Making the announcement at the ChangeNOW summit in Paris, Philippe Gallard, head, International Business Unit, Perrier, (part of Nestlé) took to the stage to name the start-ups.
As part of its ‘The Next Packaging Movement’ program, Perrier is backing PlastiSkul, which promotes micro factories for waste transformation, using an integrated-approach model, from waste collection to transformation, that can also be implemented in developing countries; Biotic bio-based and biodegradable plastic, produced from agricultural waste; and FlexiKeg, re-usable flexible kegs.
Gallard said after 18 years working for Nestlé, it realizes collaboration is important to achieve anything.
“In the past, Perrier has collaborated with dozens of artists on various projects and we take pride in that,” he said.
“When we started to think about what we can do in terms of sustainable packaging we decided not to do something alone. If it’s done right, it can be a game-changer. But it is a big challenge we are facing at the moment. Through collaboration you get new ideas and access to contacts you wouldn’t normally have.
“I’m not an expert in packaging and sustainability. We have R&D teams but we alone are not experts so we wanted to create the best possible team to find out what we could do.
“We partnered with SoScience, a French company created 2014, to connect with the industry of science and research to provide sustainable solutions for the future. They really helped us with the process, defining milestones, building different steps and helping with recruitment before we picked three finalists. SoScience will also continue to play an important role in the mentorship of these winners.”
Together with Perrier, SoScience announced a call for applications through its network of scientific institutions and research centres in April 2019. It received approximately 90 submissions from a range of organizations including NGOs, start-ups and researchers. The selection process for winning applications took into account key factors such as the breakthrough dimension of the proposed solution, environmental and social benefits and its ability to scale across the sparkling water market and the broader beverage industry.
The brief stated: 'Owing to concerns over packaging polluting the environment, smart packaging has started to emerge, including 100% edible packaging; bioplastic that degrades faster; compostable packaging; bio-sourced packaging, but these were either at the prototype stage or remain in niche markets so how to develop a solution at an industrial scale?
The start-up companies
Minh Man Nguyen, president, Fab City Grand Paris, creator PlastiSkul. Nguyen is the co-founder of the architecture agency WAO that caters toward digital manufacturing and digital design. In 2013, he co-founded WoMa, Fabrique de Quartier, a co-working space associated with Fab Lab. WoMa is an active member of the Fab Lab network and hosted the first Fab Academy in Paris. It is also a member of the French Fab Lab Network (RFF).
Faith Obange is the CEO of Lwanda Biotech, a social enterprise that works to develop environmentally friendly packaging for the F&B industry. She created the company after seeing the impact of plastic pollution in her country and felt inspired to apply her biotechnology knowledge to contribute to solving this global environmental problem.
Obange holds a BSc. degree in Biomedical Science and Technology and is completing her MSc. degree in Biotechnology.
Anas Binebine is the co-founder & CEO of Flexikeg. He's an engineer who graduated from the "Grande Ecole" with a Masters degree at ESSEC Business School. He spent five years as a strategy advisor for a large corporation then as a consultant. He met Jean-Christophe Doux from Ecole Polytechnique (X86, Supaero) in 2016 and created FlexiKeg.
‘What new ideas, materials or systems can we imagine to transform this issue into opportunities for the planet or for human health?
‘The beverage category today is inseparable from its packaging and as packaging technical constraints are more numerous for sparkling water than other beverage (transparency, sturdiness…), the sparkling water industry can lead the way for the whole beverage industry. Creating a carbon and waste neutral solution is necessary and would be a huge step forward. Can we go even further and imagine positive social and environmental impacts? For instance, a packaging that would improve marine biodiversity or aggrade soils?’
The project led to 33 people invited to an open day ‘Meet up’ event, 12 collaborations and three winners who, with the financial backing of €100,000 per project and up to €1m in total, will try to bring their product to market by 2025 via technical and operational support.
SoScience has also created a ‘Task Force’ made up of external leaders in materials sciences, environmentalists, entrepreneurs and changemakers to identify the most promising projects and to mentor the winners.
The Task Force includes: Dr. Jiang Nanqing, secretary-general, China plastics reuse and recycling association, Philipp Meister, senior director sustainability strategy Adidas Group, Sian Sutherland, a Plastic Planet NGO founder and Dr. Sabrina Cipullo, Solar Impulse Label assessment leader.
“We want to make sure everything we are doing is backed by the right level of expertise. We want to make sure we do the basics well and dream high. With the ability to do both we believe we can make a step change in the area of sustainability in packaging,” said Gallard.
For now, the project is a Perrier company initiative, independent of Nestlé Group.
“We wanted to keep our program of initiating projects based on our own laurels to begin,” explained Gallard. “But if we can get the products to scale there’s no reason why we can’t expand that to other brands within Nestlé. That would be something we would be very proud of.”
