Sexy, cheap and eco-friendly: What retailers snack on

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Retailers are putting big demands on snack makers, in addition to sustainability efforts
Retailers are putting big demands on snack makers, in addition to sustainability efforts

Related tags Sustainable snack packaging Recycling Retailing

Retailer demands are tough. They want quality, competitive prices and now, more than ever, to work with eco-friendly brands.

So, your ‘green’ snack must taste and look great, remain cheap and have an environmentally friendly life cycle. Not much to ask then…

“An innovative design can achieve multiple benefits while reducing the environmental impact,”​ said Adam Siegel, vice president of sustainability and retail operations at the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA).

“Clever packaging designers can find many ways to create more sustainable packaging that benefits retailers and consumers,”​ Siegel told BakeryandSnacks.com.

For retailers, snack makers must comprehensively lessen the environmental impact of the packaging itself and ensure this in a cost-effective way, he said.

“The packaging should also integrate flawlessly into retail processes and systems so that it can arrive to retail shelves and pass through point of sale seamlessly.”

“…Most retailers tend to have broad sustainability goals: Energy, water, waste, and material reduction goals. They are looking for partners – including supplier partners – to help them achieve those goals,” ​he said.

Efforts need to be ‘scaled up’

Within the snack sector Siegel said there has been progress in products that use renewable or recycled materials and others that are designed to use less material, pack more tightly for transportation, or be recycled after their useful life.

“Those are important steps, but they need to be scaled across product lines and across industry,”​ he added.

“Sustainable packaging requires a holistic lifecycle approach, which includes a look at the packaging design, raw materials, manufacturing, transportation, use and disposal,”​ Siegel said.

Please the consumer 

Sustainably packaging still need to have consumer appeal
Sustainably packaging still need to have consumer appeal

When it comes to sustainable packaging development with the consumer in mind, Siegel said the pack must be easy to use, convenient, cheap and easily recyclable everywhere.

Of course vibrancy and appeal is of key importance, he added. “Just because packaging is more sustainable, doesn’t mean that it has a ‘pass’ for shelf appeal.”

“…Also important is using the packaging as a vehicle for educating the consumer on more healthy and sustainable choices,”​ he said.

Alongside all these eco efforts, snack packaging must fulfil the traditional functional objectives, Siegel said, like ensuring the product arrives safely, maintains product quality and promotes product features.

"Both primary and secondary packaging are important to retailers, since both are necessary for the safe shipping, sale, and use of the products and both have an environmental impact,”​ he added.

Retail demands on suppliers are tough, says analyst
Retail demands on suppliers are tough, says analyst

Tough calls

“That’s a lot of demands,” ​said David Gray, retail analyst for Planet Retail, responding to the demands outlined by Siegel. “I don’t know if manufacturers can achieve all of those in one go.”

“Broadly speaking, I think retailers put a lot of demands on suppliers,”​ Gray said.

Sustainability is a big issue for retailers, he said, and along with all the other demands and the fact that with private label they are direct competition, “it’s not an easy environment for suppliers at the moment”.

More from this 'going green' special edition:

Shhhh! Sustainable snack packaging is a covert operation. But why?

Sustainable snack pack materials: What's out there?

Far from rubbish? Food waste R&D simmers with snack packaging hope

Do consumers care about sustainable snack packaging?

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