‘Light-weight’ food packaging key to sustainability targets

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Plastic Baby food

The Heinz fridge pack is a prime example of how firms are reducing the weight of packaging while extending shelf-life
The Heinz fridge pack is a prime example of how firms are reducing the weight of packaging while extending shelf-life
Industry targets and government policies are driving significant investment in innovation for more lightweight plastic packaging that extends shelf-life, as food manufacturers continually seek to drive down volumes of waste and cut carbon emissions.

That’s the view of Pim Vervaat, the newly appointed chief executive at global plastics packaging firm RPC.

Speaking to FoodManufacture.co.uk​ at the firm’s German site in Lohne, Vervaart said most of RPC’s innovation investment over the next year would be centred on “light-weighting”.

RPC has recently launched its Apollo ‘plastic jar’ which looks like glass but is substantially lighter.

These developments were being driven by manufacturers seeking to significantly reduce the weight of packaging to improve their sustainability performance, Vervaart added.

Unilever commitment

“Companies like Unilever have a commitment to reduce the weight of their products by one third, and these trends will continue,”​ he added.

“Light-weighting will continue to be our focus. But we also need to provide the whole package; so we also have to get the decoration and the functionality right while also beating glass and tin in terms of cost. This is a very competitive industry and we need to keep offering good value.”

In addition to reducing weight, RPC’s David Rourke said the firm was also striving to help food firms drive down waste by extending shelf-life.

He cited the Heinz plastic fridge pack for baked beans as something which reduces the overall level of packaging and can be kept in the fridge for up to five days after being opened.

“The more we can do things like this to extend shelf-life, the more manufacturers can get real savings across the supply chain,”​ he said.

Unsurprisingly, Rourke was keen to talk up the benefits of plastics over tin and glass in terms of weight, sustainability and shelf-life benefits. But he pointed to the baby food sector as a prime example of how food firms were moving away from traditional glass designs.

Ten years ago “conservative experts”​ would not have expected plastic packaging to now account for the same share of the market as glass.

Baby food boom

However, technological developments and its adoption by high-end organic baby food manufacturers meant it was now the norm on supermarket shelves, he said.

“At one point all of the research said mothers would not accept plastic packaging for baby foods, but that has completely changed. We believe the split of the market is now fifty-fifty,”​ Rourke said.

The fact that plastic packaging is increasingly been used by organic baby food manufacturers has significantly boosted its reputation, said Rourke, who added it showed how innovation could change mindsets.

While Rourke predicted that the baby food market would continue to be the dominant growth area in RPC’s food sector, Vervaart conceded that the “Achilles heel”​ for plastic packaging remained around recycling.

“However, while we are not there yet, plastic recycling is catching up with glass and metal,”​ he said, pointing to Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) figures that showed a 51% increase in plastic recycling since 2001.

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1 comment

Recycled plastic quality

Posted by John Kazer,

It is true that plastic recycling rates are increasing, but the real challenge is turning this into a food-safe form.

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