During the ChangeNOW summit, Gallard was joined by Melanie Marcel, founder, SoScience and Bertrand Piccard, founder/chairman, of Solar Impulse Foundation to discuss the project in more detail.
Marcel said her company is a social enterprise specializing in responsible research and innovation and ‘how you can use scientific research and technology to answer social and environmental issues, by giving access to science for those that don’t normally have access to it’.
“We connect social entrepreneurs, NGOs and scientists, to use all their knowledge and support them in finding products to solve environmental issues,” she said.
Piccard explained that the goal was to protect the environment in a profitable way.
“Nobody is keen to change anything in their life if they are obliged to do it and if they don’t have a personal interest in doing it and it doesn’t interest them, they won’t do it,” he said.
“Companies like Nestlé and Perrier understand that the business of the future is linked to the protection of the environment and yet you have companies who are too selfish to care about the environment and the future of humankind and they resist change.”
According to Marcel, the kind of issues manufacturers are dealing with in packaging and food waste is so complex and huge that it is impossible for one player to solve the issue alone and they need states and companies to be involved, citizens to act and start-ups, otherwise it is hard for different groups of people to collaborate that is why it launches innovation programs.
Piccard said five years’ ago it would have been impossible to have a company like Perrier on stage at an event like ChangeNOW. It would have only been green activists criticizing the big players but today it is not just about wishful thinking it’s about those manufacturers coming forward and showing they are committed and who want to be involved in making changes to support the environment.
But, he added, the secret is how to involve the consumer to support the change otherwise it will never work.
“We have the possibility now to do more with the big companies. If Nestlé and Perrier can do something well, all the companies in the same industry will see that and believe that they can do it also. We need to push the companies who resist to adopt change. They show us that it is possible,” said Piccard.
Speaking about the three candidates Perrier chose to support, Gallard said it was interested to encourage young start-ups and most of the projects it had chosen were still in their infancy.
“We have been working with SoScience for 10 months now and Melanie (Marcel) and her team have shown us a different way to look at problems, issues and opportunities. It was daunting at first but we have become stronger in the process and hopefully we will become better and the business will become stronger and better as a result,” said Gallard.
The biggest challenges the candidates will face said Piccard is the end goal, and they need to be really clear on how their project is to the benefit of humankind.
“If we want to solve this big challenge (of saving our planet) we need to implement solutions quickly, either we work on everything simultaneously to do things better or the situation will get worse,” he said.
“All those people who don’t participate (in protecting our environment) will endanger us, not just the next generation but today. We are in a world creating so many inequalities it is becoming dangerous, wasting natural resources. We need to see the urgency of the problem and the way to solve it. Calling all our certitudes into question, we have to do it on a massive scale and today things are not going fast enough and the scale-up is too small. Don’t believe people who say it is too expensive, we don’t have enough support.”
Gallard said, the challenge is how to bring new materials to life.
“We are trying to accelerate this project. It is an open innovation principle so that people meet with each other and share their expertise. There is no answer to this advanced stage because we are still learning and the projects are very different in nature,” he added.
“We (Perrier) are here to try to accelerate and we want at the end to make sure what we do is obviously a benefit to us and the total beverage industry.”
Marcel agreed and said the goal is to have as many people as possible benefiting. To find a solution that is useful to the whole beverage industry. Each of the candidates will receive a follow-up program of a minimum of six months, access to training, a mentor, help in giving them visibility. Each program will be tailored towards the specific needs of each of the winners.
“We felt it was important to invite our winners to the ChangeNOW summit to give them a chance to get on stage so people can see what it is they are doing, to promote their businesses. We prefer to collaborate with companies who are really at the start so that their project can become viable and scalable, to make the first steps together, because we feel it is the best moment, at the beginning, to take them on,” said Gallard.
“The intention eventually is to do other things, to bring new ideas to life.
“We are trying to please consumers every day and we want to build the brand but it is not a green washing exercise, we are part of the problem in a way so how can we be part of a solution delivering on Nestlé commitments, with a new fresh way in how to look at things.
“We are collaborating with other companies to develop new materials there is a lot of work taking place at the moment finding ways to improve collection for recycling. We are doing a lot of work on PET and to make sure it is recycled in the right way, in order for this to become bigger we are happy to have conversations with our competitors to move this along quicker.
“We have a history of collaboration, on this specific topic we realize our brand and the needs of our consumers is to develop our business in a sustainable manner. It’s important to consumers to feel that Perrier is helping to make a change, we came to understand that and then ask how we can do that, which can bring real concrete benefits to a sustainable future.
“In the next five years we want to have some concrete things happening by 2025 ideally 2021, with a first commercially available proof in the market, that would be a great achievement, getting projects to a certain scale would be something we would be very proud of.”