Reduced Packaging Equals Reduced Waste For Processors Seeking Sustainability

Four processors share their experiences of package lightweighting.

By Kate Bertrand Connolly, Packaging Editor

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The 125g product is designed as a “mono portion,” he adds. Because reclosability is unnecessary, the package has no overcap, just a heat-sealed membrane across the top of the package.

Lighter-weight glass

Snoqualmie WineEven glass packaging is losing weight: Witness new lighter glass bottles for the full range of wines from Snoqualmie Winery, Paterson, Wash. The company announced the update in April.

Snoqualmie reports that the new bottles for its two wine tiers — the Eco (formerly Naked) organic tier and the Columbia Valley tier — are made with 25 percent less glass than conventional wine bottles. Ardagh Group, with North American headquarters in Muncie, Ind., supplies the bottles.

The new bottles were crafted to assure the package’s performance despite the reduction in glass, according to the bottle supplier.

“It is in the design of the bottle,” says Andrea Laughlin, marketing manager-wine, at the Ardagh Group. “Height, bottle punt size, and in some cases shoulder profiles are all given slight modifications. The end result is a container that is lighter but has the same shelf appearance and attributes of a heavier bottle. The bottles Snoqualmie uses also have the same wall thickness and strength as the heavier bottles they replaced.”

Although consumers sometimes associate the heft of a wine bottle with the wine’s quality, that perception has not touched Snoqualmie.

“For the higher-end luxury brands — say a $50 bottle of wine — yes, definitely, [heavy] says luxury, and they have very heavy bottles,” says Kirsten Elliott, senior marketing manager for Snoqualmie.

But the Snoqualmie Eco and Columbia Valley wines are in the $8-13 range and, more importantly, Snoqualmie is a certified-organic vineyard. “For the Snoqualmie consumer, I think they appreciate that we are looking out for sustainable options from the vineyard to the winery to the packaging — all the way through,” Elliott says. “We haven’t seen any negative.”

Snoqualmie also made several other environmentally friendly choices when it redesigned its packaging. Its new corks are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and Rainforest Alliance, and the new labels are made with 100 percent post-consumer fiber.

And its new white-wine labels, supplied by Smart Planet Technologies Inc., Newport Beach, Calif., are made with less plastic than labels typically used on bottles of white wine.

Improved availability and pricing for greener packaging components helped drive the redesign. The Snoqualmie packaging hadn’t been updated in a few years. “In that time, there had been significant advancements in terms of cork sourcing and label technologies, as well as the Eco [Series] glass from our glass supplier.” Elliott says. Such developments “made these choices easier … and more cost-effective.”

Giving trays the boot

Nonnis BiscottiAnother approach to reducing packaging is to eliminate unnecessary package components, which is what Nonni’s Foods LLC, Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., did. Earlier this year, the company announced it had removed the clear polystyrene trays from 85 percent of its retail biscotti cartons.

Nonni’s estimates its dramatic tray reduction will reduce its plastic use by 148,840 lbs. — the weight of 7.5 million trays — in 2014 alone. Because polystyrene packaging typically is not collected in curbside recycling programs, these numbers, to a large extent, reflect reduced waste to landfill.

Getting rid of the trays also will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by eliminating 12 semi loads of empty trays coming into Nonni’s production facility annually.

To determine whether its biscotti would suffer from the elimination of trays, Nonni’s worked with a third-party testing company to see if product breakage was greater when trays were removed from the cartons. The firm did drop and shake testing, and Nonni’s performed its own UPS and pallet-shipping tests.

The test results showed “there was no measurable increase [in breakage] on any of the chocolate-bottomed items” in packages without a tray, says Matt Duffy, director of marketing at Nonni’s.

This information cleared the way for removal of the tray from packaging for eight of Nonni’s nine biscotti varieties. The company still uses the tray-in-carton package for its Originali variety. The Originali Biscotti are not dipped in chocolate and are more fragile than the other varieties; therefore, they require a more protective package.

Referring to the package downsizing, Duffy says: “We’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do, and it is in response to consumer feedback we’ve received over the years. A number of consumers had expressed concern with the plastic tray and interest in removing it. We wanted to respond to consumer interests as well as be a more responsible company.”

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