In 2019, South Africa’s largest UHT milk producer Woodlands Dairy launched a Tetra Pak plant-based carton package for its First Choice milk brand. Made from more than 80% renewable materials, the package is an important step in the dairy’s endeavour to reduce its carbon footprint.
A growing number of South Africans are concerned with environmental issues. So is Woodlands Dairy, a family-driven business responsible for co-packing leading national retail brands Spar and Woolworths. They also sell their own brand, First Choice.
The company aspires to produce and deliver superior food products while ensuring growth and prosperity through service excellence, integrity and environmental conservation.
“Sustainability is very important to us,” says Lex Gutsche, CEO of Woodlands Dairy. “Since 2012, we have been measuring our carbon footprint with a long-term ambition to reduce it as low as possible and have a far less negative impact on the planet. But this doesn’t happen overnight. It comes through constant monitoring, step-by-step improvements and a lot of tenacity from our team members.”
Their sustainability ambition paved the way for numerous initiatives – from saving electricity and water to training and encouraging farmers in sustainable agriculture and, most recently, introducing the first plant-based milk carton on the continent.
“With the new plant-based carton, we have increased our share of renewable material to more than 80%. This means that the carbon footprint has been reduced by 15%.”
But how do renewable plant-based materials reduce the package’s carbon footprint? As plants grow, they absorb carbon from the atmosphere. By contrast, fossil-based materials like plastics release carbon that was stored in the ground for millions of years.
When responsibly sourced, plant-based renewable materials can protect biodiversity and natural ecosystems, including all the plants, animals and people they support.
The Tetra Brik® Aseptic 1000 ml package is made from FSC™-certified paperboard. It has a Bio-Based Helicap 23 closure made of sugarcane-based plastic that’s Bonsucro-certified to ensure ethical business practices across the supply chain.
Lex Gutsche says it was easy to transition to the new package into the company’s production process as it runs entirely on existing equipment.
The new package is one more step towards a fully sustainable carton, and Lex Gutsche believes in Tetra Pak’s vision to develop packaging made solely from renewable or recycled materials.
“Tetra Pak’s vision is aligned with our commitment to sustainability transformation. As they have supported us, I fully support them on their journey towards a 100% plant-based carton package.”
Tetra Pak is trialling an alternative to the carton’s aluminium layer that doesn’t compromise food safety and will be fully recyclable at scale and fully integrated into a low-carbon circular economy by 2030.
Since May 2019, when Woodland Dairy launched the new carton package for First Choice milk, sales have increased by 16%. This is due partly to the fact that they had enough UHT milk to supply the market during Covid-19 and that milk has shown to be an essential good. But according to Lex Gutsche the new package and an extensive social media program also made a big difference
They used the hashtag #GoodStartsSmall to deliver messages to consumers around sustainability, the plant-based package and recycling. Videos showing the sugarcane-based closures got more than half a million views and the campaign reached 9.7 million impressions and more than 73,000 additional post likes over a three-month period.
“This shows our switch to the new plant-based package has been successful. It has helped reduce our negative impact on the environment and has been a positive boost for our brand, our company and our people,” Lex says.