In February of this year, club store shoppers may have noticed a change in their breakfast cereal offerings: The familiar yellow Cheerios box is looking a bit more svelte these days. Or, as General Mills spokesperson Sheila Kley explains in a blog post, "America's most iconic cereal brand has identified a way to give consumers more cereal - in less packaging."
The company has developed a proprietary packaging technology that packs cereal more densely so that each bag contains more cereal and less air than before. The new technology settles the cereal in the box while it is on the production line, whereas the previous process relies on settling to occur during transportation.
Because the cereal is packed tighter in every box, General Mills was able to reduce the size of the Cheerios packaging and save more than 200,000lb of paperboard each year, according to marketing manager Liz Mahler. What was previously sold as one extra-large carton of Cheerios at Sam's Club, Costco, and BJ's Wholesale stores is now being sold as two boxes connected together, she adds. Consumers can take the two boxes apart, which gives them much greater flexibility in storage and serving.
Another advantage of the new packaging technology is that 10% more cereal boxes can fit on each delivery truck. Thus, 10% fewer trucks are needed to transport the same volume of product, which saves more than 25,000 gallons of fuel and cuts the company's carbon emissions by 220 metric tons each year.
Freschetta Simply...Inspired Pizza
Schwan Food Company | USA
When the Schwan Food Company began creating a new addition to its premium Freschetta frozen pizza line in late 2010, officials knew they wanted both the product and its package to be dramatically different from anything else in the crowded frozen pizza case. The resulting thermoformed plastic package--which debuted in March 2011--not only differentiates the product at retail, but it is also more consumer-friendly, more earth-friendly, and more cost-effective than traditional packaging.
The patent-pending, modified-atmosphere package for Freschetta Simply...Inspired thin-crust pizza does away with the traditional cardboard box, thereby reducing packaging material by 30% and saving 1,378 tons of paperboard (23,433 trees) annually. The new package also weighs less and takes up less space than traditional boxed pizza, allowing 50% more product per cubic foot to be packed for distribution. That means fewer trucks are needed to carry the same amount of product, reducing distribution trips and labor by 50% and annual fuel usage by 474,500 gallons.
Of course, part of "sustainability" is consumer acceptance, as a "green" package that fails to sell the product doesn't help anyone. Once prototypes had been created from submitted designs, focus groups evaluated packages and identified the most desirable features: pull tab, vacuum seal, a clear top through which to view the pizza, and an ovenable paperboard tray. The new package is not just better for the environment, but better for consumers too, as it reduces the steps involved in preparing the pizza by 70%.
First introduced in Western Europe in the first quarter of 2011, the new package for Gillete's Fusion ProGlide razor features a plant fiber-based razor tray and recycled PET (rPET) lidding film. Replacing the razor's previous plastic clamshell packaging, the new package hit US retail shelves in January 2012.
The molded pulp tray, which is made from bamboo, sugarcane, and bulrush fibers, was designed collaboratively by the Gillette unit of Procter & Gamble and BeGreen Packaging. Burgopak also participated in designing the package, which uses 57% less plastic and weighs 20% less than the original Fusion outer pack and razor tray.
Procter & Gamble website points out additional advantages of the new package: "Its structure stays strong under compression, sealing and opening forces, and distribution and transportation stresses, while also maintaining a strong visual presence on the shelf."
Graphic Design Procter & Gamble In-House Design Team
A superfood calls for a super package, but the original bottles for Mae'sHealth and Wellness Superberries brand aronia berry juice concentrate were anything but. The broad-based round bottle used a standard closure and was unremarkable except that it sometimes became stained by juice during filling. So the maker of Superberries, Omaha, NE-based Westin Foods, approached design/engineering firm TricorBraun about redesigning the package.
Clearly designers aimed to create a bottle with staying power, as they addressed aesthetics, ease of use, recyclability, and manufacturability simultaneously. The resulting 16oz PET bottle is 13% lighter than its predecessor, requiring less resin to manufacture and decreasing both distribution costs and overall carbon footprint.
The new bottle design also reduces waste during bottling, according to TricorBraun. Previously, any bottles that had juice spilled or splashed on them during filling had to be discarded because the label would be stained. The design firm suggested five-color decorating with organic inks directly on the bottles, which provided three benefits: 1) it obviated the use of labels and adhesive, further reducing packaging materials; 2) it made the bottle easier to recycle after use; and 3) if spilling does occur during bottling, affected bottles can be wiped off and put back on the filling line.
