The importance of food and beverage packaging cannot be overemphasised as it has a significant effect on protection and the shelf life of products. The main function of packaging is to protect food and beverage products and potentially improve their preservation. At Paulig, we will never compromise on product quality and food safety as we work towards our sustainable packaging goals.
We asked Kati Randell, Paulig’s Strategic Packaging Development Manager, about the challenges in food packaging. How can we at Paulig ensure that our products are packed in sustainable materials that protect the product? Achieving these goals is not easy and they pose a number of challenges.
Recycling plays an important and challenging role
When it comes to environmentally friendly packaging, recycling is one of the preconditions. It is also a topical issue that is discussed widely. Our main focus now is to develop packaging so that by 2025 all packages are recyclable.
“It’s great that so many consumers prefer to sort empty packages. However, recycling is much more than just sorting packages, it also requires that the material is actually recyclable and it ends up in a facility where it can be recycled. Recycling methods need to expand and evolve around the world. Also, there must be demand for the recycled material. The entire value chain, including packaging raw material producers, packaging manufacturers, food producers and recyclers, must collaborate to improve the recyclability of packaging,” says Kati.
Another challenge is the absence of a clear definition of recyclability in the European Union. This means there are inevitably big differences between countries in how they handle recycling and what the criteria for recyclability actually are. The lack of a common definition and standards creates challenges for companies working in different markets to develop packages which are recyclable in different markets. However, there are voluntary collaborative initiatives such as the Circular Economy for Flexible Packaging (CEFLEX) initiative. Paulig has chosen to use the CEFLEX guidelines on packaging recyclability development. In line with the guidelines, 86 per cent of consumer/OOH packaging in terms of weight and all transport packaging at Paulig already meets this target.
Renewable and recycled materials are the next step
Even though the share of packaging in the carbon footprint of our products is relatively small, usually less than 10 per cent, we have committed to working towards circularity and the development of lower-carbon packaging for all our products. Increasing the share of renewable and recycled materials is the next step. “At Paulig, our aim is to ensure that by 2030 all of our packages are made from renewable or recycled materials. Achieving this target requires a lot of long-term work and collaboration to find solutions to all the challenges regarding the availability and price of new materials, the quality of our products, as well as runnability on packaging lines,” says Kati.
Plastic is invaluable as a packaging material
Plastic is used in food and beverage packaging because it protects the product extremely well and prevents food waste. Often, however, plastic is criticised by consumers as being harmful to the environment. As with all other materials, the correct sorting of plastic is one key element in preventing environmental pollution. Many food and beverage plastic packages can already be recycled and have a second life in new products. However, certain packages, especially multilayer plastic packages, need to be developed so that they are suitable for recycling processes.
“It’s important to raise awareness of sorting and recycling and remind people that no package should end up in nature,” says Kati.
Paulig invests in finding new solutions
Paulig has been working innovatively for years to improve the sustainability of packaging together with its customers and partners. “We have many success stories but there are also numerous projects and initiatives that fail. We invest in packaging development and the collaboration around these projects is important for us,” says Kati.
“You’ll never find new solutions if you don’t have the courage to invest resources in innovative projects.”
You can read more about our packaging development initiatives:
- Pulled Oats® changed to more durable cardboard packaging that provides better protection against breaking, protecting the product and helping to decrease food waste. By replacing plastic packaging with a plastic wrap, the amount of plastic used was reduced by 30 per cent.
- Collaboration with Mondi led to replacing fossil-based raw materials in the laminate of Paulig premium coffees with a renewable, sugarcane-based material. Now in collaboration with UPM, we have been piloting tall oil-based raw materials in the laminate of Paulig Café New York.
- In the Santa Maria tortilla packaging, Paulig replaced some of the plastic with paper in 2019. This reduced the carbon footprint of the package by 35 per cent.
- Paulig took part in a research project led by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, which aimed to develop renewable and recyclable material for the food industry to replace fossil plastic. This is an example of a project and innovation that did not yet meet all the requirements set by the industry but provided all of us with valuable lessons.
In the future, we intend to continue investing in and developing packaging materials with our partners. Now the focus is on recyclable materials, and we will proceed next with tortilla and coffee packages.
Our aim is to be a sustainable frontrunner in the food and beverage industry and encourage everyone else to make sustainable choices.