FDF offers manufacturers guidelines on how to optimize their packaging systems

By Jenny Eagle

- Last updated on GMT

FDF & INCPEN publish guidelines for sustainable packaging & supply chain. Pic: FDF
FDF & INCPEN publish guidelines for sustainable packaging & supply chain. Pic: FDF

Related tags Packaging and labeling Sustainable agriculture Packaging

From organic food to eco-labels, sustainable sourced ingredients and traceability, the UK Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has published a set of manufacturer guidelines to optimize their packaging systems to drive the sustainability agenda.

‘Packaging for people, planet and profit – a sustainability checklist​’ published in partnership with INCPEN (the Industry Council for research on Packaging and the Environment) has practical information for companies to improve resource efficiency at all stages of a packaged product’s journey ensuring the functionality of the packaging is not compromised.


FDF's Greener Food Transport checklist

  1. What is my/your company's policy on maximizing vehicle loading whether through the use of double decks and/or longer semi-trailers for lower density loads or running at maximum gross weight for higher density?
  2. What is the ratio of trailers to tractors across my/your fleet given that a high ratio can reduce waiting times and lead to less trucks on the road?
  3. What is my/your company's fleet replacement policy and how long will it be before all vehicles in the fleet comply with the latest EU emissions standard, i.e. EU VI? What is the current % breakdown in use of EU IV, V and VI across the fleet?
  4. What use does my/your company make of vehicle telematics to minimize environmental impact? Does my/your company use tracking technology to optimize transport operations and reduce vehicle miles? If so, what type?
  5. Does my/your company record empty running and collaborate with others, by sub-contracting, to try and reduce it? What use does the company make of consolidation centers, freight villages and/or pallet networks etc. to reduce miles?
  6. What proportion of my/your company's current annual mileage/tonnage moved is by rail and/or ship and what is its policy on increasing such transport usage?
  7. What does my/your company do in terms of supporting innovation and promoting best practice to reduce environmental impacts and improve efficiency?
  8. What are my/your company's policies/schemes on training and engagement with its drivers to reduce environmental impact through better driving practices?
  9. What are my/your company's policies on vehicle maintenance given its relevance to fuel efficiency? Where refrigerated transport is used, what steps are taken to maintain the equipment and insulation to prevent and minimize leakage of refrigerants? Which refrigerant types are used?
  10. What percentage of my/your company's fleet currently operates on alternative fuels e.g. natural gas, biofuels and how does this breakdown by fuel type? Does your company have plans to develop this aspect of the fleet?

It covers everything from packaging design to maximizing vehicle loading, alternative fuels, refrigerated transport, tracking technology and an emissions policy with references to relevant regulations.   

According to Jane Bickerstaffe, director, INCPEN, eco-design means using sufficient materials for optimal protection of each product and to deliver all the other functions expected of it.

This means making sure the product survives distribution, is handled correctly, its merchandising, carries information, is easy to use and capable of being recovered after use. It also means using materials from sustainable sources.

Design-for-recycling is one consideration but design-for-maximum lorry loads, design-for-efficient stacking in depots, design-for-fast filling speeds, design-for-efficient use and many other practical, functional requirements are equally, if not more, important​,” she said.

All of these considerations have environmental implications: fewer lorries on the road means less congestion, fewer particulates and better health; smaller or fewer depots use less land; faster filling speeds require less energy​.

At each stage of the design process, it is a good idea to check the effect any change may have on other parts of the supply system and the ability of packaging to perform all required functions. This is often referred to as ‘lifecycle thinking’​.

It needs to be appreciated that there is seldom an obvious ‘right’ answer but decisions should be fully informed and evidence based. Final design is usually a compromise between sometimes-conflicting demands​.”

Sustainable Foods 2017 predictions

At the same time, Organic Monitor, organizers of the Sustainable Foods Summit, will this year explore new horizons for eco-labels and sustainability in the food industry. 

It claims global sales of organic foods are expected to continue the positive trajectory, with most growth envisaged in North America and Northern Europe. Organic food sales in the US and Canada are predicted to surpass $50bn for the first time this year. The market share of organic foods is also expected to approach 7%-10% in the US, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark and neighboring countries. 

Fairtrade will retain its position as the second largest eco-label for food products, however, fragmentation will continue: more fair trade labels and standards are envisaged. Other eco-labels are gaining traction in specific product categories; for example, Rainforest Alliance for agricultural commodities, and Marine Stewardship Council for seafood.

The market share of sustainable sourced ingredients is expected to rise. Roughly 20% of all coffee is now produced according to some sustainability scheme. The share of sustainable sourced tea, cocoa, vanilla and sugar is expected to increase as large companies - such as Barry Callebaut and Givaudan - make ethical commitments.

Sustainability metrics are likely to become prominent in the sustainability programs of food and ingredient companies. Whilst carbon and water footprints are still the most popular metrics, consumers can expect to see more metrics for energy, resource usage, waste and social parameters. More natural and organic food companies are envisaged to make carbon neutral and zero waste pledges.

Greater investment is envisaged in ingredient supply chains to provide transparency and to reduce risks of food fraud and adulteration. Non-GMO labeling schemes are expected to continue to gain popularity in North America, although the GM labeling bill has been passed. Retail sales of Non-GMO Project Verified food sales are predicted to exceed $20bn in 2017.

As food waste rises on the sustainability agenda, more food companies and retailers will make waste reduction pledges. Food byproducts will get greater recognition as a raw material and become a source of new products. ReGrained (USA) is an example of a sustainable food enterprise innovating raw materials. 

Green packaging– the adoption rate of sustainable materials, such as bioplastics, is expected to rise. More natural and organic food companies are likely to adopt such materials as they look to reduce their packaging impacts.

Janina Wolfert, event coordinator, Organic Monitor, said some of the earliest adopters of sustainable packaging materials are natural and organic food companies. Such companies are using plant-based plastics to reduce the packaging impact of their products.


The most common sustainable materials they are using are cellulose-based, corn-based and starch-based biopolymers. For example, Lovechock​ – a Dutch brand of ethical chocolate uses stylish packaging, with cellulose-based compostable plastic to cover the chocolates,​” she said. 

Also, Stonyfield Yoghurt, an organic yoghurt brand in North America is using plastic cups made from bio-plastics which are made from renewable sources and are biodegradable​.

Other examples include Noble Juice American organic juices, which uses bioplastic packaging for its product range and Sonnentor, a German organic herbs and spices company that uses cellulose-based packaging for its products​.”

The Sustainable Foods Summit will cover these topics in greater depth during its European edition: June 1-2, Amsterdam; Latin American edition: September 18-20, São Paulo and Asia-Pacific edition: November 29-30, Singapore.

Related news

Related suppliers

Follow us


View more