Matchmaking: Conscious consumers want sustainable packaging

20/04/2023 | 3 min read

A brief glance at the refrigerated shelves in a local supermarket quickly reveals current trends: food that can be eaten quickly but is still part of a healthy diet. Vegan alternatives with a smaller environmental footprint are also becoming more and more popular. What is the key ingredient that ensures all these products arrive at the consumer’s fingertips safe and sound? Packaging. And it needs to be as sustainable as possible.

We are living in fast-moving times. Many consumers only have the time to prepare a balanced meal at home at the weekend, if at all. This explains the continuing popularity of ready-to-eat products that can be consumed quickly on a lunch break or as a snack. At the same time, awareness of environmental, health, and ethical issues is also increasingly affecting purchasing decisions, with people looking specifically for food made from natural, local, or even organic ingredients that have ideally been ethically produced. The growing trend toward vegetarian and vegan lifestyles proves that more and more people are putting a great deal of thought into their diets – with both health and moral concerns in mind.

These attitudes also need to be reflected in the way the products are packaged. Plastic waste, which inevitably arises in this product category, is a major annoyance to many consumers. However, turning the dream of a packaging-free supermarket into a reality is difficult. While this concept may work well in some product categories – such as loose fruit, vegetables, and baked goods – the majority of foods need to be packaged in order to protect them and facilitate their transportation.

As a result, the challenge facing the packaging industry is to develop concepts that meet requirements for convenience and sustainability in equal measure. Not to forget the fact that we eat with our eyes first. Packaging promotes the product on the supermarket shelf. It has to stand out by being aesthetically appealing, whether due to its shape, decoration, or design.

Greiner Packaging takes various approaches to satisfy all these requirements:

  • Reduced plastic usage
  • Monomaterial packaging
  • Increased use of recycled materials
  • Bespoke packaging designs

Reduced plastic usage: less plastic, more sustainability

There are a whole host of ways to reduce plastic usage. One option that has proven particularly successful over recent decades is the cardboard-plastic combination. This solution consists of a thin plastic container wrapped in a cardboard sleeve, which can be made from recycled material if desired. Both components are readily recyclable as long as they are separated from one another and disposed of correctly. This is made especially easy by the intuitive, new Greiner Packaging tear-off system and the innovative K3® r100 design, which is the first self-separating cardboard-plastic combination. In addition, window cutouts can be incorporated in the sleeve to give consumers the opportunity to take a first look at the product inside as it sits on the shelf. This makes buying decisions easier, whets the appetite, and is particularly important in the salad segment, in which consumers are eager to check in store that they are about to purchase a fresh product. Spreads have also been increasingly offered in K3® packaging in recent years. They include products sold by German company Popp Feinkost, which are a perfect example for the match between veganism and cardboard-plastic packaging. The plastic container, made of PP, is covered by an attractively printed cardboard wrap which provides enough space for the company’s messages. The bottom of the container is also covered with cardboard, and it is on this base that all the nutritional information is printed along with the product’s barcode. This is particularly handy, as it makes the packaging easy to scan at the checkout counter.

The cardboard-plastic combination we chose for our packaging perfectly underscores what we are trying to achieve with our new, vegan spreads: to bring tasty and  environmentally friendly products to the market.

Alexander Schmolling, responsible for Marketing at Popp Feinkost

The spreads are available in three varieties: Fresh Cream Natural, Fresh Cream Herbs, and No-Bazda (a vegan twist on Bavarian Obazda cheese spread).

Aside from K3® solutions, there are plenty of other ways to cut down on plastic – for example, by means of lightweight packaging. This involves reducing the weight of plastic packaging by making special adjustments to the way it is made. Greiner Packaging offers these lightweight options in various sizes. For example, the company’s one-liter containers are suitable for salads in larger quantities targeted at families or food service establishments. They weigh up to 28% less than the containers made in previous production processes. The reduced material usage means that fewer resources and less energy are required without compromising the tub’s functionality or its compatibility with filling lines or logistics systems. The tub is decorated using in-mold labeling. The label and the tub are attached to one another and produced from the same material, making the design ideal for recycling. As are the following solutions …

Monomaterial: a single material for maximum recyclability

Monomaterial solutions are those in which the entire packaging solution is made of a single material, which is a clear advantage in terms of recyclability. As a rule, the fewer materials combined in a given packaging solution and the more cleanly the individual plastics can be separated from one another in the recycling facility, the more effectively they can be prepared for recycling. Many companies are currently making a deliberate switch to solutions of this kind.

One example of a monomaterial packaging solution with a snap-on lid is the container design used by Austrian company Neni Am Tisch for healthy, snack-sized Israeli dishes. Like the containers themselves, the lids are made of highly transparent PET and allow the packaging to be resealed. For security, the containers are wrapped in a tamper-evident paper sleeve. Made with a high level of recycled content, this monomaterial packaging is ideal for recycling and also makes a visual impact at the point of sale. Its transparency shows the product in the best light, and the sleeve provides important information.

Greiner Packaging helped us to develop the packaging by providing technological expertise and highly competent project management.

Ilan Molcho, CEO of Neni Am Tisch

Another example of a monomaterial solution – this time, one with a sealing lid – is the packaging used by Austrian business Otto Schachinger for its range of lards. One of the lid’s benefits is that it does not require lidding foil, which is usually made of aluminum. However, the packaging is still tamper-evident and the product well protected. And because the container and lid are made from the same material, the packaging is easily recyclable.

More recycled material, smaller carbon footprint

When it comes to requiring the use of recycled material in packaging, there are already numerous regulations and plans in place in Europe and beyond. Increasing the use of recycled material significantly reduces both resource consumption and CO2 emissions.

r-PET is currently the only mechanically recycled material that has been granted a positive EFSA opinion, permitting its use for food applications. Since recycled PET has a very high level of transparency, it is especially suitable for salads and ready-to-eat products, because it gives consumers the opportunity to check before they buy that the contents are fresh. PET’s low oxygen permeability, which provides strong product protection, is also a clear plus point – particularly for spreads, which consumers expect to have a long shelf life.

Neni am Tisch’s products are a perfect example of this, too, with the Middle Eastern light bites’ packaging made with 30% recycled material.

Bespoke packaging designs

The fact that consumers often lack the time to prepare extravagant meals does not mean that their desire for quality food has diminished. Many products available today take an “assembly kit” approach, where the consumer combines various ingredients to create a meal that suits their taste perfectly. When the concept is applied to packaging, the multichamber container is the result. This form of packaging consists of different compartments that are separate from one another. This way, any additional ingredients can be kept separate from the main product, such as aromatic dressing finishing tasty mozarella cheese.

Your contact for the salads, savory spreads, and veggie & vegan segment at Greiner Packaging:

André Flaspöhler
Global Business Development Manager

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