Frito-Lay’s bioplastic ‘Holy Grail’
Garry Kohl, senior director R&D, snacks category, global packaging innovation - PepsiCo, spoke of the company’s “Mission with a purpose” that centers on healthier products and also includes packaging that’s better for the environment. He disclosed several Frito-Lay initiatives that are aligned with the latter.
Frito-Lay has considerable history in sustainable packaging in having used one particular practice continually since the 1950s: As a result of its direct-to-retail distribution model, Frito-Lay collects and reuses empty corrugated cases of snacks after store delivery an average of five times each. “It’s a huge cost savings,” Kohl added.
Kohl pointed to a ban in India on multilayer packaging as a sign of the times, though industrial compostable packaging is allowed. It’s regulations along those lines that motivate the company to embark to develop packaging that’s either 100% recoverable or recyclable.
Kohl also noted a major initiative by the brand to reduce package headspace. It's not as easy at it may sound.
For example, doing that for potato chips is complicated by the fact that potatoes harvested in the spring contain more water, meaning those potato chips take up more space than chips made from potatoes harvested at other times.
One method to reduce headspace is to pre-settle chips before they are filled into the bags.
“Done manually in tests, we can reduce the package volume by 30-50 percent,” he said. “We think that 15-25 percent is an achievable level when done automatically that can also [adequately] protect the product.”
That’s related to package rightsizing. Reducing the amount of air shipped is something that all companies in the ecommerce space are working on, Kohl observed: “Space costs money.”
The company’s pursuit of a 100% biodegradable film—under what conditions? he asked rhetorically—is achievable. The Holy Grail of that quest, he offered, is incorporating polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), which is a naturally occurring polyester, into the flexible packaging structure (shown above).
“We’re even looking at biodegradable packaging that you could flush down your toilet,” Kohl said. “Our goal is to develop packaging that [truly] disappears in the ocean.”
Why PHA? “It’s the only material certified for marine degradation,” he explained. The brand has been working that with Danimer Scientific on that potentially game-changing development.
Next: The strengthened “flying buttress” bottle and airless molding
You’ll find the latest cobots, a dedicated 3D Printing Zone, hundreds of exhibitors and a 3-day packaging conference at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center during EastPack 2018 (June 12-14; New York City).