3 Helpful Trends In The Food Packaging Industry You Should Know

Ask companies working in the consumer-packaged goods (CPG) sector and they’ll tell you that gaining a competitive edge can be a challenge. Shoppers are inundated with choice and standing out, both in and out of the store, is tough.

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Recycled Carton Packaging

However, savvy food and beverage brands should take note that packaging presents a unique opportunity to connect with shoppers. Consumers are willing to pay more for sustainability, with sustainable product sales forecast to grow in the U.S. through 2021. In fact, 50% of the growth in consumer packaged goods between 2013 and 2018 came from products marketed as sustainable.

So, as you gear up for 2020, here are three sustainable packaging trends to know about.

Trend 1: Big brands catering to millennial and Gen Z demand for sustainability

Millennials and gen Z have been driving much of the recent conversation around environmental sustainability, climate change and reducing landfill waste. More importantly, they’re holding brands accountable. A whopping 74% of millennials are altering their buying habits to be more environmentally conscious. Increasingly, consumers are expecting brands to offer sustainable packaging.

Major brands are already stepping up to reduce packaging waste. McDonald’s, for example, has made commitments to reducing waste and using renewable, recycled or certified sources for all of its guest packaging by 2025.

Trend 2: They’re also turning to paper for sustainability

Thanks to innovation, food manufacturers are able to use paper at a large scale, while still guaranteeing product quality and freshness throughout the entire shelf life. Nestle recently touted this by launching new recyclable paper wrappers for its YES! snack bars – part of an overall commitment to make all of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025.

Looking at the benefits, it’s easy to see the environmental value in making the switch to paper. Paper’s ease of recyclability and ability to be remade into new materials is a major environmental benefit. In fact, numbers from the EPA suggest that paper is the most widely recycled municipal solid waste. Approximately 44.2 million tons of paper and paperboard were recycled in 2017 alone, giving it a recycling rate that’s much higher than any other material.

Consider the role that using recyclable paper, versus synthetic materials, can play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Recycling just one ton of paper reduces emissions by the equivalent of one metric ton of carbon. Collecting paper for recycling also requires less energy than producing comparable products – typically, reducing CO2 emissions by 0.5 kg for every kilogram of product.

Trend 3: The circular economy is gaining traction

When it comes to food, consumers are on the hunt for packaging that can go into the recycling bin, but also which comes from recycled sources. In one survey from this year, 41% of respondents said they look for recyclable packaging.

CPG manufacturers play an important role in supporting this by designing and selecting packaging that is both recyclable and is made with recycled content from post-consumer material. Following in the footsteps of leading brands by setting public goals for recycled content (LUSH cosmetics being one example) is a good start.

We’ve helped many food brands take actionable steps by offering EnviroLife™ 100% post-consumer recycled fiber, which is compliant with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) standards for food grade packaging, having received a no objection letter (NOL) stating that the fiber is “of purity and suitable for food contact use”, without the need for a barrier or coating. The overall environmental impact of this line is also a much more sustainable choice overall. In our Life Cycle Assessment – which quantifies our environmental footprint – we found it to have an environmental impact on climate change that’s 26% less than virgin fiber.

Recycled and recyclable content go hand-in-hand, as part of the circular economy – something we’re big proponents of at Sustana Fiber – and packaging presents an exciting opportunity to innovate and prove to consumers that you’re willing to take action on the environment. With sustainability already proving to be a competitive advantage for brands, savvy food and beverage brands will increasingly take note of recycled-content packaging in 2020.