Bumble Bee Foods looking at plastic packaging alternatives to metal cans driven by cost pressures, use of plastic packaging technology in Germany, but company concerned about sustainability, executive says

LOS ANGELES , April 16, 2012 () –

Bumble Bee Foods LLC is looking at plastic packaging alternatives to metal cans due to cost pressures and the use of plastic packaging technology in Germany, but it remains concerned about sustainability, said a company executive, reported Packaging World Magazine on April 3.

“When we see a competitor in Germany doing salmon in a plastic container, we certainly want to be looking into such things,” said Brian Stepowany packaging development manager for Bumble Bee Foods.

THE San Diego, California-based company has been drawn to look into plastic cans because the cost of metal cans and lids rises “with each new wave of supplier consolidation,” Stepowany said, according to the article on Packaging World’s website.

This type of alternative packaging is already being used in Germany and “bears looking into” if the formats are lighter and less expensive than metal, said Stepowany. Plastic pouches are a strong option but only in certain product lines, he noted.

Plastic alternatives, however, have to stand up to temperature extremes in retorting and the rigors of manufacturing and distribution systems. Some of Bumble Bee’s lines run at 1,000 units per minute and have a shelf life of up to four years, said Stepowany, Packaging World reported.

Metal cans also have sustainability advantages as they are easily recycled at a high rate; whereas, some complex plastic cans might have nine layers of different materials for high performance, heat resistance and barrier protection, which complicate the recycling process, he said.

“It’s going to be a matter of finding the right fit of materials,” Stepowany said, adding that plastic packaging options would have to “provide quality” and “fit into out production environment,” reported Packaging World.

Camden, New Jersey-based Campbell Soup Co. is using more plastic containers, noted Stepowany. Speaking about customer acceptance of new formats, he said that consumers shifted “pretty readily” to buying products like mustard and ketchup -- and even alcohol -- in plastic containers.

Nearly 40% of Bumble Bee’s packaging is done by contract packagers and many these are located overseas, which presents cultural issues that have to be addressed, including language challenges, said Stepowany, Packaging World reported.

The primary source of this article is Packaging World Magazine, Chicago, Illinois, on April 3, 2012.

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