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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Major Snack Brands Continue to Cut Plastic in Packaging

While Walkers and the British Crisp Co shift to paper, Mars embraces digital simulation software to slash its amount of plastic needed.

Walkers, British Crisp Co unveil recyclable paper chip bags

Image credit: British Crisp Co

This week, UK chip brand Walkers (known as Lay’s in the US, Canada and Australia) announced the rollout of paper outer bags for all multipacks of its Snack a Jacks rice cakes — a step toward its goal of decreasing the brand’s use of virgin plastic by 65 tonnes annually.

Building on the shift to recyclable paper packaging of brands such as Nestlé’s Yes!, Walkers’ new paper bags are designed for easy recycling at home and curbside collections; and the company says the transition to paper bags is expected to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per pack by 52 percent. Following the success of paper outer packaging across Walkers Baked multipacks, Snack a Jacks is Walkers’ second brand to adopt the new format.

“Easily recycled with your usual household paper recycling, these new outer packs can be disposed of thoughtfully with little fuss,” said Snack a Jacks’ marketing manager Hannah Freeman. “We hope our devoted fans of Snack A Jacks will enjoy this small but important change we’ve made to make their snacking experience even more enjoyable at home.”

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Walkers parent company, PepsiCo Europe, plans to eliminate fossil-based plastic in its chip and snack bags by 2030 by shifting to 100 percent recycled or renewable materials, as part of PepsiCo Positive (pep+) — the snack giant’s health and sustainability transformation plan — toward its overarching goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2040.

“Our outer paper multi-bag packs are working well on Walkers Baked, giving us the confidence to roll out this format across more of our snack brands,” said PepsiCo’s UK packaging sustainability lead Gareth Callan. “The new packaging will help further reduce our non-fossil plastic use, while also helping to lower our carbon footprint as we work towards our commitment to creating a world where packaging never becomes waste.”

On a similar note, artisanal snackmaker British Crisp Co has introduced its own fully recyclable paper chip bag — developed in collaboration with paper-based packaging manufacturer EvoPak and Aquapak Polymers.

The new packaging, developed over three years, is a unique combination of paper, aluminum and Hydropol™ – Aquapak’s water-soluble, biodegradable, non-toxic and marine-safe creation that it says has all the benefits of plastic, and enables recycling and multiple end-of-life options.

The companies say the very thin layer of vacuum-deposited aluminum keeps the crisps fresh but doesn’t impact the recyclability of the packets.

“Today’s launch marks a significant milestone for Aquapak and our Hydropol technology, which can be commercialized at scale,” says Aquapak CEO Mark Lapping. “Producers now have a viable, environmentally safe and recyclable alternative that enables full fiber recovery in standard paper recycling and does not form microplastics in the process.”

With its hyper-local, sustainable ethos, British Crisp Co — which both grows its potatoes and produces its crisps in Essex, on a farm powered by renewable energy; and can be found in British pubs, hotels, restaurants or cafes (but not supermarkets) — offers an antidote to mass-produced snacks. Its new paper snack bags — which will roll out for next month on the company’s Sea Salt, Salt & Vinegar and Cheese & Onion flavor crisps – will feature the Recycle logo and the message, “I’m Paper, Recycle Me.”

"Brits consume over eight billion packets of crisps each year, the majority of which are not recyclable and end up in landfills or incinerators – that's a lot of waste and a huge environmental problem," said co-founder and CEO Tom Lock. "In partnership with Evopak and using exciting new polymer technology, we have created the first fully recyclable crisp packet – something that consumers have been demanding for a long time.”

Daniel McAlister, director of business operations at Evopak, said the packaging “costs the same as existing materials” and could be used in a range of applications from snacks to pet products.

Mars powers packaging progress with digital simulations

Image credit: Ansys

Meanwhile, Mars recently announced a collaboration with engineering software giant Ansys in which the multinational CPG company adopts simulation software primed to reimagine its packaging-innovation process.

The maker of household-name brands including M&M's, Snickers and Royal Canin is set to leverage Ansys’ digital-simulation approach to perform virtual testing and prototyping on new packaging innovation, initially across its snacking portfolio.

Ansys’ multi-physics simulation technology minimizes the need for extensive physical testing during the packaging-development process and provides in-depth insights into various aspects of the complex production phases — including wrapping, drop tests and failure scenarios.

The partnership with Ansys illustrates Mars’ commitment and investments to supercharge efforts to achieve its aim of using 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging for its products.

By implementing simulation software, Mars aims to facilitate a more nimble, digital-first development environment — spanning from design to manufacturing — making the process easier and more efficient for its team of R&D experts as the company looks to expedite the pace of progress across its packaging ecosystem.

"We continue to see the impact and potential of simulation and digital engineering in progressing sustainability initiatives throughout the world," said Walt Hearn, SVP of worldwide sales and customer excellence at Ansys. " Mars' more sustainable approach to development sets a terrific example for other manufacturers to adopt new solutions that move us all toward a cleaner planet."

Researchers at Mars have already reported reductions in development time of up to 40 percent through computer modeling and in the quantity of plastic purchased by Mars for testing by approximately 246 tons. The food and pet care provider has said that it is working to redesign more than 12,000 packaging types across its portfolio to fit with the recycling infrastructure that either exists today or is likely to exist in the future, making it easier for consumers to recycle their packaging.

"In the world we want tomorrow, no packaging becomes waste," said Qing Qi, VP of R&D global innovation at Mars Snacking. "This vision is at the heart of our multibillion-dollar Sustainable in a Generation plan and will only become a reality by taking unconstrained strides — leveraging breakthrough science, innovative thinking and partnerships to push the boundaries of what's possible.”