The soft drinks market has been forced to face several challenges over the last few years. It was the target for a sugar tax, three years before the National Food Agency’s proposed tax on food products. Particularly with the prevalence of soft drinks in the on-the-go sector, the market is often under scrutiny in regards to mitigating the packaging’s environmental impact and it has taken a more recent hit due to the pandemic, with lockdowns resulting in fewer sales.
It has proved to be a resilient category in recent years with brands successfully reducing sugar or promoting reduced sugar alternatives and making huge strides in recyclable packs, recycled content and alternative materials. And it appears that a financial bounce back is also on the horizon as can be gauged by Coca-Cola’s Q2 results, showing net revenue growth of 42%.
Holly Inglis, beverages analyst at GlobalData, believes the soft drinks giant’s results signals something of a recovery.
“Success for Coca-Cola across all regions in Q2-2021 clearly emphasises a step in the right direction for the company to achieve pre-Covid-19 volumes,” says Inglis. “Not only does growth reinforce the company’s stable market position, but highlights recovery of the non-alcoholic beverages market across many parts of the world, although countries such as India continue to be impacted by Covid-19.
“Coca-Cola’s 14% growth in Q2-2021 for sparkling soft drinks is no easy feat in a category that has continually seen a downward trend in recent years. According to GlobalData’s latest survey (Q2-2021), one in four (38%) of consumers are actively trying to reduce their sugar consumption, which has created a challenging landscape for soft drink producers. Strong brand recognition, alongside continued innovations to core brands such as Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, have helped stimulate this growth.
“For the remainder of 2021, the outlook is positive for both Coca-Cola, and the general non-alcoholic drinks market. However, revival will remain in the hands of how Covid-19 develops. Product innovations and maintaining a strong brand image is vital for long-term success and to maintain consumer attractiveness”.
That positive outlook is backed up by Julian Hunt, vice president, public affairs and communications at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (GB). “On-the-go cans and bottles are enjoying a comeback as consumers get out and about again – value sales of our on-the-go packs of Coca-Cola have grown by 28% in recent weeks,” says Hunt. ”That said, we don’t necessarily expect things to go back to exactly how they were pre-pandemic, and we anticipate more of a balance between on-the-go and take-home formats in the long term as people spend more time working, exercising and socialising in the home.”
Whether targeting on-the-go or home consumption markets, a strong brand image is certainly key and these days many brands will look to reflect much more than quenching thirst on their packs. Brands addressing consumer concerns, and in some cases regulation, over sustainability and health can also be conveyed through design to send clear or subtle signals to the consumer.
Ellen Munro, creative director at design agency BrandOpus, knows all about strong brand image and current trends. The agency recently unveiled a refreshed identity for Britvic’s natural energy drink brand Purdey’s and Munro is able to shed some light on the design trends in that market.
“Gone are the pale, stripped back, diet looks that once dominated the category. Today, it’s all about adding in, not taking away,” Munro says. “Wellness drinks brands are opting for punchy and upbeat designs; daring names, vibrant colours and bold personalities. We’re seeing more illustrative elements being used to drive a narrative over and above the more traditional photography that tends to be very product led. For our recent redesign of Purdey’s, we introduced bold and abstract illustrations to cue the emotional benefits of each variant – creating an ownable treatment on shelf.”
Products such as Purdey’s are created to go beyond rehydration and tap into the lifestyles of consumers.
Munro adds: “There is more of a boldness and braveness coming through in packaging. Soft drink brands are better understanding the importance of connecting with their consumers at a more emotive level. It’s not simply about refreshment. Brands are shifting towards encompassing lifestyles.
“Irrespective of trends, its crucial for brands to instil relevant meaning at a brand identity level and to do that through symbolism. Creating visual metaphorical shortcuts in consumer’s minds builds a more meaningful connection and ensures cut-through in a crowded drinks space.”
