On that note...18 November 2019
There’s no hard sell when it comes to paper packaging. For brands, manufacturers and designers alike, choosing paper makes perfect sense. With increasingly innovative options for protecting foods and with greater opportunity for added value through coatings, water-based inks and boosted sustainability, paper is the smart choice for brands that want their product to do the talking.
The long upward trend for paper packaging continues, with the Confederation of European Paper Industries stating that its members alone produced 92.2t of paper and board in 2018. With over 72% of paper recycled in Europe, according to the CEPI, it’s no wonder it’s an uncontroversial choice for brands and consumers that want to play their part in the circular economy.
Paper packaging suits brands big and small. There’s a pleasingly accessible aspect of paper that makes major brands seem more authentic yet keeps small brands approachable. Easy to print, easy to use, and easy to recycle, paper packaging means that brands can push the boundaries elsewhere – if they want to – because their packaging is unprovocative.
For Devon-based One Mile Bakery, the choice of paper packaging was an easy one. Founder Boudicca Woodland has created a small, proudly local business that literally only delivers to a one-mile radius. This incredibly local footprint – deliveries are done on foot or by bike – means that Woodland is dedicated to keeping every aspect of her business as close – and as delicious - as possible.
“I left my office-based job to set up an Exeter-based franchise of One Mile Bakery; I’m passionate about it because it brings everything I love together in a place I love living in,” Woodland says. “I really love exploring locally sourced, seasonal food; One Mile Bakery is a small, locally based business and I aim for zero food waste through the subscription delivery service. The subscription service means I can plan well in advance for orders, buying the right amount of stock, minimising waste and planning efficiently for my delivery slots.”
Woodland explains the key role that paper packaging plays in her ongoing dedication to reducing waste. She says, “With this ethos in mind, I deliver bread in a plain brown bag made from recycled paper that I encourage subscribers to reuse or recycle. Other packaging is compostable, such as our soup lids and garnish pots, or returnable and reusable, like our jam jars. Our soup pots are recyclable via bins provided by Exeter City Council recycling services, but I’m hoping to find a suitable – and non-leaking - pot without plastic soon. I add our logo to the jam jars with stickers, but all other elements I leave plain to encourage reuse and recycling.”
One Mile Bakery sources much of its paper packaging from Vegware, a manufacturer of compostable packaging that is proud to be ‘a visionary brand’. Creating a range of plant-based packaging for food service customers, Vegware offers more than 300 products including straws, cutlery, and hot and cold cups. “By monitoring market trends and customer needs, we introduce dozens of innovative products each year; we have something for everyone,” says Aarti Arora-McLean, brand communications lead for Vegware, which is based in Edinburgh. “Vegware goes beyond product packaging. We have the deepest set of compostability certification in the industry and our full product range is designed to be commercially composted with food waste.”
Vegware packaging is made of plants – trees, corn and sugarcane – with the company actively driving change to the UK’s recycling infrastructure by growing compostable regions. Arora-McLean adds, “Since 2012, our full-time environmental team has forged links with the waste sector; when we started, only 2% of the UK’s 3,111 post code districts had trade routes to compost used Vegware, now, that figure is 38%, and we continue to grow that all the time. Even with a major shift to reusables, some disposables will still be needed. Our entire range is commercially compostable; we make plant-based foodservice disposables from lower carbon, renewable or recycled materials.”
For disruptive brands wanting to make sure their products do the talking, paper packaging provides a welcome canvas. Soda Folk was founded by Colorado native Kenneth Graham, who moved to London in 2012 and missed the flavours of fizzy drinks from home. “While I was waiting to start my new job in finance, I helped a friend who was setting up a brewery... I never did start the banking job,” Graham says. “I wanted to keep being entrepreneurial and I fell in love with making beverages so, coupled with my longing to bring childhood flavours like Root Beer and Cream Soda to a UK audience, I set up Soda Folk.”
Available on Amazon, in major supermarkets and soon to be stocked in Sainsbury, Soda Folk faced a packaging challenge of being too small a name to be included in the premium chiller space, so it needed to boost its profile on the shelf. Step forward clever use of paper. Graham explains, “We created a four-pack using paperboard that brings the characters we feature on the cans forward; they’re real life people I know and find inspiring, and our packaging helps to celebrate their achievements. Customers love it. It’s friendly and really helps the product pop out on the shelf. We took a lot of inspiration from craft beer brands rather than soft drinks; we use a thinner card with a glossy coat, digitally printed. It’s totally recyclable.”
