Research shows that consumers prefer environmentally friendly packaging, and the food and beverage industry has responded by offering sustainable solutions that have altered the look of product lines. While sustainable packaging has been available for a few years now, the newest technologies and materials reflect how manufacturers are getting innovative with their eco-efforts.
A recent Perception Research Services International announcement revealed that consumers are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly packaging, and more shoppers in 2011 (36 percent) indicated that they would opt for eco-friendly packaging compared with 2010 (28 percent).
“We’re seeing a great opportunity for manufacturers to provide truly value-added packaging to their target shoppers by making it more environmentally friendly — primarily in the form of recyclability and recycled content — and clearly communicating these aspects,” said Jonathan Asher, executive vice president of Perception Research Services, with the survey announcement.
Manufacturers are listening, as evidenced by continual new releases of green packaging solutions. Here, we highlight some of the emerging and award-winning packaging technologies, and some that may soon become staples in the food and beverage industry.
Compostable Metallized Papers
An alternative to metallized films, foil laminated papers and foil, which is not always easy to recycle, is compostable metallized packaging. Just last month, Vacumet Corp., the manufacturer of metallized papers, announced the launch of its new line of 100-percent compostable metallized papers.
The innovative papers are available in various weights and functional performance characteristics and may be used for sandwich bags, wraps and pouches for various applications. According to Vacumet, the papers are also tested and certified to be biodegradable in a managed composting facility, meeting ASTM D-6868 standards.
Eco-Friendly Thermal Boxes
Thermal insulated boxes are imperative for some food item shipments, but now manufacturers are demonstrating how that type of packaging can be more eco-friendly. One example is cold chain packaging company ThermoPod, which provides patented, biodegradable and/or recyclable temperature-control packaging solutions.
While ThermoPod’s green insulation packaging is not exclusive to the food and beverage industry, its shipping containers are green solutions to similar but less environmentally friendly options. The temperature-control packaging is said to be unique because it features ultra-insulating padding, created from patented “purified recycled textile fibers,” according to the company. Also, to contain leaks and spills, the packaging features a super-absorbent fiber and an EPA-approved antimicrobial additive to prevent cross-contamination.
Another green insulation packaging trendsetter is InCycle Insulating Containers by MicroGreen Polymers Inc. — a 2012 winner of the DuPont Awards for Packaging Innovation. The insulating cups and foam trays are examples of the packaging lightweighting trend, i.e., “doing more with less.”
With this particular packaging, an ad-air solid state microcellular plastic process is used to achieve the insulation needed to keep containers hot or cold. According to DuPont, MicroGreen Polymers “uses non-reacting, recycled carbon-dioxide gas to thermoform recycled PET plastic rolls into inherently insulating trays and cups.”
The benefit of such packaging is that while it is a greener option than other packaging, it also weighs less than similar cups and containers.
Plant-Based Plastic Containers
Plant-based plastics first emerged a few years ago in the food and beverage packaging industry, and some companies are big proponents of this trend. Coca-Cola, for instance, which launched its recyclable PET plastic bottle, called PlantBottle, in 2009, has plans to offer all of its beverages in the sustainable packaging by 2020, SmartPlanet reported in 2011. Also last year, the company and its PlantBottle packaging earned the Edison Awards and a DuPont Award for its packaging innovation.
The PlantBottle looks and functions like PET, yet this greener alternative packaging uses materials that are up to 30 percent plant-based. Traditional PET packaging uses petroleum-based plastics.
The leading beverage brand is not alone in its plant-based packaging efforts. Recently, Heinz began a strategic partnership with Coca-Cola, as part of its eco-conscious Join the Growing Movement campaign. According to Packaging Digest, all of the company’s 20-ounce ketchup bottles available in retail stores and restaurants will be the PlantBottle.
For more eco-packaging trends and the full winners list of the 2012 DuPont Awards for Packaging Innovation, click here.