Tetra Pak and CSM are at forefront of developments in sustainable packaging

Tetra Pak and CSM are at forefront of developments in sustainable packaging

The final part of just-food's look at sustainable packaging looks at two companies at the forefront of developments in the sector - CSM and Tetra Pak.


One company which is active in both the food industry and as a supplier of packaging is the Netherlands-based CSM, which has operations in most parts of the world. Not only does CSM's bakery supplies business unit manufacture bakery products and ingredients for customers such as Starbucks and Wal-Mart Stores (as well as a large number of industrial and artisanal bakers), the company also competes in the sustainable packaging industry via its Purac division.

According to CSM, Purac is a world leader in the market for natural food preservation and bio-based chemicals. Purac has become of the world's leading suppliers of bioplastics derived from lactic acid and lactic acid derivatives, specifically Poly Lactic Acid (PLA). The raw material for PLA comes from agricultural products such as sugar beet, corn, tapioca and sugar cane. According to CSM, the global PLA market is forecast to reach over 3m tonnes within the next ten years. 

CSM sees the packaging industry as having the potential to account for 2.6m tonnes of this figure. According to a company source, "bioplastics such as PLA have the potential to replace up to a quarter of the 250m tonnes of plastic used in the packaging industry by the end of the present decade", with the food and drinks sector accounting for the majority of this. CSM expects sustainability to be the major driving force behind this move, as its packaging customers strive to reduce their carbon footprint still further. 

The issue of carbon footprint reduction has influenced much of Purac's recent strategies in this area. The company has been developing a new gypsum-free lactic acid production process, which can significantly reduce carbon emissions still further. Also worthy of mention is the future likelihood that biomass will be used as a feedstock, a trend which a source from CSM expects "to accelerate future growth in demand, especially within the food industry". In partnership with Unilever, CSM has committed to using biomass in lactic acid manufacture by 2015, by which time it aims to have established a commercial lactic acid plant based on alternative substrates.

Purac's commitment to developing its presence in this area still further over the coming years was illustrated by the establishment late in 2010 of a new facility for manufacturing PLA in Thailand, in partnership with Indorama Ventures. Initial capacity for the plant was estimated at 10,000 tonnes, potentially rising to 100,000 tonnes per annum. CSM is also entering into more arrangements with business and technology partners in order to drive the PLA market forwards. 

In addition to Purac's activities, CSM has also been modifying packaging for its own products along more sustainable lines. The company has a current goal of reducing the weight of packaging materials used by 20% - for example, its bakery supplies division in Europe has been reducing the thickness of its plastic bags and cartons. As might be expected given Purac's activities, more use is also being made of sustainable materials such as PLA. 

Tetra Pak

Tetra Pak represents one of the leading suppliers of packaging to the global food and drinks industry. Part of the Tetra Laval Group of companies, Tetra Pak is particularly well-known as a supplier of paperboard beverage cartons, which are used in sectors such as milk and fruit juice. Besides packaging, Tetra Pak also supplies filling machines for the food and drinks industry, as well as processing and distribution equipment.

As might be expected from such a major industry operator, activity in the sustainability area has been substantial – mainly in the form of sourcing an increasing amount of its raw material from sustainably-managed forests. Tetra Pak has a stated corporate aim of sourcing all of its paperboard from Forestry Stewardship Council-certified forests, a goal its European business has already achieved. 

During 2010, Tetra Pak's global sales amounted to nearly EUR10bn (US$14.63bn), with its Packaging Solutions business unit accounting for over 90% of this figure. The company has packaging material plants in 43 countries worldwide, while its packaging products can be found in more than 170. According to the company, over 158bn of its containers were produced in 2010 (up from 145bn the previous year), equivalent to 74bn litres of product delivered. Tetra Pak's share of the global beverage cartons market is estimated at over 70%. 

Tetra Pak remains committed to running its business in an environmentally sustainable manner. This strategy has been best illustrated by its partnership with the FSC, as a result of which an increasing percentage of its cartons are certified as coming from sustainable sources. In the words of Tetra Pak, this "enables consumers to actively support responsible forestry practices". Tetra Pak has gained significant support from the drinks industry in this area, with packaging for brands such as Princes, Ribena and Rubicon now featuring the FSC logo, as well as some own-label containers. 

As of 2010, 40% of Tetra Pak's paperboard supply was certified by the FSC, which equates to 8.5bn cartons worldwide. The same year saw the introduction of 3.3 billion Tetra Pak beverage cartons certified by the FSC in Germany, accounting for around half of the company's total annual German output. It is targeting 2.7bn units in France by 2012 - some 100m FSC cartons were launched in Carrefour's French stores in 2010 – as well as 14bn FSC cartons in the Chinese market. As a result of its recent efforts, FSC-certified Tetra Pak cartons are now available throughout Europe, as well as further afield in Brazil, Argentina and Thailand.

Tetra Pak also places a strong emphasis on recycling its packaging products. During 2010, up to 30bn of its cartons were recycled across the globe (up from 25bn the previous year), thereby eliminating over 473,000 tonnes of waste. On a global basis, Tetra Pak has increased recycling of its products by over one billion packs per annum since 2002. Its UK subsidiary remains a major contributor towards the National Recycling Fund, as well as having invested over GBP1m (US$1.7m) to support local authorities in setting up recycling and collection facilities.