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McCormick’s recipe for packaging that’s more sustainable

McCormick’s recipe for packaging that’s more sustainable
McCormick’s sustainable packaging improvements include converting iconic metal cans to a 100% recyclable PET can.

Mike Okoroafor, vp, global sustainability & packaging innovation, discusses the key ingredients of McCormick & Company's sustainable packaging projects.

Spice and food flavoring giant McCormick & Company, Hunt Valley, MD, announced new 2025 corporate goals that align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and focus on reducing the company's global environmental impact. These objectives include the company’s commitment to create packaging innovations that reduce packaging weight and overall carbon footprint, among other important environment goals such as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and water reduction.

In developing an integrated approach to meeting these commitments through its 4R framework of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Renew, the company reported progress that includes:

  • Redesigning its iconic OLD BAY and Black Pepper cans with a fully recyclable PET container, which equated to a 16% reduction in associated carbon emissions;
  • 10% reduction in material for all European glass jars, resulting in reduced weight and associated carbon emissions from production and transport;
  • Achieving 43% carbon footprint reduction by improving logistics and using fewer trucks for transport at its location in Haddenham, England.

Packaging Digest connected with Mike Okoroafor, the company’s vp, global sustainability & packaging innovation, to discuss further details about McCormick's sustainable packaging efforts.

How crucial is packaging’s role in the company’s overall sustainability initiatives?

Okoroafor: Packaging is a key priority for McCormick. It plays a crucial role in helping us prevent food waste, guaranteeing our high-quality standards and informing our consumers. It also helps us curb our resource and carbon footprint and contributes to other important objectives on our sustainability agenda, such as the elimination of BPA (bisphenol-A) from all of our packaging by the end of 2018.

What’s the timing of the aforementioned projects?


  • Redesigning our iconic OLD BAY and Black Pepper cans with a fully recyclable PET container, which equated to a 16% reduction in associated carbon emissions, has new cans scheduled to be released in 2018;
  • Completed in 2017 is a 10% reduction in material for all European glass jars, resulting in reduced weight and associated carbon emissions from production and transport;
  • The Haddenham, England, project is completed.

Which of these was the most complex or challenging project?

Okoroafor: The new PET container for Black Pepper and Old Bay was the most challenging project.  It involved not only a completely new package design for the container and the closure, but also a new production line in our manufacturing facility along with a new manufacturing line for the containers at our container supplier.


How do you prioritize McCormick’s packaging initiatives?

Okoroafor: Sustainable packaging design criteria are a part of our overall package design process. Our packaging designers and engineers are always on the lookout for ways to capture more environmental benefits. We prioritize packaging initiatives based upon those where we feel that we can make the greatest impact.

What options are there to addressing Reuse and Renew initiatives?

Okoroafor: The investigation into the use of renewable packaging materials for our packaging is an ongoing process where we are continuously exploring the possible use and application of these materials in our primary and secondary packages.

Is there any venue or incentives for managers or employees to offer ideas?

Okoroafor: Our new product/packaging projects are conducted using a highly collaborative, team-based approach that affords maximum opportunity for input and discussion. 

Can the company point to any partnerships related to these programs?

Okoroafor: We partnered with key packaging component suppliers and packaging machinery manufacturers in the development of our PET container for Old Bay and Black Pepper.

Does McCormick message these improvements to consumers?

Okoroafor: McCormick messages its Purpose-led Performance efforts, including its packaging improvements, via its consumer web site:


What’s been your biggest lesson learned in sustainable packaging?

Okoroafor: There is a common belief that sustainable packaging is more costly, but this is not always the case. One important and significant learning from our sustainable packaging initiatives is that sustainable packaging often provides the best financial choice. 

Have all the packaging projects represented cost savings as well?

Okoroafor: Yes, reducing raw materials and packaging waste has resulted in more than $2 million in savings in our location in Hunt Valley, MD, alone.

What’s next over the short term? And then what?

Okoroafor: In our 2017 Purpose-Led Performance Report we laid out a series of 2025 goals, which includes a 25% reduction in carbon footprint from packaging. We will achieve this by…

  • Continued focused on reducing the quantity of packaging used in our products.
  • Increasing the use of recycled content in our packaging.
  • Partnering with our suppliers on sustainability initiatives.
  • Leveraging our supply chain to reduce the impact of transportation in the sourcing of our packaging. 

Final thoughts?

Okoroafor: We consider our sustainability program for packaging to be more of a journey than a destination.  Through this program, we are seeking to make a meaningful and measurable impact on our environment and to do what is best for the company, our consumers and our communities. 


Explore packaging, plastics and more in Minneapolis November 8-9 during the 15th anniversary of MinnPack that’s co-located with 5 other exhibitions including PLASTEC. For more information, visit MinnPack.


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