A good recent example of creating an on pack metaphor is Coca-Cola’s new look, updating the design system for the Coca-Cola trademark that brings Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar and Diet Coke together in an evolution of the ‘One Brand’ strategy that initially launched in 2016. As a visual metaphor to uplift, the new design raises the Coca-Cola logo to the top of the label. The company’s sustainability drive is also clear on the label with the ‘recycle me’ text written in caps.
Combining messages of health and sustainability is the pack redesign for Daioni Organic which includes its range of ready to drink Fairtrade Coffee Drinks, its line of 1 Litre Long-Life Organic Milks and collection of Flavoured Milks. Emphasising its commitment to sustainability, Daioni Organic has introduced paper straws to the latter range. This makes the dairy business one of the first in the UK to switch to a biodegradable straw.
The refresh is intended to increase consumer and retailer engagement by powerfully communicating the taste, wellbeing, sustainability, farm-to-fridge and ethical offering at the heart of the brand. The business also seeks to tap into accelerated demand from UK consumers for organic food and drink products, which saw sales rise 6.1% year-on-year in 2020.
“Our brand refresh powerfully communicates the provenance of Daioni Organic, its strong family roots and compelling offering that Daioni Organic has at the heart of its brand: that our products have a higher-than-average nutritional profile compared to conventional milk, and are good for the people that drink them, good for the environment and good for the community too,” says Daniel Jones, head of UK sales and marketing at Daioni Organic.
Consumers generally know the health benefits of drinking water and popular UK brand Highland Spring has a name that communicates its natural sourcing which is further accentuated in the label designs.
The brand is keen to highlight its sustainability credentials and while the focus for many has been recyclable plastic bottles and recycled content, Highland Spring, has relaunched its glass range, offering premium and stylish options for gatherings and events, ahead of hospitality restrictions lifting this summer and the return of at-home entertaining.
Mike Buckland, consumer marketing controller, at Highland Spring Group says: “While glass is a small part of the overall water market, we are continually looking to provide choice across our portfolio as part of our ongoing commitment to environmental sustainability. This relaunch, which features a light-weighted bottle to reduce its carbon footprint, completes our offering of natural source water products, with every drop drawn from our protected, organic catchment area on the majestic Ochil Hills in Perthshire, Scotland.”
Getting back to pre-pandemic growth
As previously mentioned, the market has been hit by the pandemic and it might take more than the remainder of the summer (when soft drinks sales usually soar) for it to totally recover. While some of the big names have been able to refresh their packaging recently, others might be reluctant to embark on anything costly until things pick up significantly.
Communicating the category’s efforts in tackling broader environmental concerns
While increased use of rPET and alternative materials, plus imminent deposit return schemes, will give many consumers assurance that much is being done, recent concerns over the possibility that climate change might be responsible for the extreme weather conditions being witnessed globally might push carbon emissions up the agenda.
“We recognise that reducing carbon emissions and minimising packaging waste are intrinsically linked,” says Julian Hunt, vice president, public affairs and communications, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (GB). “That’s why making our packaging as sustainable as possible is an integral part of our carbon reduction strategy and ‘This is Forward’ sustainability action plan. We have set a path to become Net Zero by 2040 and our immediate action plan is supported by a three-year €250m investment that will provide targeted support to decarbonise our business. This includes sustainable packaging initiatives, such as the recent transition of our on-the-go bottles to 100% rPET and converting plastic shrink wrap to cardboard packaging across all multipacks.”
- HKScan’s leading Swedish sausage brand Scan Falukorv 800 g is now packed with Mondi’s renewable paper-based packaging
- By switching from an unrecyclable plastic multi-layer material to paper-based packaging, the carbon footprint has been reduced significantly
Mondi, a global leader in packaging and paper, has worked with Nordic food manufacturer HKScan to provide renewable paper-based packaging for its best-selling Falukorv sausage.
See live on-demand production of unique single-dose sachets that can be opened with a single gesture using one hand with V-Shapes PRIME with in-line printing
According to the latest insight from Defra, more than 67% of all packaging materials placed on the market in 2020 were recycled. Indeed, of the 12.6 million tonnes of packaging waste arisings, PRNs were issued for 7.8 million, including 76% of all metal packaging, 75.8% of glass and 65.6% of paper and cardboard.
