrene plastic, providing better impact resistance, according to Clear Lam. Stonyfield uses an offset program to produce a sustainably grown amount of corn equal to the amount used for the cups. Each cup bears a “Made from Plants” stamp on the bottom.


Among beverages, one of the latest eco-friendly packaging rollouts is that of new vintage-dated wines from Bota Box in four popular varietals — Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay — in sustainable 500-milliliter Tetra Pak containers for just $4.99 each.

“When we started the company, we made a commitment to aggressively seek alternatives to reduce our impact on the environment.” —Dave Hillis, redleaf

“We take great care in making sure our wines are packaged in environmentally friendly packaging and, in doing so, have received an overwhelming response from our customers,” said John Garaventa, senior brand manager for Bota Box, a brand of family-owned Napa, Calif.-based DFV Wines. “We knew it was time to push the envelope by bringing something fresh and innovative to quality-and eco-conscious wine enthusiasts. For us, Bota Tetra Paks are a home run: quality wine, sustainable packaging and convenient size.”

The versatile containers are also shatterproof, portable and practical, with a resealable twist-off cap, he adds. In honor of Earth Day, the wine brand will for the third straight year donate a percentage of all sales to the Arbor Day Foundation, with a minimum goal of replanting 20,000 trees to help restore the nation's forests. Additionally, Bota Box will donate an additional $1 to the foundation for every new fan who joins its Facebook page during April.

North America's only ultra-premium bottled water, redleaf, has bowed the industry's first biodegradable and recyclable water bottle in 1-liter and 500-milliliter sizes. BIO BOTTLES, produced by Mesa., Ariz.-based ENSO Plastics, will biodegrade naturally in aerobic and anaerobic (landfill) conditions, and are made of #1 PET, enabling them to be recycled without any special handling.

“redleaf's BIO BOTTLES are a step in the right direction to further reduce the impact empty water bottles have on the environment,” says Dave Hillis, COO of Chilliwack, British Columbia-based redleaf, whose water, sourced from an artesian aquifer, is put through a proprietary purification and bottling process. “When we started the company, we made a commitment to aggressively seek alternatives to reduce our impact on the environment, while still providing customers with superior drinking water. We still have work to do, but redleaf's BIO BOTTLES represent an important step forward in our ongoing mission to provide premium Canadian water in guilt-free bottles.”

In tandem with the release of its product in BIO BOTTLES, redleaf will introduce the “Disappearing Project” this spring, with the aim of highlighting how the packaging disappears under various environmental conditions.

New soft-drink introductions include Rainforest Cola, billed by its manufacturer, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Rainforest Beverages LLC, as a 100 percent natural antioxidant soft drink with real cola taste and featuring an exclusive blend of ingredients, including açai, green tea, ginseng, guarana, stevia, natural sugars and kola nut. The 30-calorie drink comes in 12-ounce Rexam SLEEK cans, which, according to Andre Balbi, president and CEO of Chicago-based Rexam Beverage Can Americas, “is the perfect solution, enabling [the] brand to stand out on retail shelves while delivering superior recycling, sustainability and environmental benefits.”

Fresh Food and Beyond

In the fresh food arena, the new Deardorff Organics brand of produce from Deardorff Family Farms uses ClimaSeries 100 percent recyclable wax-alternative products from Memphis, Tenn.-based International Paper, enabling the grower's retail partners to completely recycle all of Deardorff Organics' corrugated packaging. According to Oxnard, Calif.-based Deardorff, retailers can not only reduce their overall tonnage sent to landfills, they can also augment their bottom lines from the lucrative secondary market in recycled corrugated materials.

Additionally, Deardorff Organics' celery and lettuce bags are made from specially modified plastic from Vancouver, British Columbia based EPI that ensures a much faster and cleaner decomposition in the waste stream, and the produce brand sources plastics used for its clamshells from manufacturers that employ a completely recycled materials supply chain, including post-consumer recycled raw materials. Further, Deardorff seeks out suppliers that have made an investment in alternative energy to power their packaging manufacturing. For more information on the new brand, go to the What's Next section on page 154.

A winner of the Produce Manufacturing Association (PMA) 2010 Impact Award, which judges submissions in the areas of marketing, food safety, supply chain efficiency/functionality and sustainability, the Cored Del Monte Gold Extra Sweet Pineapple Cylinder in a Flexible Pouch, a joint submission by Del Monte Fresh Produce and Lenexa, Kan.-based Robbie Manufacturing, features the packaging provider's Fresh N Tasty Produce Pouch, which imparts a strong green message through its eco-friendly profile. The pouch's packaging footprint is smaller than that of rigid packaging, which means fewer pallets and boxes, and less warehouse space, labor and trucking. As compared with an average rigid container, the Fresh N Tasty Produce Pouch uses 67 percent fewer fossil fuels, produces 71 percent fewer carbon dioxide emissions and results in a 56 percent reduction in solid waste, according to Robbie.

