Retailer store brands are striving to become leaders in sustainable packaging, and it is driving the packaging industry.
By 2025, both Ahold and Aldi will make 100% of its private brand packaging recyclable, compostable or reusable. Kroger pledged to do the same by 2030. Walmart, Albertsons and others have set comparable packaging goals.
“While packaging that is convenient, easy to open, and keeps the product safe from tampering and damage will continue to be important, environmental concerns are affecting consumer choices, and packaging that is recyclable or reusable is growing in importance,” said Bob Tupta, marketing product manager at Mold-Rite Plastics.
To tackle sustainability, packaging suppliers and private label manufacturers are stepping up in various ways — from creating reusable containers like the Loop platform from TerraCycle to leveraging post-consumer content and renewable bio-based resins in packaging, as well as deploying more flexible pouches or bags as opposed to rigid packages.
Sidebar: What CVS Wants
Brenda Lord, vice president of private brands and quality assurance at CVS Health told Store Brands that the retailer is looking to packaging as a way to innovate its store brands.
Two examples of where they’re looking: continuous spray bottles for products that otherwise would have messy applications, and packages with pre-measured dosages of OTC remedies to make it easier for customers to take the right amount.
Lord said the retailer sees great possibility in reusable packaging, too, and has been working with manufacturer partners to present reusable packaging options and “to push the envelope for all of our store brand product lines to explore additional steps we can take towards achieving even more sustainable packaging goals.”
“As a company dedicated to improving people’s lives through innovative and high-quality health offerings, we are continuously working to reduce our environmental and climate-related impact across all areas of business,” she said. “Across our store brands portfolio, we are working to minimize while giving customers information to make smart product decisions and committed to providing customers with accessible and affordable options.”
The key to developing a more sustainable package comes down to developing a smaller package (using less material that makes the item cheaper to ship) and using materials that support the circular economy.
The Loop platform from TerraCycle has been a leading example of the reuse application and is growing in the private brand space. The platform last fall hit a milestone by making its platform available in every zip code across the 48 contiguous states and this year it launched reusable President’s Choice packaging for Canadian retailer Loblaw.
The service likens itself to the days of the milkman. Shoppers in Canada, for example, select a President’s Choice jar of salsa online (in-store service will be available soon). The jar is a reusable package designed by Loop and Loblaw that gets returned by the shopper (shipped back in a package provided by Loop) to be refilled and mailed back to the shopper.
Kroger and Walgreens are using Loop for its own brands in the United States, and Loop has partnered with select Carrefour stores in France. Additionally, the platform will be launching in Japan with Aeon and in Australia with Woolworth’s later this year.
“I think it’s great that retailers are setting big goals and this will put pressure on brands being carried at their stores to adapt with the current consumer trend of delivering goods in sustainable packaging,” said Charlotte Maiden, publicist for the platform. “I think this will be even more successful if retailers start these steps with their own private label brands.”
Outside of Loop, Trenton, N.J.-based TerraCycle hit a milestone last summer by launching the first-ever recycling program dedicated to a store brand product, teaming with Kroger for the SimpleTruth Recycling Program — which centers on flexible packaging that is not accepted in the curbside bin, including produce bags, bread bags and plastic overwrap found on items like tissue boxes and bottled water.
After a shopper signs up on the TerraCycle website, once they purchase one of the more than 300 eligible Simple Truth products, they are able to ship empty packages to TerraCycle to be recycled using a free, prepaid shipping label.
“Local governments are often faced with the ever-increasing challenges and expenses of managing hard-to-recycle materials. When [retailers] step up to take the lead on recycling efforts, they alleviate the pressure from local governments, bolster the recycling system as a whole, and support the recovery of their products’ packaging on a national scale,” TerraCycle representatives said.
Other examples of companies rolling out sustainable packaging solutions include Smile Beverage Werks, which has introduced commercially sustainable compostable coffee pods that can be used for retailer private brands. The Darien, Conn.-based company’s pods are made from renewable plant-based materials, making them commercially compostable, and the product carries a full-year shelf life.
Eco Lips, a large independent organic lip balm manufacturer, has developed what it says is the first environmentally sustainable lip balm tube that is made entirely from plants and is 100% free of plastics. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based company said the tube feels and functions like a plastic tube vessel. Eco Lips produces Fair Trade Certified lip care products using 100% renewable energy, producing products under its brand name as well as for private label and contract manufacturing.