Mar 1, 2019

Sustainability & Food Packaging – What Food Manufacturers Need to Know

food manufacturers and sustainable packaging


As the demand for sustainability continues to grow in the food industry, it’s no surprise that it has now expanded into food packaging. In fact, according to the Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report, 66% of consumers will pay more for products from sustainable brands and 73% will actually pay more for sustainable products – and food packaging is no exception.

What does this mean for you as a food manufacturer?

While consumers are becoming more health conscious, their desire to be environmentally-friendly has grown, too. For consumers, this means seeking out healthier food options in sustainable packaging. But what does it mean for you as a food manufacturer?

Well, consumers aren’t the only ones demanding more sustainable practices. In addition to banning plastic, governments have begun mandating recycling and reusable materials. For example, more than 70 bills were introduced in state legislatures during the 2017-2018 legislative season in the United States regarding plastic bag bans, fees, and recycling programs.

So, with consumers and legislation both demanding more sustainable packaging, it’s time for food manufacturers to incorporate sustainable packaging into their business and consider the environmental consequences of said packaging to increase their market share.

And with companies like PepsiCo and Modelez committing to the sustainable food packaging push, you don’t want to be left behind.

What should you do?

Join the movement.

Some have already joined the sustainable food packaging movement with things like water-based ink, insulated packaging made from jute and material recycle from burlap bags, and even a USDA-developed edible, biodegradable packaging film made of casein, a milk protein, that can be wrapped around foods such as meat, bread, and cheese, to prevent spoilage. And, items like the “plastic” net made from pulp to package fruits and vegetables, the “perfect steam tray” to package frozen fish and vegetables to cook in the microwave, and the edible seaweed packaging prove that sustainable food packaging is possible and the innovations are endless.

Although the above options are extremely innovative, maybe you need a simpler option to hop on the sustainable packaging train. If so, here are a few things you can do:

  • Adopt one type of packaging: When multiple materials are used in packaging, it’s common for only part of the packaging to be recyclable, often requiring the consumer to separate the materials to recycle, which doesn’t always tend to happen. Therefore, by simplifying your packaging to use just one or two materials, you can make your packaging easier to recycle and therefore, more sustainable.
  • Avoid black plastic: Black plastic is harder to recycle than transparent plastic with current recycling technologies as the black carbon pigments can’t be detected when sorting plastics for recycling. This means that the recyclable material can only be diverted to energy from waste facilities or landfill. If you switch to plastics made of more easily identifiable colors, your packaging can be more widely recycled.
  • Use alternative materials: Because recyclable materials vary across the world, the best materials to use for packaging are paper and cardboard, as these can be recycled everywhere. While moving away from plastic completely may not be feasible (or ideal) for you in the food industry, you can look to adopt cardboard and paper into packaging wherever possible to help remove excess waste in the supply chain.

Implement an ERP system that can help you save more and make more

Making a switch to sustainable packaging can be costly, with production costs for sustainable options about 25% more than traditional packaging. By making a move to sustainable packaging, this may be a necessary cost. But, with an ERP system that is working efficiently for you, you can put your mind at ease that although you may be spending more for your sustainable packaging, your ERP system is working to save you more than ever. And, while sustainable packaging may help your food sell, it won’t guarantee a repeat purchase. For that, you must have a quality product. Find out how NorthScope can help you verify the quality of the product you sell while working to save you money by scheduling a demo today.