If you watch the news, it will hardly have escaped your notice that a war on single-use plastics is well underway.
After more than a century of use, our unquestioned commitment to plastic products is now being quizzed, with sentiments toward our polymer partner shifting into a new light…
A changing landscape
That isn’t to say that we’ll be ditching plastics right away, but organisations committed to cutting back on its use are gaining traction across media channels and platforms. And their message is clear—plastics are now doing more harm than good. Which presents a momentous challenge for the food and snacking industry.
Right now, executives in the sector have their ears tuned to what their closest competitors are doing; after all, plastic packaging has long been the staple for all forms of snack and confectionery items, from single sweets to giant hanging bags, but increased awareness of the havoc it’s wreaking on the environment and food supply chain is forcing companies to seek out or create better alternatives.
Sky’s the limit, but oceans first
Much of the change is being driven by corporations that, through the habits of their workforce, consume large amounts of plastic and want to reverse that consumption. Sky recently committed through its Ocean Rescue Campaign to remove all single-use plastics from within the company by 2020, things like straws, drinks stirrers, cups, bottles, food packaging and so on.
But the company is going even further than that by committing to remove single-use plastics from its supply chain altogether, encouraging and assisting its business partners to follow suit.
As part of the publicity for these intentions, in a purposeful paradox, Sky commissioned a giant blue whale to be built out of nothing but throwaway plastic items, including bottles for the body and bags for the gills, as a stark reminder of where the majority of single-use plastics end up—in the ocean and in our food chain.
Waitrose trials Everyday Refills…
Similarly, Waitrose is testing out new ways to reduce single-use plastics and launched large dispensers at its Botley Road store in Oxford this month. If the test goes well, the supermarket plans to roll out the scheme.
For those old enough to remember, it was pretty standard back in the day to go to your local grocers, see stacks of loose fruit and veg, select what you wanted then have it weighed before being handed to you in a brown paper bag.
But then came plastics, and produce in pre-weighed plastic bags, taking much of the fun out of grocery shopping while adding more plastic to the sea.
With Waitrose’s new initiative, customers fill a multi-use container from a hopper, and when it’s empty, go back to repeat the process. If successful, the scheme should see other supermarkets copying the initiative very soon.
Vive la France! Mort au Plastique!
But it isn’t just supermarkets and corporations that want to abolish plastics. Some governments have been quick to respond to the rising tide of anti-plastic sentiment, and are robustly committing to the cause, too. Most notably France, which has just extended its total ban on plastic bags to focus on other single-use plastics including plastic plates, glasses, cups and cutlery.
‘France has certainly raised the bar in this area,’ says Jonathan Potter of the Delicious Ideas Food Group (DIFG). ‘Compostable packaging is something that just about everybody with a finger on the pulse of the food and snacking industry is thinking about right now.
At DIFG, we’re trialling compostable and biodegradable packaging with our longer life ambient foods such as raw nuts, dried fruit and confectionery items to test product integrity in the hope we can launch some new innovative mixes in “plant friendly” packaging later in the year. We also supply our products in cute little, fully compostable boxes, that look great on the shelves, and are readily available to private label customers.’
There are other ways, too…
Wanna fight plastic? Better bulk up!
Buying in bulk and dispensing produce such as dried fruit, nuts and seeds, or confectionery is one of the quickest and easiest ways of making in a big dent in plastic use.
Adds Jonathan, ‘Our heritage is offering bulk confectionery and snacks within attractive displays that give consumers quick visibility of the ranges on offer.
‘And now, with the raised awareness of global plastic pollution, and a growing distaste for single-use plastics, we’ve added compostable containers and biodegradable bags and cups to give contract caterers, retailers, and their customers a value proposition they can be proud of.
‘It’s very similar in concept to what Waitrose is trying out with its new Everyday Refills, and we’re big advocates of rolling out this type of approach. But it’s important to remember, this is not a new thing. It’s the way things were done in the past, and people are simply returning to it.’
Similarly, something a lot of contract catering and retail customers are turning to, both to reduce plastic and at the same time jazz up premises, are the DIFG Sweet Carts.
‘Pick ‘n’ mix and jars on carts are two of the best ways to reduce plastic waste in the snacking industry, fast. We’ve been providing installations and Sweet Carts for about 25 years.
They’re an ideal and obvious solution. Just one pick ‘n’ mix stand with stock, scoops and compostable cups & tubs saves many kilogrammes of single-use plastics each year, and so does a single cart.
‘With the carts, it’s easy to set them up, stack them up with attractive looking jars and fill them with colourful confectionery items from our bulk ranges or healthy bulk snacks. As plastic considerations take centre stage, we’re seeing an increased uptake by contract caterers and retailers in these snacks dispense solutions.’
While buying in bulk and selling by weight is one of the quickest and simplest ways to phase out single-use plastics, where that isn’t possible, for example with compressed protein snacks that require protective wrapping, compostable packaging is increasingly becoming the answer.
While TRIBE was the first snack bar in the UK to have a full range of energy bars in compostable wrapping, Seed and Bean are the first to have their entire range of artisanal chocolate bars compostably wrapped—right down to the eucalyptus wood-based foil that keeps the chocolate fresh.
‘Things are certainly changing, and cutting edge snack brands, many of which we distribute, are paving the way. I don’t think it will be long before big companies start to do the same.’ says Jonathan. ‘Today, it’s too big an issue.
‘I think that as people become more aware of plastic pollution and the pressure grows, we’ll see two things: a big rise in companies buying their snacking supplies in bulk and dispensing them to staff and customers through pick ‘n’ mix installations, and more and more disruptive snack brands join the anti-plastic party, and start going fully compostable with their packaging.’
To find out more about bulk products, pick ‘n’ mix point of sale, and disruptive snack brands committed to compostable packaging, contact DIFG today.