How do you make sure that the world receives safer food but that it also reduces the amount of carbon and plastic produced? One solution is to design the ‘perfect pack.’ We spent the best part of a recent day with SIG Combibloc, the world's second largest producer of aseptic carton packaging to hear about their vision approaching this challenge.
Aseptic packaging is a great way of distributing and preserving food, particularly in emerging economies without cool chain infrastructure. Liquid dairy and non-carbonated soft drinks in this format can both enjoy a shelf life of up to 12 months without refrigeration. Current cartons, however, suffer from what was described to us as the ‘aluminium dilemma.’ Most packs contain an ultra-thin aluminium barrier which performs a crucial role in keeping products safe. While this accounts for less than 5% of the pack’s weight (the majority is carton paperboard), it is responsible for c50% of the pack’s carbon footprint. Reformulate this part of the pack and you’re on the way to solving the aluminium dilemma.
SIG has a history of innovation in sustainable packaging. It introduced its first-generation with a novel solution over a decade ago, achieving a world first, in a pack without any aluminium foil. The business is currently innovating through revising its carton filling technology and by introducing new alternative, aluminium-free barrier materials. When asked what the perfect pack might look like, SIG outlined to us its vision. Such a pack would remove more carbon from the atmosphere than is emitted during its lifetime and would be made from endlessly renewable materials (primarily paper). Additionally, it should be easily recyclable anywhere in the world. Such cartons may be available before the middle of this decade.
The journey, of course, does not end there. One sobering statistic we took away from our meeting was that 99% of new food and beverage product launches globally in the last 12 months came in multi-material solutions. Going to fewer (or mono) materials will therefore take time, even if each step in that direction will help shrink the world’s carbon footprint.
The above does not constitute investment advice and is the sole opinion of the author at the time of publication. Heptagon Capital is an investor in SIG Combibloc.The author of this piece has no personal direct investment in the business. Past performance is no guide to future performance and the value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise.
Photos taken by author.
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