- Conagra Brands is partnering with Berry Global's Blue Clover Studios to roll out a new sustainable packaging design for its Swiss Miss hot cocoa, according to a release. The design substitutes the round canisters for an eco-efficient recyclable cube, and will initially be used for the 38-ounce size Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix.
- The recyclable plastic container reduces the carbon footprint associated with manufacturing and transporting the hot cocoa by 15%. It also reduces the annual amount of material production energy by 98 metric tons and conserving space in transit that will save 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel.
- This redesign is part of Conagra's effort to make 100% of its plastic packaging renewable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, which the company announced in January.
Many CPG companies are rushing to meet promises to replace or reduce unsustainable packaging in their portfolio. But as many look to replace their plastic, Conagra is continuing to use it, converting aluminum-bottomed canisters into recyclable plastic square containers with grippy sides.
The company is positioning this new packaging as both convenient and sustainable, but it is interesting that it is taking this approach with a plastic container. Conagra already has some products that are made from more sustainable material. Since 2017, the company's Healthy Choice Power Bowls have been made from a plant-based fiber rather than plastic.
PET plastic is one of the most commonly used plastic resins in food and beverage packaging. Although it is recyclable, it doesn’t mean consumers routinely put finished packages in the recycling bin. Even the plastic that is properly recycled is difficult to repurpose, since it isn't easy to achieve food-grade plastic from recycled goods. Recycled PET accounts for just 12% to 14% of all plastic packaging produced in the United States, according to an IHS Markit analysis cited by Recycling Today in 2017.
Nevertheless, plastic has other advantages. Coca-Cola has similarly said it will not discontinue its plastic packaging options, despite efforts to move toward more sustainability. The company said consumers like plastic because it is resealable and lightweight. Its low weight also makes it more economically appealing for companies looking to ship large quantities of product long distances.
Still, sustainability is big business. Consumers are putting more value in food companies' ethical behavior — even if it means higher prices — and more companies are looking to provide added value through sustainability promises and environmentally friendly packaging. Overall, from 2015 to 2019, sustainability-marketed products represented 54.7% of total CPG market growth, though they made up only 16.1% of products, according to a new report from IRI and the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business.
This trend toward sustainable packaging options has only become more pronounced during the pandemic. A survey by Kearney this spring showed 83% of consumers said they considered the environment when making purchases, and 11% had shifted their purchases based on environmental claims within the past year. With these favorable outcomes available for companies that switch to sustainable solutions, many have pledged to change their traditional packaging.
Diageo, PepsiCo and Unilever are all working to introduce sustainable paper packaging for beverages. PepsiCo will also start packaging its Aquafina water products in aluminum cans this year for foodservice outlets, and is testing the change in retail. Similarly, smaller water brands, such as Vita Coco's Ever & Ever, are also using aluminum. Nestlé is working with Danimer Scientific to develop biodegradable water bottles.
Conagra will slowly roll out this new packaging to test its reception in the market. With consumers sensitive to new packaging, Conagra will likely be paying attention to their overall response. The insights the company gains will likely help it plan for the next five years, during which it plans to convert all of its plastic packaging to be renewable, recyclable or compostable.