Graham notes that packaging helps to engage with consumers as well as providing protection for the product, even though the brand has carefully chosen as thin a paperboard as is possible to keep it resource-responsible. He adds, “We don’t have a big marketing budget but we do have loads of great ideas. We use the space on our paperboard for the four pack and the cans themselves to engage with our customers; people are curious about our story and we love to share it. We get so much feedback from customers that remember the old American flavours from holidays or some other random connection; we are so grateful that people really connect with what we’re doing, and I’m sure our really personal packaging plays a big part in that.”
As a wonderfully old and new packaging substrate, paper is able to appeal to a broad range of consumers, brands and applications. As the UK’s largest merchant and converter of paper packaging, Middleton Paper continues to invest in equipment and technology so that it keeps in close touch with the reliable yet evolving market. Jason Middleton, MD of Middleton Paper, says, “Middleton Paper was first established to supply high-quality wrap to fish and chip shops at competitive prices and while we may have grown substantially since those early days, we still appreciate the importance of paper and substrates for food packaging, and we convert hundreds of tonnes of board every week for this market segment, but we are also seeing increasing demand for graphical boards as well, particularly to replace plastics for binders and cover work.”
Middleton concludes, “Paper and board offers a tactile effect that cannot be replicated by plastics or other media, and comes in a wide variety of different finishes and textures to help end users and brand-owners develop their creativity. We are even seeing packages printed on the reverse, uncoated side of GC2 boards in order to give a softer, more delicate texture to the carton that only goes to prove the versatility of paperboard as a substrate.”
Another company that is looking at ways to reduce plastic or packaging waste through increased use of paper is ALDI, which has become the first UK supermarket to scrap plastic packaging on multipacks of tinned tuna.
From mid-September, the supermarket will sell four-packs of Tuna Chunks in Brine with a cardboard sleeve, instead of plastic, in over 270 stores across the midlands, north-west and south-east.
If the tuna trial – which is due to last for around four months – is successful, the new recyclable sleeve is expected to be rolled out nationally to more than 830 UK stores, which will save over 11 of plastic each year.
This is one of several packaging initiatives Aldi is trialling over the next few months, as it looks to phase out all hard-to-recycle plastic – such as undetectable black plastics, PVC and expanded polystyrene – from its food products by the end of 2020.
Fritz Walleczek, managing director of corporate responsibility at Aldi UK and Ireland, said in a statement, “We’re constantly reviewing our product range to remove and replace single-use and hard-to-recycle plastic packaging. We’ve introduced a number of initiatives to reduce unnecessary plastic already this year, and we’re particularly excited to be trialling the cardboard tuna sleeve, given it’s a first for the UK supermarket sector.”
“Cutting waste is such an important part of everything we do at Aldi, and these packaging innovations are another example of us doing just this.”
Original Beans’ new eco packaging designs
What do gorillas, parrots or elephants have to do with chocolate? At the planet-positive chocolate company Original Beans, a lot These are the animals whose habitats are protected by the production of each and every one of the award-winning single origin chocolate bars. And that’s why they are at the centre of the brand-new, colourful eco packaging.
The new updated wrapper designs are printed on fine, sustainable paper made from FSC-certified wood cellulose, which was designed by Californian artist Kimberly Varella. It successfully gives a sense of the luxury chocolate while also conveying the sustainability message and the conservation that is the heart of the social enterprise.
Each single origin bar elegantly and artistically displays the animal that lives there: where the cocoa beans come from. A mountain gorilla from the Virunga National Park in eastern Congo, for example, a mighty condor from the Chuncho Valley in Peru, a playful elephant from the Udzungwa National Park in Tanzania and other rare species. They communicate that biodiversity is protected by the sustainable cultivation of cocoa and the afforestation of the rainforest, through the replanting of the cocoa trees. The only exception is the variety Femmes de Virunga, which pays tribute on the new packaging to the strong women in the eastern Congo, who can lead an independent life by the sustainable cocoa cultivation.