But while packaging recycling rates should undoubtedly be celebrated, it’s important to pause and consider the 33% that didn’t make it to the reprocessing line – either sorted and sent for incineration or simply dumped in landfill. A minority percentage, granted, but still more than 4.8 million tonnes of waste – a weight equivalent to 32 blue whales, or 384,000 double decker buses.
Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation (Alupro) general manager Tom Giddings discusses why material choice, packaging design and product labelling can play a hugely pivotal role in engaging consumers, changing behaviours and maximising kerbside recycling rates.
Who is to blame?
The easy answer would be to point the finger of blame at a plethora of external factors, all combining to justify this tonnage. After all, insufficient education, inconsistent collection systems, accidental contamination, and dwindling consumer engagement all undoubtedly play their part.
However, we should instead see this as an opportunity to further improve packaging recycling rates. As an industry, we have an obligation to work collaboratively to reduce the volume of packaging sent to landfill and improve the circularity of the supply chain. As an industry, we need to find a solution.
But what can packaging manufacturers do to help? In short, by not only leading the way with incremental improvements when it comes to material choice, packaging design and product labelling – three elements capable of revolutionising recycling rates – but also by reaching out to brands and encouraging them to make more sustainable choices when it comes to their packaging choices.
Design for recycling
When it comes to effective packaging design to maximise recycling rates, simplicity is key. We need to make it easy for consumers to recycle their spent packaging, not a chore to separate material types, identify which can and which can’t be recycled, research which streams they should be placed in and be engaged throughout.
As such, we need to ensure that product packaging is designed, from the beginning, with the end goal of optimum recyclability. In essence, embracing design for recycling principles.
Smurfit Kappa announces the launch of its Green Finance Framework
Smurfit Kappa Group has launched its Green Finance Framework and commences discussions with potential investors on a new green financing transaction.
The Green Finance Framework will support green issuances from Smurfit Kappa that finance assets and expenditures associated with circular economy adapted products, production technologies and processes and/or certified eco-efficient products and environmentally sustainable management of living natural resources and land use.
The Green Finance Framework is aligned with the ICMA Green Bond Principles 2021 and the LMA Green Loan Principles 2021, which have been confirmed by ISS ESG in a positive Second Party Opinion.
The Green Finance Framework is reflective of the sustainable nature of Smurfit Kappa’s business model, with eligibility criteria that span the geographic scope of the group’s operations and take into account its efforts to produce circular products, using certified sustainable raw materials and implementing circular production processes that are subject to continuous improvement, both in terms of environmental and social metrics. As such, Smurfit Kappa’s approach to sustainable financing will also mirror what the group is, a global business which places sustainability at the centre of its operating model.
Garrett Quinn, chief sustainability officer, commented: “Setting up this framework and issuing green finance instruments is a further significant step in our sustainability strategy, embedding sustainability into our capital structure alongside our sustainability-linked revolving credit facility, and complementing the dedication of everyone in Smurfit Kappa, where we make a sustainable product in an increasingly sustainable way.”
Smurfit Kappa has mandated ING and Rabobank as Joint Green Structuring Advisors, and BNP Paribas, Citigroup, ING and Rabobank to arrange on its behalf a series of virtual fixed income investor meetings commencing today, (Monday, 13 September 2021). An inaugural, green, EUR 1 billion, Regulation S, senior, unsecured, dual-tranche offering with 8-year and 12-year maturities is expected to follow, subject to market conditions.
Smurfit Kappa intends to use an amount equivalent to the net proceeds from the offering to finance eligible green projects under its Green Finance Framework. The group intends to issue a notice to redeem its senior notes due 2024 from existing cash on hand and/or existing available facilities, should a transaction follow. BNP Paribas will be coordinating logistics and an electronic deal roadshow presentation will be made available.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, the european tube manufacturers association (etma) reports stable deliveries in the first half of 2021. The total deliveries of aluminum, plastic and laminate tubes even increased slightly by 0.5 percent to a level of around 6 billion units.