The new bottle's aesthetics also support the product's sustainability from a business perspective. The slender design makes the bottle more attractive and easier to hold, and because a flip-top cap has replaced the old closure, users can hold and open the bottle with one hand. The top half of the bottle is rounded to resemble an aronia berry, and is embossed with the Superberries logo to boost brand visibility.
San Francisco-based Method has made a name for itself by breaking rules, transcending norms, and otherwise following its own conscience. One of the first companies to launch plant-based, non-toxic cleaning products, Method began packaging those products in 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic bottles in 2006. Thus, when Method announced last September that it had succeeded in developing a bottle made from PCR plastic collected from the North Pacific Gyre, the feat was more of a surprise than the source.
Mind you, the bottle that Adam Lowry, Method co-founder and "chief greenskeeper" showed those attending a Sept. 15 press conference, was a prototype and the ocean plastic has yet to make its debut on retail shelves. It's not easy to establish a system for collecting all of the plastic that washes up on certain Hawaiian beaches and transporting it to the Chico, CA, facility where recycled resin producer Envision Plastics will recycle it.
By partnering with Envision Plastics, Method pioneered an integrated new recycling process to engineer ocean PCR plastic that is the same quality as virgin HDPE. The process allows the plastic to be cleaned, unwanted contaminants removed completely, blended, and then remanufactured into high-quality PCR polyethylene.
Since last fall, Method has been focused on collecting enough usable ocean plastic to create a significant supply and turning it into bottles. "Our ultimate goal," Lowry says, "is to raise awareness that the real solution to plastic pollution lies in reusing and recycling the plastic that's already on the planet."
Method projects the bottle will hit retail shelves this fall. The company is reportedly still fine-tuning the bottle shape and continuing to gather plastic to ensure it has sufficient supply for a commercial-scale production run.
With a name like Nature Fusion, it's not surprising that this extension of Pantene's ProV line of shampoos and conditioners would be considered a likely candidate for a green makeover.
In Brazilian biopolymer manufacturer Braskem, Pantene found a source for sustainable, sugarcane-based polyethylene, also known as Bio-PE. This enabled the development of a bottle that is made from up to 59% plant-based high-density polyethylene (HDPE). This material boasts the same look, feel, and 100% recyclability of petroleum-based HDPE, but as it is made from a renewable resource, it helps Procter & Gamble reduce its reliance on petroleum.
In addition, the production of sugarcane-based HDPE uses 70% less fossil fuel than that of its petroleum-based cousin. It also reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by more than 170% because as sugarcane grows, it absorbs CO2 that is stored in plastic when it is recycled or landfilled, and much of the energy used to produce Bio-PE comes from renewable biomass, which emits less GHG.
The sugarcane-based packaging for Nature Fusion was introduced in Western Europe on a pilot basis in April 2010. Distribution was expanded into US markets in Fall 2011.
Planters Dry Roasted Peanuts were introduced in 1962, shortly after the Planters Nut & Chocolate Company was acquired by Standard Brands. Over the years, even as new flavors were added and the brand went through multiple changes in management--as Standard Brands merged with Nabisco in 1981 and Nabisco was acquired by Kraft Foods in 2000--the product remained in its iconic glass jar with a metal and plastic lid. Until last fall, that is
In October 2011, Planters Dry Roasted Peanuts began quietly making their way onto retail shelves in a new, BPA-free, 100% recyclable PET jar. The company said the new jar has 84% less packaging material (by weight) than the former glass jar, and the change from glass to plastic will reduce the number of trucks needed to transport the product by 25%. On its website, Planters noted that between the packaging material change and other efforts, the company has conserved 5.6 million pounds of packaging and shipping materials.
Kraft has not overtly publicized the change, though the Planters website notes that the new jar was introduced on Oct. 3, in conjunction with the opening of the third "Planters Grove," a public green space created in the midst of a housing project on Manhattan's Lower East Side.
In addition, printed on the front of the jars themselves, above the brand label, consumers are informed: "84% less packaging than glass jar by weight. Same amount of nuts."br> Jar Design
Kraft Foods Packaging Designers
Even among professional hair care products, Pureology stands out. The line of sulfate-free, 100% vegan shampoos and conditioners was created in 2001 by salon industry pioneer Jim Markham to provide kinder, gentler care for color-treated hair. Since being purchased by L'Oreal USA in 2007, Pureology has remained true to its roots and recently took the next logical step in its evolution: a packaging makeover to improve sustainability.
