Bakery and deli packages are undergoing a metamorphosis, of sorts, as the retail industry forges ahead toward a sustainable future. New packaging options are coming to the forefront, as retailers work closely with suppliers to introduce sustainable packaging that suits today’s customers’ needs.
Katherine O’Dea, senior fellow with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, says the industry is working to develop a common set of metrics and guidelines to help streamline the process of supermarket efforts to adopt new sustainable packaging options. Three pillars of sustainability, she points out, are economics, social and environmental impact.
“Packaging design should consider the complete system and complete lifecycle,” she notes. “Metrics should be relevant to producer and consumer needs and align with relevant international standards.”
David Stanton, director of North American Retail for NatureWorks LLC, which is owned by Cargill and applies its proprietary technology to process natural plant sugars to make the Ingeo biopolymer (PLA), points out that new innovations in resins are providing the industry with more tools to produce environmentally friendly packaging for food products. And he believes the consumer world is welcoming such advances.
“Consumers expect retailers and brands to take small steps on their behalf to provide them with more environmentally friendly products,” Stanton says.
New Packaging Options
As momentum for the green packaging movement advances, Clear Lam Packaging, Inc. recently announced a major advancement with the development of the new, renewable packaging for America's leading pretzel brand, Snyder's of Hanover. The new bag created for the Snyder's of Hanover organic product line uses renewable raw materials that are 90 percent plant-based, part of Clear Lam's Project EarthClear packaging initiatives.
During a year of research and development, Clear Lam replaced conventional petroleum-based plastics with a unique material derived primarily from renewable Ingeo PLA (polylactic acid). When compared to traditional petroleum-based packaging, the renewable raw materials are produced with as little as half the energy1 and generate as little as 52% fewer greenhouse gas emissions in the manufacturing process.
"We're pleased to bring this technological breakthrough to our customers in order to support global sustainability initiatives," said James Sanfilippo, President and CEO of Clear Lam Packaging, Inc. "This is a major milestone and another important step in our effort to provide meaningful packaging solutions that are better for the environment."
A key engineering challenge faced by Clear Lam was finding a way to maintain similar performance characteristics to traditional petroleum-based packaging materials. Clear Lam derived a way to produce the new plant-based packaging with the appropriate properties to make the bags act and feel like conventional bags.
"Our launch of this new renewable plant-based packaging is just the latest example of our company's commitment to utilizing products and practices that minimize negative effects on the environment," said Claude O'Connor, Vice President of Marketing at Snyder's of Hanover. Snyder's organic pretzel product line includes 8 Grains & Seeds, Whole Wheat & Oat and Honey Whole Wheat. A new line of Gluten-Free Pretzel Sticks will be launching soon.
The 2009 International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association conference featured a wide number of sustainable packaging innovations, and the following companies are among those that exhibited new products.
Anchor Packaging offers new takeout foodservice packaging under its MicroRaves line, featuring packaging that is resistant to heat and leaking with anti-fogging clear polypropylene lids and available in a variety of shapes, sizes and configurations. MicroRaves Incredi-Bowls come in 5-, 8-, 10-, 12-, 16-, 24-, 32- and 48-ounce capacities in polypropylene. They withstand up to 230 F when staged under hear lamps, in warming tunnels, or when heated in the microwave. The MicroRaves line also includes packaging for rotisserie chickens, ribs, and other deli and bakery foods. www.anchorpacking.com
Minipack America recently introduced the new Ego Tray, a new line of paper-based corrugated, custom-sizable dual ovenable trays. The patent-pending design flips open, and closed, for easy icing, cutting and product removal. It is the only corrugated tray to offer flat rigid corners for stackability or shingling of food products on display. The tray is designed for use in the bakery and deli. Two trays are designed as a bake-in for the bakery, and two trays are designed for the deli as a hot food tray and salad tray. The microwaveable, ovenable baking tray is a cost effective alternative to metal, foil and plastic. When removed from the oven, the product feels warm – not hot – to the touch. Insulating properties of the corrugated tray promote even baking while corrugated heat retention reduces baking cycle. www.minipack-america.com
Wilkinson Industries, Inc. offers the new EcoServe Square tamper-resistant lid as a more secure, cost-saving sealing option for its recently-launched container line. The lid is the industry’s first tamper-resistant NaturesPLAstic polylactic acid (PLA) alternative for small square disposable food containers. Wilkinson’s entire EcoServe Square line (8-, 12-, 16-, 24-, 32- and 40-ounces) has identical base dimensions and an orifice of 4.5-inches, which means that one lid size fits all. Wilkinson Industries also launches the new Fresh Performance 13-inch round, six-compartment black polyethylene terephthalate (PET) tray in both vented and non-vented transparent PET lid options. Ideal uses include catering, institutions, foodservice, deli, gift packs, fresh-cut produce, vegetables, cheese, candy, nuts, processed meats and more. www.wilkinsonindustries.com
PWP Industries this summer opened their new 80,000-square-foot in-house plastics recycling facility in Davisville, WV. PWP is working with Coca-Cola Recycling LLC of Atlanta to convert post-consumer polyethylene terephthalate, or PETE, bottles into Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-compliant resin for food grade-suitable material. The new recycling center, one of the first for a thermoforming company, is estimated to have an annual capacity to recycle 40 million pounds of recycled PETE flake. PWP becomes one of the first food packaging thermoforming companies in North America to make their own post-consumer recycled resin and use it in the production of their own products. www.pwpindustries.com