While deliveries to the pharmaceutical industry fell by 11 percent, deliveries to the dental care market increased by 4 percent, to the cosmetics market by 2 percent and to the markets for food and household products by as much as 10 percent and 13 percent respectively.
Active Packaging has a variety of products to offer the bakery trade , from thermoformed films for the baked breads, form fill and seal packaging films for the garlic baguettes to paper products for everyone’s favourite pies and buns.
Our products can be printed to the very highest quality and obtain the optimum packing speeds to give you maximum efficiency.
Top web is printed to the highest quality of flexoprinting, high gas barrier films, high clarity and high puncture resistance, films are available in multilayer co extrusion or multilayered laminates.
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I hadn’t seen my friends Mark and Sherry for a year due to COVID-19 and my own schedule demands. So, when I found out there was a “good-bye” party for them because they were moving to Florida, my wife and I decided to go. We pulled up in our car, and I saw a guy stepping out of his that looked like Mark — but a much smaller, healthier version. Then Sherry stepped out looking smashing. I said, “Hey guys, is that you? What happened?” It turns out, they went on Jenny Craig and each lost nearly 50 pounds. How did they do it? They simply signed up and subscribed.
My friends are shining examples of a trend sweeping through the consumer landscape. Rather than running back and forth to a grocery store, they let their service do the shopping and preparing for them. It’s more convenient — and healthier. Services like the one they use, Jenny Craig, have been around for years. During the pandemic, meal subscriptions really took off.
According to the Business of Business, “Americans spent $100 million on meal kits in the month ending April 11, doubling sales from 2019, according to Nielsen via WSJ. Earnest Research shows online meal-kits growing 63% over the same period. The industry is cautiously predicted by Grocery Dive to hit 20 billion by 2027 and see 13% annual growth.”
Meal-kit services initially met with industry skepticism by leading sources such as Forbes which called them “DOA” back in 2018. In fact, here’s what they said:
“A recent study conducted on the amount of package waste generated by meal kits is indicative of the growing backlash against the industry. Meal kits are more time consuming than they appear, the subscription model is stone age and restrictive, and the taste of the meals suffer from extreme variance.”
When you think of wildly popular services like Netflix, Hulu, Jenny Craig, Amazon Prime, Chewy, and countless others, the subscription model seems more like the future than the stone age.
What does this mean for packaging? Let’s look at a few examples of how meal kits are trending.
Yumble: Simple sustainability focuses on easy recycling.
We start with Yumble. The inspiration of New Jersey mom Joanna Parker, Yumble offers healthy pre-made meals for kids delivered via a subscription service. The brand makes sustainability a priority. To quote from their website, “Meal trays are made from PP #5 plastic and can be recycled with standard curbside recycling, along with the paper sleeves on each meal. The shipping box is fully recyclable and may be recycled with regular paper.”
Speaking of the shipping box, the design is truly engaging. Fun typography and simple graphics of veggies against a clean white background. Inside are individual meal packs, each with its own unique graphic treatment. Each order contains a variety of meals, along with games and other activities to make eating healthy a kid-friendly event. The packaging speaks to the environmental concern of the parent. Overall a winner. No wonder Bethany Frankel backed this brand on Shark Tank.
Soylent: “Let us take a few things off your plate.”
Soylent is another player in the food-subscription marathon. This brand promotes its nutritional value as a key selling point. Producing the protein in Soylent involves much less CO2 impact than equivalent products. The company promotes an ethical brand message based on Soylent’s outreach to the world’s undernourished populations.
The packaging, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) bottles, which are commonly recycled in the US along with polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and its website recommends that consumers be responsible about recycling. In other words, it cares, and is open about its sustainable positioning. That said, the products are still in a “plastic bottle.”
Speaking of that, the design is sleek and contemporary as befits a whole new way to get nutrition. It looks like the future. (But anyone who remembers the 1973 movie Soylent Green might pause before consuming these products, just sayin’.)
