One of my favourite things I ever designed was the eco-friendly chocolate packaging shown in this photo. It is an oldie but a goodie from design school, where the brief was to create a chocolate brand and packaging range. Mine was an organic, handmade, Aussie-owned brand that offered a range of unique flavour combinations made from fair trade ingredients.
At that point in my design journey, I didn’t know much about sustainable design or circular design thinking. A lot of thought went into the development of the brand and packaging design but, there was little consideration for materials or responsible end-of-life options.
I know I’m not alone with this oversight. Eco-friendly chocolate packaging solutions and food-safe materials can be a challenge to find. Typically chocolate bars are wrapped in a PET plastic wrapper or aluminium foil and paper sleeve. Although both are perfect solutions, one is clearly more planet friendly than the other. PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) packaging is a massive contributor to our global plastic waste problem.
According to National Geographic and the Ocean’s Conservancy Report, “Candy wrappers and chip bags have become the most commonly found beach trash, surpassing cigarette butts as the top item for the first time.”
In this article, I highlight a few of the most noteworthy confectionery brands who are making sustainable packaging a priority. I hope this informs and inspires you to transition away from plastic wrappers and single use plastic packaging.
Eco-friendly Chocolate Packaging Ideas
01. RECYCLABLE PAPER PACKAGING
If you walk down the confectionery isle in your local grocery store, most multipack confectinery is packaged in soft plastic bags. Nestle’s Smarties is the first global confectionary brand to switch to recyclable paper packaging. According to Nestle, this change amounts to, “removing approximately 250 million plastic packs sold globally every year.”
The new paper packaging spans across their entire Smarties range from the Smarties block to multipack bag. Designed with sustainably sourced fibre and a proprietary water-based coating that provides functionality and the ability to be recycled.
Another confectionery brand committed to eco-friendly packaging is UK-based chocolate brand Montezuma who has recently transitioned their entire range to recyclable, compostable or biodegradable packaging.
Consumer Education – Both Nestle and Montezuma have taken initiative to educate customers and help them understand how to dispose of the new packaging correctly. Nestle has done this through on-pack education and digital platforms encouraging kids to be ‘Recycling Hereos.’ While Montezuma, has taken a different approach and set up a Pop-Up Chocolate Recycling Shop in Covent Gardens where customers can learn more about their new packaging initiatives in a hands-on environment.
Benefits: Paper packaging is both biodegradable and recyclable. Unbleached paper uses less chemicals to process and thus less energy to manufacture.
Tip: Always, choose paper that is from a sustainable source and FSC certified.
02. COMPOSTABLE WRAPPERS
There are several brands in the confectionery space who are switching to compostable wrappers made from renewable plant resources. Most notably is Alter Eco who was the first to launch a compostable, non-GMO, non-toxic candy wrappers for their truffle range.
Other brands doing the same include Loving Earth and Trade Aid who both package their chocolate bars in a food safe composable film wrapper designed by New Zealand based supplier Econic.
Benefits: Compostable wrappers offer a great alternative to single use petroleum based plastic.
Tip: Compostable wrappers will only decompose in a proper compost environment (home or industrial). At the moment, composting for the average Australian is not convienient. Consumer education and support around correct disposal is paramount.
03. RECYCLED FLEXIBLE PLASTIC
In Australia we have an excellent program called REDCycle that collects soft household plastics and recycles the waste into things like playground equipment and park benches. Nestle’s Kit-Kat (I promise I have no affiliation with Nestle, they just happen to be doing great things.) has recently prototyped the first ever, food-safe recycled soft plastic wrapper.
Produced by packaging manufacturer Amcor. This is an exciting development that opens up possibilities for flexible film food wrappers made with recycled content.
Benefits: Made from post-consumer waste yet still delivers the functionality of virgin PET packaging.
04. POST-CONSUMER FIBRE
Sustainably minded chocolate brand Loving Earth does a fabulous job of keeping their packaging low impact. All of their chocolate boxes are made from post-consumer fibre and printed with vegetable based inks.
Since, recycled cardstock is not ideal for direct food contact an inner wrapper is also required. In this case they uses a clear film wrapper that is 100% plant based and compostable.
Benefits: Recycled cardstock uses less water to produce and does not require cutting down virgin trees. It is also biodegradable and recyclable.
Tip: Ensure you are also using vegetable based inks to reduce chemicals and environmental impact.
Before I go, I’ll leave you with this final tip. When deciding what new material to use for your packaging, be sure to look at the full supply chain from raw materials to end of life. You don’t want to switch to a new material only to find it causes problems in a different part of your supply chain.
AND, that concludes my 5 part Plastic Free Packaging series. Drop me a comment if you enjoyed this series, I’d love to know what you learned.
To find out more about how you can make your packaging more sustainable. Get in touch!