According to research from the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), 82% of U.S. consumers think we live in a wasteful society: 71% feel that the amount of waste on land, such as plastic, landfills and litter, has gotten worse since the 1970s, and 77% feel the amount of waste in oceans, including plastics, trash and oil, has worsened during this period. This has instilled a sense of urgency: 75% of consumers believe we need to immediately address about the amount of plastic accumulating in our oceans (as reported by Steve French, managing partner, NMI, in the Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery article “Sustainable and responsible”).
Consumer demand for greater eco-consciousness is influencing packaging decisions. “With a strong push for more-sustainable design — and an emphasis on substrates that are compostable, biodegradable, light-weighted, recyclable or made with recycled material — CPG manufacturers face new challenges in handling bags that often are thinner or more delicate than their predecessors,” said Jorge Izquierdo, vice president, market development, PMMI, in a recent Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery magazine article (see “Sustainability trends in packaging materials and equipment”).
NMI, based on data from its 2020 Sustainability Consumer Trends Database, has found:
- Seven out of 10 U.S. adults believe products are over-packaged.
- One-third (33%) of U.S. adults will look for an alternative product when they see an over-packaged product.
This has led to changing purchase intent for the U.S. population, with 59% of the general population indicating they prefer to buy products from manufacturers that use environmentally friendly packaging materials. That number increases to 80% for organic food shoppers.
Snack and bakery industry leaders clearly see this tide of change and have begun working toward use of more-sustainable packaging. In June, Ramon Laguarta, chairman of the board of directors and CEO at PepsiCo, reported that the company is 88% of the way to its goal of converting to 100% recyclable, compostable or biodegradable packaging by 2025. PepsiCo and its snack division, Frito-Lay, are currently testing 100% industrially compostable thin-film plant-based snack bags in the U.S., India and Chile (see PepsiCo’s “2019 Sustainability Report”).
In order to remain competitive, more snack and bakery brands will need to continue migrating toward a stronger use of sustainable packaging, often working in tandem with packaging equipment manufacturers to find usable solutions for running sustainable materials in existing equipment. In one example, Syntegon Technology has developed upgrade kits for its horizontal flow-wrapping equipment to accommodate paper (see “Syntegon Technology: new standards for sustainable materials in horizontal flow-wrapping”).
“Sustainable paper and mono-material packaging is trending,” said Christoph Langohr, project manager, sustainability horizontal packaging, Syntegon Technology, in the article. “Our upgrade kit allows customers to transition to sustainable packaging materials like cold-sealable paper on their existing horizontal flow-wrapping machines — without any restrictions regarding speed or format.”
In this case, the equipment — when equipped with the upgrade kit — can accommodate both plastic and paper packaging materials so product manufacturers can progressively transition its products to more-sustainable packaging. Transitional solutions also permit test-marketing new packaging solutions before making wholesale conversions for product lines.