Featured, Packaging

Sustainable packaging innovation ahead of product launches

As COPAR edges closer to starting production in Australia, the alternative packaging business is continuing to make positive progress across multiple markets. Food & Beverage Industry News reports. 

COPAR continues to innovate in exciting ways ahead of an Australian rollout of its wheat straw alternative packaging options. 

Recent trade shows have highlighted the urgency being felt by the food and beverage industry when it comes to finding viable packaging options that can meet fast approaching sustainability and efficiency targets. Both locally and globally. 

“I noticed at one of the trade shows we did last year, the difference in conversation from then to now shows people are doing their homework.

“They were talking about PFAS, whereas six-months prior you could bring up PFAS and they wouldn’t know what it was.

“And because we were able to have a sample at APPEX we received strong interest from a large company in Australia that supply to Coles and Woolworths. We will be sending samples off to them for testing,” ,” said Angela Jones, sales manager, COPAR.  

COPAR continues to diversify its alternative packaging solutions / Image: COPAR

One of the keys to COPAR’s approach, innovating and testing different packaging options, has led to some exciting results. Such as a wheat straw butter tray. 

“The client is shelf testing, and it has been performing very well. We have been able to use it like you would use a traditional plastic butter package.

“Oil and grease had been an initial problem when the butter was at room temperature for a long period of time. We have now applied an oil and grease resistance barrier to combat this,” said Colin Farell, business development manager, COPAR.  

As with all other solutions, the butter tray is tested extensively and in conditions that butter packaging will routinely find itself in. 

“The idea for this solution is to get it in and out of the fridge and you can leave it out for a period of time.

“The client has been very happy with it, and it’s proven a good fit for wheat straw packaging because the product requirements of both ambient and chilled temperatures are well suited to it. 

“They will do one month of shelf-life testing. We had tested it for two to three weeks by using it as you would butter, and the results were positive,” said Farell.

Farell said one of the most important elements around testing was finding the failure point of each solution. 

“The main thing clients want is to have the product in their hand after it has been extensively tested and they also want to test it themselves. Testing it to a very strong degree is crucial. 

“A paradigm for testing is to place the product under increasingly tougher conditions to determine at what point it fails.   That way you learn how long the product will last under certain conditions. Clients really want their packaging to be safe, and match the functionality of plastic, which we are getting closer to all the time. 

“Plastic is hard to substitute in certain packaging, because it is cheap, very functional and can be used for multiple purposes,” said Farell.

Hard to substitute, but not impossible. 

“On some of our lines we have a plastic lining in the tray that generally works and can still deemed recyclable because it’s less than 10 per cent of the weight.

“We are now going to be testing that with polypropylene and CPET, primarily for ready-to-eat trays. 

“If we can get it to under 10 per cent of the product weight it can be recyclable, and in turn you are reducing your plastic usage by 90 per cent at this stage, before a plastic-free solution is found for ready-to-eat,” said Farell.  

And the more that plastics continue to be phased out, the more urgent it becomes for the food and beverage manufacturing industry to pivot. 

“We have a lot of clients bringing up that they are happy with plastic packaging, but now it is being mandated out they want the solution that gives them the same outcomes.

“They have never really had to worry as much about packaging before as they are now. So, we are always looking at innovations to keep the price of our packaging competitive. Things like controlling our pulp production and forming our products in one facility provides economies of scale which is important. Once we get mass, we can get prices down,” said Farell.

Meanwhile, Jones said speaking with key stakeholders over the years has shown that price has become less of an issue as mandates around packaging loomed ever closer.

“They have already seemed to absorb that and instead were showing more interest in the product, and on the last six months it feels like the sense of urgency to adopt alternative packaging such as ours has grown.

“We have had some very good responses and price is less of an issue than it was at first. They are aware new mandates are coming in and realise they must start to look at relevant solutions now. 

“Now that the sense of urgency has arrived which is very good for us because we are being contacted about our solutions,” said Jones.

OPAR extensively test all of its solutions and allows potential customers to do the same / Image: COPAR

As an extension of this change around recyclability and compostability expectations, is the need for greater education, not just of industry but, crucially, consumers. 

“I think it is highly important.

“It’s one thing to put a product in the market that is compostable and recyclable, it’s another thing entirely to have the end user, in this case the consumer, actually put that to use properly rather than it going to landfill. 

“I work heavily with APCO and AORA and they are pushing heavily for a lot of education. They are encouraging councils, state, and federal governments to get heavily involved in that education of consumers,” said Hugh Perrottet, research and development, operations, COPAR.

Perrottet said history had already shown you need everyone from manufacturers to consumers buying in for recyclability and compostability to be a long-term success, with COPAR ready to provide the perfect packaging solutions to help. 

“You have circularity and sustainability, but you have to dispose of it correctly to ensure that happens,” said Hugh Perrottet.

One of the biggest selling points for wheat straw packaging is its compostability and recyclability. 

“When composted, it goes back into organic compost which helps produce more plant material,” said Perrottet. 

Send this to a friend