The Impact of Sustainability on the Food Packaging Chain

Over the years the importance of and interest in sustainability has grown significantly. Not surprisingly since the environment is under enormous pressure, customer needs and demands are changing and increasingly stringent rules and regulations in support of sustainability are being set.

This changing landscape also applies to the food packaging industry where sustainability tops the agenda. From food production to food packaging, the full value chain is being pushed by rules and legislation toward sustainability and by consumers who increasingly critically review “unsustainable” production and packaging of food. The EU set a ‘Single-Use Plastics Directive’ stating that this year, EU members are required to ban products like disposable plastic straws, plastic cotton buds, plastic stirrers, and single-use plastic cutlery and plates.

Additionally, by the end of 2024, it will be mandatory in the EU for caps and lids to remain attached to beverage containers with a capacity of up to three liters as part of the new Single-Use Plastics Directive. This small design adaptation is expected to prevent 10 percent of the plastic litter found on European beaches.

Consumer demand is driving change as well. An Accenture survey of 6,000 consumers in 11 countries across North America, Europe and Asia concluded that nearly three-quarters of the respondents said that they currently buy more environmentally friendly products than they did five years ago. Additionally, 81 percent said they expect to buy more of these products over the next five years.

Adoption of new innovative and sustainable solutions requires investment from food manufacturers. Investments that can be perceived as requirements to comply with sustainable rules and regulations and next to food safety fundamentals for continuing business. While most of the food manufacturers are very willing, limited budgets and margins often make adoption challenging – but not impossible.

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