November 12, 2021
Packaging helps keep food safe, nutritious and available, but most of the food packaging used today is made of fossil-based virgin plastic, which has a significant carbon footprint. That’s why we’re on a journey at Tetra Pak to create the world’s most sustainable food package, fully renewable, fully recyclable and carbon-neutral.
Our founder, Ruben Rausing, left us with a phrase that I like very much: A package should save more than it costs. And I think that rings truer today than it ever has. Because we need to protect not just the product inside, but also ensure that the package we produce has the absolute smallest impact possible on our environment.
Making food packaging sustainable and transitioning towards a low-carbon circular economy is an enormous, transformational challenge for our industry. Luckily, Tetra Pak is built on 70 years of innovation. It’s how we approach every challenge we face, and it will also be key to creating the world’s most sustainable food package.
I believe the packaging industry has a fantastic opportunity right now because consumers are so interested in sustainable products and actively pushing for innovative solutions. That’s driving us and telling us that all the investments we’ve made over the last decade in new technologies, know-how and knowledge have been worth it. It’s creating a huge pull through the value chain and driving a complete transformation of the packaging industry, which is very exciting.
We are already well on our way, but pushing on towards the finish line requires innovation and collaboration. Innovation by attracting the right talent to develop the right products so we can make sure we can deliver the world’s most sustainable package. And collaboration across the full value chain, working closely together with our partners and customers to deliver on consumer demands.
There are still a number of challenges in our industry and we have to turn to the latest technologies to provide new and different types of packaging. And it requires that we work in different ways with new mindsets. That’s why we need new skills and capabilities – a huge range of engineering and science skills from mechanical engineers, automation engineers, microbiologists, regulatory specialists and many more.
We’re working in a very competitive marketplace and finding these skills is challenging. The packaging industry has maybe not always been the most attractive to new talent, but I feel that’s changing. People see that there are fantastic opportunities to be part of changing the planet. They want to make a difference in terms of delivering innovative and sustainable products and solutions.
I believe we are in a good place today because we’ve been investing in academia, technical know-how, capabilities and competencies for many years. We try to predict the upcoming needs, challenges and problems we’re going to face, and that means we’ve been investing in our journey towards the world’s most sustainable food package for more than a decade now. I can see that that is giving us an advantage now. We’re in a position where we’re able to develop the material, the filling equipment, the processing equipment and the distribution systems simultaneously as we move through the development process.
But we cannot do it alone. The old notion of a linear supply is gone. We need to work in very close partnerships with our development partners and customers and I believe we can take our collaboration to the next level by bringing on board more and more partners in what we could call a kind of development ecosystem.
We’ve already done that with our traditional supply chain, and we’ve brought in start-ups and companies that have helped us with some fantastically innovative ideas. We need to continue to have strong communication and dialogues with our customers and brands because at the end of the day, they’re the ones who serve the products to the consumers.
The trick with sustainability is not just producing a small number of sustainable packages. You have to be able to produce them at scale. It’s possible to make prototype packages that are completely sustainable, but you have to make the packaging safe. If you can’t scale it up, you can’t minimise food waste and you can’t serve a global population.
To achieve a sustainable future for food packaging, a full value chain approach to circularity is needed. Only by addressing the interconnected nature of the environmental, societal, and economic challenges we face, can we deliver a fully carbon-neutral package. While we have already made great progress in developing our low-carbon circular portfolio, our current innovation journey is truly transformational as we work towards our vision of the ideal beverage carton: a fully renewable and recyclable package. If we all work together we can deliver better products for a sustainable tomorrow.
In 2014, we introduced a package made entirely from plant-based renewable material. Now we aim to replace the aluminium foil in our aseptic packages and launch the first fully renewable aseptic package by 2024.
We’re working towards plant-based or recycled polymers with the same quality and safety as non-renewable and -recyclable polymers to increase our packaging sustainability.
In 2021, we launched our portfolio of tethered cap solutions aimed at preventing littering and have committed to investing around €100 million per year over the next 5-10 years to develop more sustainable solutions.