PCR = “vaccine” of the circular economy?

PCR = “vaccine” of the circular economy?

Thomas Reiner | 30.06.2021

Unilever is switching the “Squeezy” range of its Hellmann’s food brand in the UK to bottles made from 100% post-consumer recycled PET. The step is also a real benchmark in terms of volume. And it makes it clear that the pure focus on recyclability is a thing of the past. The use of recyclate is gaining importance as a logical second step. No cycle without the use of recyclate: PCR is becoming the “vaccine” of the Circular Economy.


For a long time, recyclability was the main heading on the path to circular economy. However, the circle can only be closed if the recyclate is used again. The fact that Unilever is now taking this step is a strong sign. The use of recycled material is no longer just a small game for niches.

The Hellmann’s condiment brand is strategically and quantitatively relevant in Unilever’s portfolio. In the mayonnaise segment, the brand is one of the biggest. The switch to bottles made from 100% post-consumer recycled PET will therefore make waves – even if it only affects the market in the UK for the time being.


Facts about the rPET move

  • With its rPET bottles, the Hellmann brand is one of the first food brands in the UK to use 100% post-consumer recycled plastic.
  • At 40%, Unilever has already converted almost half of the Squeezy range to recycled plastic and sent it to shelves by April 2021. The conversion is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.
  • According to the company, the complete conversion will save around 1,480 tonnes of virgin plastic per year.
  • Increasing the use of recycled plastic is an essential part of Unilever’s wider global packaging commitments. By 2025, all packaging should be reusable, recyclable or compostable.
  • The Hellmann’s Squeezy project in the UK also serves as an important knowledge generator for the company. The experience gained is intended to accelerate the switch of other Unilever food brands to recycled packaging.


PCR as a vaccine
Hellmann’s is a flagship in Unilever’s portfolio. So the switch to packaging made from 100% PCR is a real head-turner. The move will have major consequences, not only for the company but for the market as a whole. It is becoming clear that recyclability is no longer enough. The use of recyclates as a logical second step is becoming increasingly important. Good thing! Because only by using recycled material can we close the loop on plastics. The use of PCR could become a vaccine here.

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Empowering consumers: Lidl tests the Eco-Score for groceries

Image source: Lidl

Empowering consumers: Lidl tests the Eco-Score for groceries

Thomas Reiner | 16.06.2021

The world’s largest discounter group by number of stores is testing the use of the ECO2 initiative’s five-stage Eco Score. Lidl wants to use the score to communicate the sustainability level of food products to its customers transparently and efficiently, thus empowering consumers with regard to making sustainable purchasing decisions. This is a positive, pragmatic and overdue step for the industry. It will have a steering effect – and will also have an impact on the market for sustainable packaging.


Lidl is the first German retailer to test the use of a five-stage eco-score for food in Berlin. The world’s largest discounter group by number of shops is entering into a partnership with the score’s developer, the ECO2 initiative. The eco-score identifies the environmental impact of the food on a scale from a dark green A to a red E. In addition to the eco-balance of the product, the evaluation also takes into account criteria such as certifications, the origin of the ingredients as well as the type of packaging.

Lidl’s pilot project is a positive and pragmatic step. And in our view, it is long overdue. Because the growing importance of sustainability for the purchasing behaviour of consumers is undeniable and has been firmly established for some time. It is not surprising that consumers’ desire for more sustainability is accompanied by a growing need for information and orientation. A sustainable purchase decision needs a reliable basis for decision-making. This is what the Eco-Score is supposed to provide.

Packaging manufacturers are also directly affected by the development because the sustainability of the packaging flows directly into the Eco-Score. This will additionally drive the already booming demand for ecological packaging solutions and have a strong steering effect.


The Eco-Score method

The Eco-Score is calculated on the basis of the following data:

  • Quantitative data of the product life cycle assessment (LCA). The data is determined by experts and implemented in the French database for agriculture and food, Agribalyse. The environmental impacts of production, transport, manufacturing and packaging are taken into account for this LCA.
    • The result is a rating on a scale that goes up to 100.
  • Data that is not included in the Agribalyse eco-balance, but is included in the score due to its positive or negative impact on the environment. This includes, for example, the material and recyclability of the packaging as well as the origin and seasonality of the food or its ingredients.
    • The data taken into account in this step results in a corresponding bonus or malus, which influences the score and leads to the final score value.


The Berlin pilot

Lidl is testing the Eco-Score in all its Berlin stores over the course of the year. For this purpose, the price tags of selected food groups will be equipped with the new labelling. With the pilot project, the discounter wants to explore how consumers perceive the score and how they react to it. Depending on the results, the company will consider implementing sustainability labelling in all its store in Germany.


As simple and effective as the price

Lidl is open to industry-wide labelling alternatives in its initiative. This is also a pragmatic and sensible step. Because ultimately, a sustainability score for food is about one thing: customers need to be informed about the sustainability of the product in a uniform, reliable and simple way. For this, they need an indicator which should be as “simple” and meaningful as the price. It gives us an efficient and intuitive feeling for the cost and value of a product. This is exactly what an eco-score in the area of sustainability is supposed to do – as a responsible basis for the purchase decision.


Steering effect for more than one industry

If a discount giant like Lidl takes up the cause, it will have a steering effect in the industry – and beyond. Because the Eco-Score is also a powerful driver for packaging manufacturers.

It is already a fact that sustainable packaging is the first and most important ambassador of a sustainable product. Now, however, the eco-quality of the packaging also flows directly into the Eco-Score of the food. This will further increase the demand for sustainable packaging solutions. Those who are well positioned here will be able to profit enormously. Those who neglect their homework will be kicked out of the market.

