The packaging - which is made from a mix of calcium carbonate (chalk) and plastic - is said to be particularly good for dairy products because is not rigid like traditional packaging used for products such as yoghurt. "According to one Swedish study, each year about 74 tons of yoghurt is thrown away in Sweden because it cannot be got out of the package," said company spokeswoman Louise Hobroh. "Ecolean is soft, which means all the yoghurt can be easily squeezed out." Ecolean was launched in 2002 and has focused mainly on Russia and China, as the company's founders - ex-TetraPak employees - already had good contacts there. "The dairy market there is also more open than in western Europe, so we saw more opportunities," said Hobroh. Environmental benefits But with consumers in western Europe now increasingly aware of the need to protect their environment, the product's 'green' credentials are helping it to make a mark. "The way in which Ecolean is made is very efficient," said Hobroh. "The production process has less of an impact on the environment than for other types of packaging, and the fact that it contains 40 per cent chalk, a natural product, also helps with its image." The packaging is made in Sweden with chalk from Norway - although an Asia unit in China is supplied with local chalk, Hobroh said - and the packaging weighs half the amount of alternative packs of the same size, again reducing its environmental impact. The whole package contains less plastic than some cardboard cartons with a screw cap, she said. "The handle is filled with air, which stabilises the soft package and makes it steady even when it is half empty. When emptied the package is flat as an envelope and takes up minimal space in the waste bin, at home as well as the recycling plant." "That green image does not work in every country, however: in Russia, for example, they are less bothered by environmental issues, so it is the shape and feel of the product that appeals to them more." But despite its 'green' credentials, Hobroh said that this did not mean that the packaging was more expensive to produce than traditional dairy packaging: "Quite the reverse, in fact," she said, while stressing that this was not a "cheap" product either. Markets In Sweden, the packaging is being used by a number of retail chains (Willy's, ICA, Coop) for milk, cultured milk, cream and sour cream products made by Falkpings mejeri, and Hobroh said she hoped that there would be demand for the packaging from other western European markets. "We hope to build our business there, without forgetting Russia and China, as well as looking in the longer term to markets outside Europe as well, such as the US." She added that the pack was also used by some wine companies and by liquid egg producers, and could also have good potential for fresh juices. "If we get more requests from other industry sectors, we will look at them all," she said.