While sustainable packaging can be divided into three categories - environmental, economic, and social - food packaging and processing operations most directly address the environmental area from two perspectives: materials and operations.
Materials can often be “low-hanging fruit” for food
manufacturers looking to enhance their sustainability offerings. These can be packaging
formats that contain renewable materials or a greater proportion of recycled
material - or simply use less material (e.g., downgauging, lightweighting) - without
compromising the durability of the structure. Other sustainability tactics on
the materials side include smaller packages with highly concentrated products.
For food manufacturers, the manufacturing and
distribution process is where large resources are expended. There are a
tremendous amount of opportunities to grow sustainability here - and it all
starts with approaches to lean out their operation. Modern machine solutions are also designed to
be more flexible to handle multiple formats, material gauges, and multiple
package sizes. Modern packaging and
processing equipment is designed to save utilities, especially water, and reduce
downtime during changeover. In addition to water, companies are adjusting how
they power their production facilities including utilizing alternate energy
sources to improve their sustainability ratings, and perhaps reduce costs. Dairy
processors are also exploring alternative shipping methods to reduce
As new technologies are consistently developing
that not only make sustainable products possible but also enable manufacturers
to meet their own sustainability goals through cost and waste reduction within
their production lines.
Processing and packaging partners should
communicate goals early in the process. Often, important adjustments need to be
made in machinery setup to capitalize on these innovations. The processing and
packaging solutions experts can help to identify any technical hurdles that may
arise, increasing the likelihood of success.
To prevent incompatibilities that can lead to a
jammed manufacturing line, food manufacturers should look for highly versatile
equipment. Equipment that can easily change settings to handle packaging in a
wide range of shapes, sizes and materials offers high value to dairy processors
that foresee a packaging transition in their future. It is also important that
the team responsible for the new packaging selection work directly with their
operations counterparts to understand what will run on existing equipment and
any new equipment needed to accommodate different materials and containers.
At PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2011, more than 1,600
exhibitors are showcasing the full spectrum of material, container, packaging
and processing equipment solutions. This is a powerful resource for food
manufacturers seeking to enhance their approach to sustainability. Special
pavilions of interest include The Brand Zone, which spotlights material and
container innovations that enhance shelf appeal as well as sustainability, and
Reusable Packaging Pavilion (sponsored by the Reusable Packaging Association),
which highlights reusable pallets, hand-held containers, bulk containers,
dunnage, technology and other services for transport packaging solutions.
But timing is key. More than ever, food
manufacturers are seeing the potential benefits of enhancing their products with
sustainable materials. Consumers are increasingly seeking packaging that helps
to minimize brands’ environmental footprint, and consumer packaged goods companies
(CPGs) respond in their efforts to maintain or increase brand loyalty.
Additionally, the material and energy savings resulting from steps to enhance
packaging sustainability have helped reduce production costs in many instances,
reducing the cost impact that “sustainable packaging” presents a burden on
CPGs. More and more, the efforts of food manufacturers to use sustainable
packaging materials are becoming the norm, not the exception.
For more information, visitwww.pmmi.organdwww.packexpo.com