Sustainability through Packaging

It’s not a business choice—it’s a responsibility to the global supply chain


A number of industry leaders and product providers touted their message and initiatives in promoting sustainability through packaging at yesterday’s American Packaging Summit in Chicago but perhaps no one brought it more home than National Geographic Fellow Barton Seaver, also the Director of Healthy and Sustainable Food Program for the Center for Health and the Global Environment; chef; and author.

“Packaging is no longer just a delivery mechanism—it’s a powerful communication tool,” Seaver confirmed. “We can use packaging very powerfully to sell a message. You work so hard to get that package into my life—but the most lasting effort is not the nourishment from that product—it’s about the packaging that it was delivered in.”

“And packaging in manufacturing—putting a ‘no bpa’ label on a product—sustainability is so much more than just responding to the latest negative trend,” he continued. “Sustainability becomes a way for your company to differentiate itself on the store shelf. And consumers have an equal responsibility in this sustainability matter.”

In the case of PepsiCo, a global food and beverage leader with over 300, 000 employees and over $67 billion in revenue, a number of principles that continue to guide its packaging today include:

  • Commitment
  • Consumer foresight
  • Design
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Flexibility: speed to market
  • Advantaged cost

 

“Design is critical to PepsiCo,” said Denise Lefebvre, Vice President of Global Beverage Packaging for PepsiCo Inc. “We really need to educate consumers that, every time they touch a product, it means something to the brand.” In her morning keynote, she explained how critical product design becomes, often times holding a more powerful message than through advertising because the packaging is the first experience and interaction a customer is faced with in picking up a product off a store shelf.

“What’s iconic for PepsiCo is that we have cool brands that are in the global market which show our ever-changing style and innovation,” she continued. “To do that, we had to consider ‘what did we want to be true? What was our strategy? What were the principles that we were going to hold ourselves to? We wanted packaging to be a competitive advantage through differentiated packaging.”

In fact, just last week the company’s Pepsi brand announced its first design update in 16 years—a new single-serve bottle for its portfolio, including Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Pepsi MAX and Pepsi NEXT.

But along with its iconic brands comes the company’s driving sustainability initiative, perhaps most evident in how far its Tropicana brand has come through packaging, now made of a “unique resin that enables the company to produce bottles at a lower cost and provides a product in a package that is the No. 1 recyclable package in the global marketplace,” said Lefebvre. The resin used to manufacture PepsiCo’s Tropicana handleware bottle is 100 percent compatible with the PET recycling infrastructure.

Efficiency in all supply chains

Among the number of lessons learned not just for attendees but also for exhibitors on day one of the American Packaging Summit, changing product design to become more sustainable can lead to:

  • Better stability on line
  • Better material optimization
  • Improved line functionality
  • Increased job stability

 

As manufacturers and suppliers look to global expansion, they must identify how to best become more efficient in their supply chains to bring sustainable packaging to other markets. An important part of that delivery process, pallets today have come a long way in their design and engineering structure, evident through discussions with a number of such product provider’s who discussed their sustainability initiatives on the show floor yesterday. “Just because it’s a pallet doesn’t mean you can’t drive other uses from it,” said Jerry Koefelda, Senior Director, New Product Commercialization, Rehrig Pacific Co.

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