By Elisabeth Comere
For the food and beverage industry, 2015 was a year of bold commitments. So, as we look to the year ahead, what will 2016 bring?
With the 2-degree Celsius threshold looming and the world’s population continuing to climb, both government and corporate sectors are grappling with the possibility of more frequent natural disasters and increased food, water and resource shortages. It’s not a rosy picture, and we can expect all sectors to work against the clock to help bring the climate back into balance in the years ahead.
Food and beverage companies are no exception. They are a large contributor to climate change, and this poses great risks to their operations. They realize changes are needed across the value chain in order to meet the challenges of a changing climate coupled with growing consumer demand and resource scarcity.
In 2016, food and beverage leaders will continue to invest in solutions that not only maximize the value of resources but simultaneously reduce their carbon footprint. How will this influence the packaging industry? Here are four major trends driving packaging solutions.
1. Basic functions: Package light-weighting remains a major trend in the industry and a key driver for reducing the use of raw materials and the carbon footprint of a package. Several large brand owners have made ambitious commitments in this area and have set specific goals to reduce packaging at the input stage. We can expect smaller and medium brands to follow this trend in the future. Consequently, phasing out heavier materials and substituting it with lighter alternatives will be the focus.
2. Value-add: Whether it is the results of COP21 calling to reduce our dependency on fossil fuel-based resources or an increased market pressure forcing brand-owners to further differentiate from one another, we see a gradual shift and growth of bio-based/plant-based plastic on the marketplace (see new plant-based alternatives). The environmental profile of packaging is increasingly being used as a competitive tool to drive preference and sales. The shift from petrochemical to renewable feedstock is part of the overall effort to bring new innovative and environmentally friendly solutions to give brands that competitive edge.
3. Communicate value of sustainability: Sustainability is a key product attribute and a competitive sales asset increasingly influencing consumer decisions, so in 2016 we will see more labels and campaigns promoting products' environmental benefits (e.g. GMO-free, plant-based, FSC-certified, recyclable, etc.).
4. Transparency within a supply chain and chain of custody: Similar to last year, transparency within supply chains continues to play a major role from resource extraction to point-of-sale as sustainability is pushed to the forefront of business agendas. In addition to transparency within the supply chain, the chain of custody must have traceability systems in place like third-party management and chain-of-custody certification. These systems are meant to track the materials flow from one supplier to another.
Their vision is clear and their ambition is strong. Brand owners are looking for quality packaging that can rise their sustainability profile. Together as an industry, we must be prepared to innovate and provide solutions that can live up to a new and much higher bar of corporate responsibility because building a strong supply chain today means conserving our natural habitat and resources for years to come.
Image: Stock image
Elisabeth Comere is Director of Environment & Government Affairs for Tetra Pak Inc.