Sustainable Food Packaging - What You Missed and What's to Come

Stephen Pero

Stephen Pero

February 4, 2022

Here at Industry Intelligence, we understand how vital sustainability is across the entire food supply chain, which is why we’re as passionate about food packaging as we are about packaged food. If you haven’t been using our service that monitors sustainable food packaging, you might have missed some key innovations over the past year. Here’s a rundown of my favorites:  
Last January, Nestle switched its entire range of Smarties products to packaging made from coated paper, paper labels or cartonboard. This even includes their sharing bags, multipacks and giant hexatubes. The switch to paper will remove 250 million plastic packs per year! 

Nestle isn’t the only one going paper - Mars Wrigley UK made their Maltesers boxes fully recyclable last September after switching to Metsa Board’s coated barrier board solution, eliminating a PE liner that generated 82 tonnes of plastic annually.  

Kellogg’s also ditched the plastic liner in December when it began trialing a paper one for its Corn Flakes boxes in the UK and Ireland, making the packaging fully recyclable. Since even recyclable plastic liners are often difficult to collect and may not be processed by a curbside recycling service, this move shows the practicality of paper-based packaging alternatives and the importance of having a holistic view of sustainability.  

Where other manufacturers might be tight-lipped about their sustainability secrets, last February General Mills said, “Go ahead, take ours!” To help drive sustainability across the entire snack and CPG industry, their Nature Valley Brand chose not to patent a newly developed wrapper that can be recycled to create new products like synthetic lumber and decking equipment. The wrappers, which take advantage of a new, advanced film processing technique and unique PE polymers, are also certified Store Drop-Off recyclable by How2Recycle, showing the company’s different approach to the curbside recycling problem.  

And of course, who could forget when Chobani created a buzz last August by being the only major US food maker with a paper cup in the yogurt aisle. The 80% paperboard cup was first used with the brand’s single-serve Oat Blend yogurt, with a promise of more applications to come.  

While there are some amazing sustainable solutions already out in the world, the future of food packaging is more than just paper vs. plastic. There are plenty of exciting, active innovations on the horizon: 

For example, did you know that scientists are working on an oxygen-removing film that extends the mold-free shelf life of bakery products by as much as 25 days? As if doughnuts in my house would last that long anyway!  

Or did you know that the next food packaging films might be made out of coconuts? Researchers just found a way to replace synthetic plastic with biodegradable coconut industry waste to create films that had better mechanical, thermal, optical and antioxidant properties compared to other films. The incorporation of essential oils means the films had hydrophobic and antimicrobial properties as well. Is there anything coconut can't do?

As you can see, if you’re looking to discover the next big breakthrough in sustainable packaging, you might want to look in your compost bin for inspiration – or just keep an eye out for Industry Intelligence’s ever-growing R&D content.  

Stephen Pero is the Research & Development editor at Industry Intelligence, which can help YOU better address your own industry challenges. To arm yourself with the latest market intelligence, contact or call 310-553-0008 if you’re interested in receiving or sharing the IMPACT report with your colleagues or partners. 


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