Jenny Craig: The champs do it best.
The Jenny Craig meal plans work, as my friends Mark and Sherry can attest. The brand has been in the subscription meal business for 35 years. Although their plan options are anywhere from $12.99 to $23+ a day, they have a dedicated following.
With the emphasis on sustainability, Jenny Craig recently announced its new eco-friendly packaging. The delivery box features Green Cell Foam insulation that dissolves in water, and the outer delivery box is 30% smaller and completely recyclable. The aesthetic is clean, tasteful, and the logo is given the hero treatment it deserves.
All this sounds great, but the sustainable claims being made are hard to calculate. When you compare the strain packaging and delivery trucks put on the environment — against countless individual consumers going to and from retail stores, buying and wasting food, the calculus gets mind boggling. Also, what about the recent waves of supply chain shortages? When the waves ebb and flow, do subscription services hold up, or are they impacted the way everything else is?
The term "active packaging" describes any packaging system that performs a function in addition to holding food. More specifically, active packaging interacts with the environment surrounding the food, thereby rendering the food inside fresher, safer, or more pleasing to the consumer. More than a passive barrier between food and the environment, active packaging systems employ materials that react with oxygen, prevent increased carbon dioxide concentrations in the package, or protect the food from degradation due to light exposure or water vapor. Another form of packaging currently being developed, known as "intelligent packaging," can indicate, by changing color, the temperature at which the food has been kept, the passage of time, or evidence of food spoilage.
Among the active packaging systems currently finding use with food products are so-called oxygen scavengers. Because oxygen accelerates the spoilage of many foods, and can effect flavor and color, oxygen scavengers are used to reduce oxygen levels in the headspace of food packages. The scavengers can either be incorporated into the packaging itself or added to the packaged food in small sachets. Similarly, ethylene scavengers are being utilized to trap the ethylene that is produced by ripening fruit or vegetables. By incorporating a chemical reagent into a packaging film to "gobble up" the ethylene, or by including ethylene-scavenging sachets, the shelf life of produce can be extended.
Current Regulations Are Up to the Task
The development of nascent active packaging technologies is giving rise to questions about how they should be regulated. Do additional regulatory requirements come into play when packages actually perform a function, beyond holding and storing food, that may affect the quality of food? How should testing be conducted on a food-contact substance that changes over time?
All food-contact substances must comply with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act). A substance that meets the Act's "food additive" definition will be considered "unsafe" unless it is used in accordance with an applicable food additive regulation or an effective food- contact notification (FCN). A "food additive" is defined in Section 201(s) of the Act as a substance that is reasonably expected to become a component of food under the intended conditions of use. Food additives that result from incidental exposure from a package may be referred to as indirect food additives (i.e., those not added directly to the food). Statutory exemptions from the "food additive" definition are provided for substances that are "generally recognized as safe" or are used in accordance with a sanction or approval issued prior to the enactment of the Food Additives Amendment of 1958. Some food-contact substances have received specific exemptions from FDA on a case-by-case basis under the "Threshold of Regulation" rule. Food that contains an "unsafe" food additive (i.e., one that is not being used in accordance with an applicable regulation, exemption, or notification) is deemed adulterated, per se, under Section 402(a)(2)(C) of the Act.
As discussed earlier, various chemicals or scavengers can be added to packaging with the aim of reducing the spoilage rate of food, or to maintain some characteristic of the food. The Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) anticipates food additive substances that may be added to packaging with the intent that they have physical and technical effects on food-contact articles (21 C.F.R. § 174.5 ("General provisions applicable to indirect food additives")). The regulation specifies that these additives shall not exceed, where no limitations are specified, amounts required to accomplish the intended physical or technical effect in the food-contact article.
Further, under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, a company is entitled to determine independently whether the use of a substance for a particular food-contact application gives rise to a food additive situation. As the food additive definition implies, a suitable regulatory status for a substance may be established based upon a determination that the substance is not reasonably expected to become a component of food-the so-called "no migration" exemption.