“Retailers understand that packaging is essential to connecting with consumers and are always seeking products that offer convenience.” —Mike Rozzano, Plumrose Foods

Newave Packaging Inc., a division of New York-based Safetek International Inc., said in February that it would begin distributing ewrap cutter boxes for home use to small bodegas and specialty stores, regional supermarkets and big-box stores throughout North America. Newave, which supplies nontoxic, recyclable biodegradable film products in compliance with U.S., U.K. and EU food regulations, also provides machine-wrap rolls of ewrap food film to food-packaging companies, including those that handle meat, pork, poultry and vegetables.

Plumrose Foods'24-ounce Hearty Country Style Thick Sliced Bacon packages are the first to incorporate a Zip-Pak Slider Advantage. The smaller slider clip is not only easy for consumers of all ages to use, it also requires much less material to produce.

“Retailers understand that packaging is essential to connecting with consumers and are always seeking products that offer convenience,” says Mike Rozzano, EVP at Booneville, Miss.-based Plumrose, which recently implemented a companywide sustainability initiative, during which it assessed its manufacturing operations and packaging solutions for ways to reduce energy and material usage. “We look for packaging solutions to provide added value, and the new Slider Advantage delivers.–

“Our focus group research shows that bacon is a product category where consumers value the convenience that resealable slider solutions offer,” notes Elizabeth Sheaffer, marketing manager at Manteno, Ill.-based Zip-Pak. “Consumers are hungry for the same intuitive and easy-to-use functionality that they have come to expect from sliders on other products in the deli aisle.”

The ergonomically designed Advantage can be applied to pre-made pouches and form/fill/seal applications. It can also run on virtually all packaging formats and machinery configurations, eliminating the need to invest in new packaging lines.

Sustainability is also taking hold in the deli/prepared foods section. “We have introduced and created a sustainable EcoCraft product line that is a really great way to help out the foodservice and supermarket industries with sustainability,” notes Laura Rafson, marketing communications coordinator at Chicago-based BagcraftPapercon. “We want people to know that there are many different ways to become sustainable and help improve the environment. They might be as simple as the way their food is packaged, prepared or stored before they purchase their meals. Every effort is a step in the right direction.”

EcoCraft foodservice packaging is made from unbleached natural kraft paper due to its impact in reducing raw materials. The packaging uses 21 percent less wood pulp and 46 percent less water waste, so 16 percent less solid waste is created. Eco-Craft products are packed in 100 percent post-consumer recycled dispenser cartons, and each dispenser carton and tray design includes printed facts and information about the line's improved sustainability. “We save 6,089 trees, and remove 15 full swimming pools of water waste and 13 garbage trucks of solid waste for every 1,000 tons of natural kraft paper produced vs. bleached paper of the same-basis weight,” points out Rafson. “It is improved sustainability at an affordable price.” Bag-craft also recently launched a brand-new design for all of the stock carryout bags in the EcoCraft line.

In other Bagcraft news, the company's ToGo! Hot Meal Packaging bags offer an innovative ventilation system that keeps food flavorful, fresh and crispy. The sustainable natural kraft paper is grease-resistant and provides excellent stain protection, while the clear, anti-fog windows maximize visibility and drive impulse sales. According to the vendor, the bags are significantly more sustainable than rigid plastic dome containers.

“[EcoCraft products provide] improved sustainability at an affordable price.” —Laura Rafson, BagcraftPapercon

Nonfoods packaging is getting in on the sustainability act as well. Introduced at the 2011 International CES show in Las Vegas, MeadWestvaco Corp.'s (MWV) tear-resistant paperboard security carton packaging solution offers brand owners and retailers additional options in security packaging solutions that allow them to display their products on the shelves without the use of obtrusive and expensive security devices such as spider wraps, locked cases and safers, according to Richmond, Va.-based MWV. What's more, the carton's recyclable paperboard, made from responsibly sourced fiber, provides 360 degrees of printable space for brand owners to communicate to shoppers.

Continuing the Cycle

Once green packaging hits the market, the way it can continue to be sustainable is through reuse and/or recycling. To address this issue, industry groups have ramped up their recycling awareness efforts. In one such initiative, the Alexandria, Va.-based Glass Packaging Institute (GPI) — representing the manufacturers of one of the world's first recyclable containers — set out to engage consumers on the topic of recycling and proper disposal through the Earth911 Recycling Directory.

Launched by Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Earth911 late last year, the platform allows sponsors to have their own custom sections on relevant landing pages across the website, in addition to periodic communication with Earth911 readers through relevant stories and news. GPI is sponsoring the site's glass section. The directory's network of thousands of local experts, who contribute recycling information for hundreds of products, make the directory the largest and most accurate in the nation, featuring more than 127,000 programs and locations that support more than 740,000 recycling resources combined.

“The reason why we are working with Earth911 is because of the outreach potential for us to communicate more directly with consumers,” explained GPI president Joe Cattaneo. “We're a trade association for a packaging supplier industry for well-known beverage, food and home care product manufacturers. We normally promote to the trade, so this is a great opportunity to expand our ability to reach out to consumers as well.”

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