Jo Swinson, a Liberal Democrat MP, said one manufacturer makes an egg and box that is more than 90 per cent wrapping, and she stresses that shoppers are turning away from Easter eggs which use excessive cardboard and plastic packaging: "Consumers are tired of excess packaging - they are tired of paying for it and tired of having to dispose of it.”
Swinson argues that the UK government is failing to enforce the law, which requires packaging to be reduced to the minimum necessary.
Her study makes comparisons between ten Easter eggs measured in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 including both major manufacturers’ products and supermarkets’ own brands and found that overall average weight of packaging is down four per cent this year.
Swinson said that, for her report, the dimensions and weights of the eggs and their packaging were measured, the packaging material examined and environmental information recorded.
Several companies made big leaps forward last year, she said, in reducing their packaging, but some manufacturers are still failing to catch up.
Swinson’s report shows that Guylian produced the most excessively packaged egg this year, with its egg taking up just nine per cent of its box. The manufacturer thus supplanted Lindt as the worst performer in this regard, she claims, with the Swiss producer holding the title for three years running.
"Last year we saw Easter egg packaging reduced by a third, and companies such as Nestlé, Cadbury, Green and Black's and Thorntons have made real efforts to cut packaging and improve recyclability,” she continued.
This year, Nestlé was the only company whose Easter egg packaging was 100 per cent widely recycled, added Swinson.
While UK retailers Marks and Spencer and Tesco, manufacturers Guylian and Green & Black’s have all produced packaging which is technically 100 per cent recyclable, they contain plastic, which is not widely recycled, argues the politician.
She found though that increasing numbers of Easter chocolates come wrapped only in foil – including Cadbury’s ‘Eco-Eggs’, Lindt chocolate bunnies and Nestlé’s Milkybar hollow chocolate cow.
Cadbury has cut the packaging weight of its shell egg range by 40 per cent in the last three years by using smaller boxes and using recycled polyethylene clam shells to hold the eggs in place rather than rigid polyvinyl chloride (PVC), packaging commercialisation manager Brian Stow told our sister title Food Manufacture.
While reducing its packaging by 2,000t over this period had obviously saved money, Cadbury had also been able to increase the number of eggs loaded onto pallets and increase facings of the eggs on supermarket shelves, said Stow, who was speaking at the recent Food and Drink Federation’s Biscuit, Cake, Chocolate and Confectionery conference.
“On large eggs, we used to get 150 on a pallet. This Easter we’ll get 360 on a pallet. For our Easter Creme Egg cartons, we’ve gone from 420 to 630 on a pallet and from two to three facings on-shelf. This has delivered big benefits because we can use less shelf-ready packaging, reduce our transport costs and get more on shelf, which also aids replenishment for the retailer.”
Crucially, scaling down packaging had not dented sales, he added. “The smaller packs are still seen as gift-worthy.”