FDA's guidelines for migration studies are available on the Agency's website. The guidelines note that, because a food-contact substance may be used in contact with many foods with different processing conditions and shelf lives, migration data should reflect the most severe time and temperature conditions to which the food-contact substance will be exposed. Exaggerated temperature conditions represent an acceleration of what may be expected to happen to a food-contact substance over time. Thus, FDA has anticipated that a food-contact substance may have a changing effect on a package over time. In fact, as an example, the guidance cites the effect of an antioxidant in preventing oxidation degradation of a particular polymer. The "technical effect" refers to the effect on the food-contact article, not on the food. Many oxygen scavengers and the like affect the headspace surrounding the food, but do not change or adulterate the food.
Therefore, determining migration of components from a package that is designed to change over time requires no different a theoretical approach than what currently exists. However, particular attention in designing migration testing protocols must be paid to detecting byproducts which may be formed. If a properly designed and conducted study shows that a food-contact substance is not reasonably expected to become a component of food under the intended conditions of use, it is not a food additive by definition, and may be used without any prior action by, or consultation with, FDA.
If Activity Is on Food as Well as the Package ...
On the other hand, certain packaging technologies involve additives that are intended to change the quality of the food itself. For example, enzymes can be added to the inside of citrus juice packaging in order to degrade the bitter compounds in the juice. Certainly, this type of packaging, designed to effect the food itself, must be evaluated as a direct food additive. Similar technologies, including edible films and packages intended to impart food ingredients, spices, additives, or supplements directly to food, all would be evaluated not as packaging but as direct food additives.
Thus, regulatory mechanisms exist that can adequately be used to evaluate active packaging. While there are some situations that seem to complicate the regulatory picture, standard FDA analysis brings it back into focus. For example, ethanol has been shown to increase the mold-free shelf life of bread and other baked products when sprayed onto product surfaces prior to packaging. As long as the packaging additive is protecting the packaging from growing mold, which in turn discourages the growth of mold in or on food, then the packaging is not a direct additive, but should be regulated as an indirect additive. This is because the mold inhibition is due to the conditions surrounding the food, and not because of a change in the food itself. If, however, an additive is actually bestowing a technical effect in the food itself, the additive has become a direct food additive.
Oxygen in a package can also lead to nutrient loss and microbial attack. Thus, the use of oxygen scavengers may actually have an effect in the food itself-not just the headspace in the package-and may have an antimicrobial effect as well. Such materials might be applied to inhibit mold growth on packaged baked goods and cheeses, given that most molds require oxygen to grow. Further, slowing the oxidation of vegetable oils can delay rancidity of the oil. Technology is also being developed to release high levels of carbon dioxide inside of food packages, which can inhibit surface growth of microorganisms.
Further regulatory considerations must be addressed when the packaging attempts to affect microbial activity. While stopping the formation of mold on a package may simply be considered "active packaging," adding a microbiological packaging material opens a completely new regulatory requirement. Any use of an antimicrobial in or on food packaging is regulated as a food additive by FDA, regardless of whether the antimicrobial is intended to have an ongoing effect on any portion of the packaging. Such uses include production aids, materials preservatives, or uses that have a sanitizing effect.
However, while jurisdiction over the safety of antimicrobial pesticide residues used in or on food packaging materials falls under the purview of FDA, these products also must be registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as required by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. Further, when antimicrobial activity on packaging is intended to be ongoing, EPA exercises jurisdiction over food safety issues.
As new active packaging technologies find their way into global markets, the existing U.S. regulatory structures are sufficient to stand up to the task of assuring the safety of food contained inside. The more difficult challenge lies in characterizing the effects of the additives in packaging so as to determine if they should be considered food-contact substances, direct additives, or even antimicrobials. So before your firm goes to market with aqua-if-fresh, fuchsia-if-foul, mold-resistant active packaging, careful consideration is required to determine exactly what is being done to the package and to the food, how it is being done, and why.
An inclusive, gender-neutral collection of multi-tasking waterless products in packaging that promotes a more circular and sustainable future.