Industry claims festive focus vital to annual pack reduction

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Recycling, Confectionery

Confectionery groups are playing up their efforts to strike a balance between Christmas spirit and green packaging, claiming the focus reflects an all year round environment drive not just consigned to the festive period.

With less than 130 shopping days left until Christmas, major manufacturers such as Mars and Nestle have recently outlined their plans for seasonal packaging used of their leading UK confectionery brands, with an emphasis on cutting packaging waste.

Such initiatives come amidst growing concerns by retailers and other stakeholders over the amount of packaging used to protect products and entice consumer interest, worries often exacerbated by promotional packaging used over the Christmas period.

Some of these seasonal green commitments by confectioners will this year include encouraging reuse of some of its assortment packaging through providing washable dishwasher proof containers, recycling messages and using less overall materials. At the same time, the manufacturers added that they still must meet functional requirements in its packs for protection and shelf life.

Industry cooperation

The UK environment Agency said that just as with all industries, confectionery manufacturers found to successfully cut packaging waste were also often able to improve their own cost efficiency.

To this end, Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP), a government-backed initiative charged with ensuring that the UK meets EU requirements on reducing waste, says that it has worked with a number of confectioners on seasonal packaging.

A spokesperson for Mars, just one of many companies involved, told that the company has longstanding commitments to decreasing its global environmental impact throughout the whole year. However, on a UK level alone, they conceded that a specific focus on Christmas packs played a key part in this attempted reduction.

“Seasonal products are often over packaged and so require extra focus to minimise the packaging used as well as communicating to consumers they can recycle the packaging used,”​ stated the spokesperson. “These initiatives are part of a long term sustainability programme, looking at how to reduce the amount of packaging we use, whilst still protecting the product and satisfying consumer needs for a gifting proposition.”

Segments such as gift box chocolates, selection packs and advent calendars were therefore highlighted as a major priority for the company, the spokesperson claimed.

Graham Walker, trade communications manager for Nestle UK, said that the Christmas period was a particularly busy time for the group’s confectionery arm, which was also focused on counter acting growing demand for packaging.

“All Nestle Confectionery’s selection boxes are now made from recycled board and the plastic trays are made from recycled bottles,” ​he stated. “In total there will be 231 tonnes less packaging in 2008 and there will also be on-pack messages to encourage kids to recycle.”

Festive workshops

Nestle is not alone in it attempts to reduce how it packs and presents it products with WRAP focusing on industry cooperation through its Seasonal Confectionery Industry Working Group.

As part of this focus, companies including Nestle, Mars, Cadbury and specialist groups like Magna are working to find a better balance between meeting consumer demand for Christmas and Easter packs and addressing environmental concerns.

Mark Barthel, a special advisor for WRAP said that with major retailers putting particular pressure on companies of all sizes to reduce their packaging needs, cooperation was vital.

“Major players in the seasonal confectionery industry have signed up to this group,”​ he stated. “By joining, they are ensuring that issues relating to packaging are taken into account and that consumer appeal is retained.”

Courtauld Commitment

However, beyond the seasonal focus, the programme is also pushing retailers and manufacturers to sign up with the voluntary Courtauld Commitment, which targets household packaging and food waste reductions 12 months a year.

WRAP says that a number of its targets for the focus, including reversing packaging waste growth by this year, providing innovative new packaging formats and providing absolute reductions in left over packs by March 2010, are already on schedule.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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