Tom Dempsey, CEO of the SFA, said there were huge amounts invested in sustainability at a production level among snack makers.
“Certainly the sustainability focus is on the after-use of the product and carbon footprints etc. That’s being driven by our customers, not the consumer. It’s the retailer - a lot of the retailers are asking ‘what is your carbon footprint?’; ‘what do you do with waste?’” he told BakeryandSnacks.com earlier this month at Pack Expo 2014.
But, he said it was obvious that the biggest green focus area for snack makers was on production waste.
“With potato chips, for example, where the peel, waste and starch all goes to animal feed or with corn snacks after the masa mix or wheat dough for baked snacks…I think right now, you’d be hard pressed to find a manufacturer that doesn’t do that on some scale.”
Water use was also a core focus for most snack makers, Dempsey said, with many implementing water treatment machines to re-use water to wash down production lines.
Packaging that pleases
However, Dempsey said sustainable efforts still had to be strengthened in packaging.
Asked about developments in biodegradable, sustainable packaging materials, he said: “If somebody could fix that, it would be a beauty. We’ve had a lot of [film] convertors that have come out with a lot of biodegradable bags that have either been too noisy or really haven’t been biodegradable.”
Film producers were likely working hard on it, he said, but development of a suitable material was going to be “a tough one to solve”.
Back in 2009, Frito-Lay launched biodegradable packaging for its SunChips brand but withdrew the product from the market the next year after it was slammed by consumers for being too loud. Consumers took to Facebook to complain in mass and in 2011 Frito-Lay re-launched the brand with ‘quieter’ biodegradable packs.
“If there’s anything that the SunChips bag proves, it’s that a pack has not just got to be biodegradable, it has to be consumer friendly as well - it doesn’t work if it’s sustainable and [consumers] don’t like it.”
Asked if snack makers were communicating green efforts to consumers, Dempsey said: “Better today than yesterday; better tomorrow than today. But part of that is the vehicle to do it – it’s hard to write that message on a bag and easier to write it on a website.”
With all of the legal requirements for certain package listings, he said it left very little room for other messaging. “Also, right now you want to make that package the carrier of your product but also the marketing and merchandizing tool.”