Pureology called on Envision Plastics, an industry leader in post-consumer recycled (PCR) resins, to provide a 50% PCR high-density polyethylene (HDPE) material that is FDA-approved and fully recyclable. Then the company enlisted Robert Bergman, founder of New York design firm Mpakt (and former L'Oreal creative director), to redesign the bottles.
Bergman's elegant, curved design seems yoga-inspired, pairing a shampoo that rests on its base with a conditioner that rests on its cap, apparently inverted. The flip-top caps allow for one-handed use of the products in the shower. Bergman noted that the bottles are injection molded from a single mold and "appear to embrace on shelf." To complement the luxurious feel of the product inside and to impress high-end salon customers, Bergman added pearlescent tones to the plastic.
Finally, Pureology also significantly greened its secondary packaging. The paperboard boxes not only use less material than before but are made from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paperboard consisting of 100% recycled fibers. Furthermore, Pureology is using the boxes as a vehicle for consumer education; they now feature information on how to recycle the box and tips on how to conserve water.
Although many consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies are working to shrink their carbon footprint, very few can claim to use 100% recycled materials in both their product and its package. On Feb. 1, however, Schick-Wilkinson Sword introduced the first of its razors to reach that goal, the Schick Xtreme3 Eco.
The new razor, which is manufactured in the company's 99.9% landfill-free facility in Milford, CT, has a handle of 100% post-consumer recycled polypropylene. Its package is made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper. Only the three-blade assembly and the cartridge connector are made of virgin materials.
Rick Michaud, R&D program manager, said that although the existing Xtreme3 line was already in sustainable packaging--a PETG blister pack--many consumers did not perceive the package as sustainable, nor did they realize it was recyclable. Between that and the fact that the Xtreme3 is the company's most popular disposable razor, the Xtreme 3 was targeted for a green overhaul.
The packaging development team wanted to use paper for the outer package, even though it is not as flexible or as protective as plastic, Michaud said. To meet Schick's specifications for seal strength and durability, the team added a PET-polyethylene blend liner (that is easily separated from the paper and is recyclable) to the paper bag. To boost product protection and package rigidity, the razors rest in a 40% post-consumer recycled Arctikoat paperboard tray inside the paper bag.
Schick estimates that its use of post-consumer recycled materials in the Xtreme3 will save 103,000lb of PP and 15,500lb of virgin paper from going to landfills.
Seventh Generation launched laundry detergent bottles made from 100% recycled paperboard and newsprint. The compostable outer shell is made from 70% recycled paperboard fibers and 30% recycled newspaper fibers; inside the shell is a recyclable, lightweight LDPE plastic pouch.
The entire packaging system (bottle, pouch, spout, cap) system reportedly uses 66% less plastic than a typical 100oz 2X laundry bottle--while delivering the same number of loads.
Alluding to the company name, the bottles can be recycled again as many as seven times. To recycle a bottle, the outer shell separates from the plastic pouch; the shell can be recycled with paper, while the pouch and the polypropylene plastic cap can be recycled in conventional plastic streams.
Windex Mini, a concentrated refill pouch, was launched in July 2011 as an effort to mainstream the use of refills. SC Johnson reports that concentrates use less packaging, decrease shipping impacts and reduce waste that ends up in our nation's landfills.
Yet sales data shows US consumers prefer not to refill their household cleaning bottles. This means stores won't stock concentrates and brand owners hesitate to create them. With this test, SC Johnson wants to understand how to motivate consumers and retailers to consider trading up from traditional cleaning methods to a greener choice.
"By conservative estimates, a flexible pouch saves six times as much plastic waste that goes into a landfill compared to a traditional bottle," says Fisk Johnson, Chairman and CEO, SC Johnson. "Refilling with a concentrate is an example of a very small behavior change that could make a real difference in minimizing waste. But many people don't want the inconvenience. We want to crack the code and figure out what it would take to make concentrated refills an accepted -- even demanded -- choice."
The trigger bottle for Windex Original glass cleaner is already produced with 50% post consumer recycled content. Choosing to refill with one concentrated refill pouch has an immediate impact. It requires 90% less plastic packaging than a 26 fluid ounce trigger bottle - enough to make 6.5 ballpoint pens It avoids the need to transport 22.4oz of water - nearly 1.5 pounds by weight.