The Hot-N-Handy Bio-Pouch from Robbie Fantastic Flexibles is a specially designed food service sandwich wrap adopted throughout the United States. The sustainable structure is used for freshly prepared sandwiches and replaces rigid polystyrene containers typically available at delis, convenience stores and other locations. The Bio-Pouch has a built-in gusset which allows for various sizes of sandwiches to fit into one pouch, thus eliminating the need to stock multiple SKUs for each sandwich. The Hot N Handy Bio-Pouch was honored with two Gold Awards from the Flexible Packaging Association in 2009: One for Environmental and Sustainable Achievement and a second for Packaging Excellence. www.robbieflexibles.com
Dedicated to meeting the world’s needs today without compromising the earth’s ability to meet the needs of tomorrow, NatureWorks LLC is the first company to offer a family of commercially available low carbon footprint polymers derived from 100-percent annually renewable resources with cost and performance that compete with oil-based plastics and fibers. The production of these biopolymers uses less fossil fuel and emits fewer green-house gases than conventional polymers. The company applies its proprietary technology to process natural plant sugars to make Ingeo biopolymer, which is then used uniquely to make and market finished products under the Ingeo brand name. NatureWorks is an independent company wholly owned by Cargill. www.natureworksllc.com
Bagcraft Papercon offers a broad line of flexible paper packaging for foodservice customers and supermarkets, including rotisserie and fried chicken packaging, deli ToGo! packaging, bakery and deli interfolded pick-up sheets, bread bags, waxed bakery bags, pastry bags, sandwich wraps, bakery pan liners and more. Flexible paper packaging offers right-size packaging that fits the product and reduces waste, and paper is a renewable resource that is biodegradable and compostable. www.bagcraft.com
Clear Lam Packaging, Inc. unveils a new rollstock packaging innovation – EarthClear PrimaPak, which joins the EarthClear line of advanced packaging technologies and materials that help processors and retailers minimize their environmental impact. PrimaPak can be produced in a wide variety of sizes for a variety of consumer products – both food and nonfood. PrimaPak is available for potato salad, pasta salad, mini muffins, coleslaw, meats and cheeses and nuts as well as for other foods, detergents and more. The product combines the merchandising and re-closable benefits of rigid packaging with the economies of traditional flexible packaging. www.clearlam.com
Defining Sustainable Packaging
The Sustainable Packaging Coalition envisions a world where all packaging is sourced responsibly, designed to be effective and safe throughout its life cycle, meets market criteria for performance and cost, is made entirely using renewable energy and once used, is recycled efficiently to provide a valuable resource for subsequent generations. The mission of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition is to advocate and communicate a positive, robust environmental vision for packaging and to support innovative, functional packaging materials and systems that promote economic and environmental health.
The criteria presented below blend broad sustainability objectives with business considerations and strategies that address the environmental concerns related to the life cycle of packaging. The coalition believes that by successfully addressing these criteria, packaging can be transformed into a cradle to cradle flow of packaging materials in a system that is economically robust and provides benefit throughout its life cycle – a sustainable packaging system.
Is beneficial, safe & healthy for individuals and communities throughout its life cycle;
Meets market criteria for performance and cost;
Is sourced, manufactured, transported, and recycled using renewable energy;
Maximizes the use of renewable or recycled source materials;
Is manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices;
Is made from materials healthy in all probable end-of-life scenarios;
Is physically designed to optimize materials and energy;
Is effectively recovered and utilized in biological and/or industrial cradle to cradle cycles.
Packaging Codes – What Do they Mean?
The SPI plastics industry trade association introduced its resin coding system in 1988 at the urging of recyclers across the country. A growing number of communities were implementing recycling programs in an effort to decrease the volume of waste subject to rising tipping fees at landfills. In some cases, these programs were driven by state-level recycling mandates.
The SPI code was developed to meet recyclers' needs while providing manufacturers a consistent, uniform system that could apply nationwide. Because municipal recycling programs traditionally have targeted packaging – primarily containers – the SPI coding system offered a means of identifying the resin content of bottles and containers commonly found in the residential waste stream.
The overwhelming majority of plastic packaging is made with one of six resins: polyethylene terephthalate (PETE); high density polyethylene (HDPE); polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl); low density polyethylene (LDPE); polypropylene (PP); or polystyrene (PS). The SPI resin identification code assigns each of these resins a number from 1 to 6.
polyethylene terephthalate (PETE) – examples: soft drink and produce containers, clamshells
high-density polyethylene (HDPE) – examples: milk jugs, bacon board packaging
polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl) – examples: clamshells, rigid containers
low-density polyethylene (LDPE) – examples: newspaper bags
polypropylene (PP) – examples: microwaveable/prepared foods containers
high-impact polystyrene (HIPS) – examples: hot and cold drink cups
Other – examples: PLA NatureWorks
The SPI coding system also includes a seventh code, identified as "other." Use of this code indicates that the product in question is made with a resin other than the six listed above, or is made of more than one resin used in combination. The "other" code was developed to address legislative demands in some states that all consumer packages fitting certain size and functional parameters feature a resin identification code.