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A new “dating-platform” for packaging machinery shows: Digital transformation in the packaging industry is taking shape

A new “dating-platform” for packaging machinery shows: Digital transformation in the packaging industry is taking shape

Thomas Reiner | 11.06.2021

The lights for the platform economy have been green for quite some time. Its promise of removing intransparency and inefficiency from the market is unbeatable. In the foreseeable future, therefore, large parts of the industry will move towards a platform economy. The only thing that is surprising is that so little has been done so far – especially in the mechanical engineering sector.

With Packpart, one of the first start-ups in this realm is now on its way. Its platform links project enquiries from customers with the know-how and offers of mechanical engineers, similar to a dating plattform. At the heart of the platform is an automated, digital matching system. It will be launched in the chemical, pharmaceutical, cosmetics and food sectors.

The platform’s promise: it simplifies the search for a suitable packaging machine manufacturer, reduces the effort for customers as well as suppliers and optimises the result.


How the “dating platform” works

  1. Customers start a project and specify their individual requirements for the packaging machine. An interactive list of questions guides them through the process. The information is directly transferred into a prepared, digital specification sheet, which is available for the remainder of the project.
  2. The information is automatically matched with the performance spectrum of the registered machine manufacturers. At the end, the customer receives an overview of the manufacturers that best fit his requirements.
  3. From the overview, the client selects the manufacturers to whom his project enquiry is to be forwarded. The transmission is anonymised.
  4. If necessary, the contacted machine builders obtain additional information about the project via the operators of the platform. If they are interested, the manufacturers receive the customer’s contact details and contact them directly.


Precursor of a profound change

The start-up Packpart is based in Rosengarten, Baden-Württemberg. The region in southern Germany is a centre of mechanical engineering. Founder Christian Baumann has recognised the signs of the times. His dating platform is the harbinger of a profound change that will affect the entire industry. Platforms bring transparency and efficiency to a market that is still far too often dominated by the opposite, especially in the packaging sector.

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Packaging needs a diet: Over 75% of consumers are fed up with oversized packaging

Packaging needs a diet: Over 75% of consumers are fed up with oversized packaging

Thomas Reiner | 09.03.2021

Too big and too much – three in four consumers are fed up with oversized packaging and demand a diet. The results of a recent e-commerce study by Mondi also show clear majorities in favour of sustainable packaging. Around one in two consumers are willing to pay extra – under certain conditions.


Too big to fail? On the contrary! Goods that are oversized or packed with too much non-functional packaging have it increasingly difficult. According to a quantitative study by Mondi across five European countries, 79 percent reject oversized packaging and 73 percent reject too much packaging.
Consumers also attach great importance to sustainability. This is important for an absolute majority of 80 percent. So the pressure on the packaging diet continues to increase, not only in e-commerce. What is exciting is that more and more consumers are willing to walk the extra mile. Around one in two are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging – but only if it meets the requirements for product protection, circulatory capability and ease of use at the same time.

Online commerce, sustainability, customer requirements
Mondi conducted its study together with the opinion research institute Karmasin Research & Identity. A total of 3,052 consumers were surveyed on online consumer behaviour and packaging requirements: in Germany, Austria, Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic, although the results do not differ significantly across the countries.

The key findings:

  • Almost one in two consumers has been shopping more and more frequently online since Covid started.
  • The most common customers are young women.
  • The most frequently ordered products are clothing and shoes, drugstore and perfume articles, books and electrical appliances.
  • 80% of the total respondents place greater emphasis on sustainable packaging.
  • More than half (57% in all countries, 48% in Germany) are willing to pay more if the requirements for the protection of the goods and easy handling are guaranteed.
  • The majority rejects oversized packaging (78%), cumbersome disposal and recycling (78%) and too much packaging (73%).
  • The most positive assessment is for easy opening and easy re-use (42%).
  • Corrugated board (57%) dominates material perception in terms of sustainability.

Maintaining new opportunities through sustainability, circulatory capacity and moderation
Pressure continues to mount on brand owners and retailers to review and rethink their existing packaging. Less is more, especially when it comes to packaging. However, only if functionality and convenience do not suffer and the sustainable solution is recyclable. If you can reconcile all of this, the development offers first-class opportunities for differentiation – not only in online retail.

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Although digital transformation is seen as top growth opportunity for the packaging industry, there will be few winners

Although digital transformation is seen as top growth opportunity for the packaging industry, there will be few winners

Thomas Reiner | 02.03.2021

A survey of 270 packaging industry executives by B+P consultants shows that 77% of companies see digital transformation as a growth opportunity and expect relevant sales of digital channels soon. That’s great. However, there will be few winners and many losers. The majority are ill-prepared. Although it‘s clear where the digital key lies.


B+P-Consultants conducted a survey among 270 executives in the packaging industry in Q4 2020. It shows that an overwhelming majority of 77 percent of the industry sees digital transformation as a growth opportunity (for machine manufacturers it is even 89%). That is a great thing. The fact that a whopping 70 percent already expect relevant sales via digital channels by 2025, i.e. more than 5% of their sales, could also be a positive sign. However, one has to ask what this optimism is based on. Because in most cases, the fundamentals are missing.

A large part of the industry is ill-prepared for the change and is lagging far behind digitally. That is why there will be only a few winners of digital transformation among companies in the packaging industry – and many losers. Very few will be able to generate around 5 percent or more of their sales through digital channels by 2025.

It can be assumed that the turnover generated online will be concentrated on the few winners in the future. And here especially on those who have recognised the importance of digital platforms. Digital platforms enable disruptive dynamics. They dissolve old structures and business models in order to fundamentally redesign them. And they allow direct and knowledgeable access to the target group. For example, customer wishes and needs can be recognised and served at an early stage.


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