Coca-Cola and Danone take the lead on biobased packaging

Wageningen UR to launch public-private partnership on biobased food packaging

By Jenny Eagle contact

- Last updated on GMT

Wageningen UR public-private partnership on biobased food packaging

Related tags: Polylactic acid

Wageningen UR is looking for companies to jointly launch a public-private partnership to answer questions about what consumers want in terms of biobased packaging of food products and how this can strengthen the position of a brand, citing Coca-Cola and Danone as examples.

The PPS is a joint initiative of the research institutes LEI and Food & Biobased Research at Wageningen UR in the Netherlands and packaging producers, brand manufacturers, retailers and sector organisations have until May 11 to get in touch.

Top Sector Agriculture and Food

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Wageningen UR will be submitting the PPS proposal to the Top Sector Agriculture and Food on May 18.

Two leading researchers on the project are Christiaan Bolck, programme manager, Biobased Materials, Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research and Marieke Meeusen, LEI, Wageningen UR.

Bolck said Biobased packaging gives food manufacturers the chance to make their products more sustainable, strengthening their brand and position in the market.

As an example, he highlighted Coca-Cola, which has introduced a bottle on the market that is produced in part using sugarcane and Danone for launching a variety of biobased packaging using polylactic acid.

Other companies are considering taking this step, but often still have quite a few unanswered questions​,” he said.

The Coca-Cola Company

PlantBottle packaging from The Coca-Cola Company is the first ever fully recyclable PET plastic beverage bottle​ made partially from plants. The material looks and functions like PET plastic, but has a lighter footprint and fully recyclable.

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The company is focused on having all new PET plastic it uses contain PlantBottle technology by 2020.  Since its initial launch in 2009, more than 20 billion PlantBottle packages have been distributed in 31 countries.

Danone announced in February this year it had converted 5% of its yogurt packaging to bio-based polylactic acid (PLA) and is looking at other ways to expand its use of the material.

PLA is being used as a replacement for polystyrene at the company’s Stonyfield Farms brand organic yogurt made in the US and in Germany.

Guerino Madeddu, rigid plastic upstream quality, development and services Americas, Danone, said at the time: “PLA is not perfect, for instance it cannot be used in a hot-fill line, but it can step in on many existing form-fill seal lines.”

According to Meeusen, the European Commission study, Open-Bio suggests consumers have different perceptions of what bio-based ‘content’ is in packaging.

EU Open-Bio

Open-Bio is the follow-up project to another FP7 research project called KBBPPS (Knowledge based bio-based products’ pre-standardization) formed in November 2013. It builds on the results of KBBPPS and developing further knowledge on implementation of the standardization result in relation to market development.

Open-Bio investigates how markets can be opened for bio-based products through standardization, labelling and procurement. One focus is on the sustainability of the bio-based resources and potential testing methods for this criterion.

Part of the project is to create an Ecolabel that can be applied to bio-based products to strengthen consumer confidence and boost market demand.

Ecolabel

Biobased packaging is generally more expensive than its non-biobased equivalent. On the other hand, it has added value​,” said Meeusen.

We want to use consumer research to determine what exactly that added value is in the eyes of consumers. Once we have that answer, companies can translate this into their positioning in the market and claims they use to substantiate their products​.

They can also invest in a more targeted fashion in technical innovation and their communications on biobased packaging. If, for example, customers appreciate visible fibre in the packaging, the company can tailor its production process to this preference​.”

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