Brand owners and retailers are “hungry” for new sustainable format packaging solutions, and 56% of CPGs are switching or considering new packaging formats to improve recycling.
In 2019 the Flexible Packaging Association reported that 67% of brand owners were putting more effort into sustainability efforts, and statistics show consumers are buying these sustainable products. In the U.S., products marketed as sustainable made up $113.9 billion in sales in 2018, an increase of 29% from 2013. Sustainable products grew, on average, 5.6 times faster than products not marketed as sustainable, and accounted for 50% of CPG market growth from 2013 to 2018.
But while reducing packaging’s impact on the environment can build brand loyalty and connect with customers, changing a product’s packaging format - particularly novel and/or highly functional changes - can add challenges when testing and formatting new materials. Also, CPGs are looking for even greater machine flexibility to handle variances in recycled materials.
“One of our main challenges is communicating the up and down sides of implementing sustainable packaging with CPGs to help make them aware of the impact at all levels of their organization,” said a Packaging Services Director at a material supplier.
Some of the package format changes that CPGs are implementing include using more standup pouches than bags; moving from PVC to PET, or from PET to aluminum; changing from rigid to flexible or returning to paper from plastic; eliminating bags and filling directly into paperboard cartons; migrating from 100% virgin plastic to 100% PCR plastic, or using more sustainable labels.
An Operations Director at a personal care company said, “Our goal is 100% recycled materials in the future; looking for biodegradable closures now but we have not yet found a solution.”
Materials innovations such as recyclable barrier layers, renewable plant-based materials or 100% recyclable mono-material with barrier properties are all being explored, and while biodegradable and compostable materials are becoming more popular, other exciting innovations like edible membranes are emerging.
These changes create machine challenges. The pharmaceutical industry requires thorough equipment validation with each packaging change. Conveying lighter gauge materials can cause jams and sealing and closing during filling can be a problem with thinner film. Also, machinery requires highly reliable data collection from sensor feedback to measure sustainability goals accurately.
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Source: PMMI Business Intelligence, “Packaging Sustainability: A Changing Landscape 2020”
Make plans to visit PACK EXPO International in Chicago, November 8-11, to see on-trend sustainable processing and packaging machinery and materials.