Tea purveyor Harney & Sons sought to improve the sustainability factor of its flexible pouch for loose teas—moving them from a non-recyclable pouch to a more favorable eco-friendly vessel. “Since 2006, we’ve been a member of 1 percent for the planet, and our goal is to move toward more recyclable and compostable components in our packaging,” says Emeric Harney, Harney & Sons marketing director. The company needed to locate a partner with the same vision to make this a reality and give back to the environment that grows the world’s teas. The company chose to partner with TC Transcontinental Packaging due to its strides in the custom development of sustainable flexible packaging films such as compostable films for coffee and compostable pouches for peanuts. 

TC Transcontinental Packaging’s R&D team was called on to develop a custom flexible packaging film that met all of Harney & Sons criteria for a 100 percent recyclable loose tea flexible plastic pouch. To begin, a multilayer, flexible packaging barrier film was not currently commercialized for a food product. A multilayer, co-extruded film is essential to preserve the delicate flavor of tea by protecting the product’s natural oils that give tea leaves a smooth flavor and finish. An ideal structure for a flexible plastic stand-up pouch that will preserve the product will typically include PE (polyethylene)—serving up an excellent moisture barrier—and EVOH (ethylene-vinyl alcohol copolymer)—a material that provides superior barrier resistance to gases such as oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. 

Although the PE/EVOH combination is outstanding when it comes to preserving food and maintaining freshness, barrier films could not be recycled because of the durability of the polymers involved and the incompatibility of the polymers in the structure, until now.

Other challenges to consider were that the newly developed structure required the additional attributes of durability, the ability to withstand the rigors of packaging and processing; machinability, maintaining high production speeds; sealability, ensuring seal strength and package integrity; and ensuring high-quality graphic reproduction. 

TC Transcontinental Packaging engineered a custom structure designed to meet the needs of the customer and keep the premium to a minimum. It created a custom multilayer barrier film used for the stand-up pouch that is 100 percent recycle-ready for in-store drop off, has an EVOH barrier for product preservation, has seal strength and durability, and allows for beautiful reproduction of the Harney & Sons’ luxurious heritage matte black-and-gold graphics. Keeping consumers in mind, convenience features include an easy-open laser score and a recloseable zipper to ensure functionality of the stand-up pouch.

One of the key components that made this barrier film possible was the incorporation of Dow’s RETAIN resin technology which allowed for compatibility of the EVOH barrier to create a fully recyclable multilayer film. “Dow is thrilled to collaborate across the value chain with companies like TC Transcontinental Packaging and Charter NEX Films to bring to market one of the first, 100 percent recyclable, finished high barrier stand up pouch for Harney & Sons,” says Chris Gandy, North America market manager for Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics Adhesives business.

In regard to the premium cost, Harney & Sons believes what is important to the company is also important to its customers and will be demonstrated at the till. According to Nielsen, Millennials are twice as likely (75 percent versus 34 percent) than Baby Boomers to say they are definitely or probably changing their habits to reduce their impact on the environment. They are also more willing to pay more for products that contain environmentally friendly or sustainable ingredients (90 percent versus 61 percent), organic/natural ingredients (86 percent versus 59 percent) or products that have social responsibility claims (80 percent versus 48 percent). At this point in time, Harney & Sons’ move to a recyclable stand-up pouch has had a favorable response from customers, which is encouraging.

By promoting and supporting innovation in flexible packaging, more businesses and organizations will be encouraged to develop better solutions to the world’s biggest challenges. The goal should be to the floodgates of possibility for more food processors to take their sustainability initiatives a step further by increasing the recovery of plastic and post-consumption plastic waste without sacrificing food preservation.

Consumers want to know that brands are supporting something bigger that benefits the local and global community. No longer does a company’s reputation rest solely on the shoulders of what’s being sold. Rather, the increase in social consciousness and demand for a human element has consumers interested in what the company believes and what it is doing about it.  

To learn more about TC Transcontinental Packaging, contact Rebecca Casey VP, marketing and consumer market development at Rebecca.Casey@tc.tc.