Hellmann’s commits to 100% recycled plastic food packaging

By Rick Lingle in Sustainable Packaging on June 17, 2019

Mayo brand company plans to spread the use of recycled plastic packaging to more than 200 million bottles and jars by 2020 with a goal of 100% recyclable, 100% PCR-content packaging.

 

Major food and beverage brands continue an industry-wide movement into sustainable packaging usually with specific targets and within overarching corporate-wide sustainability goals. One of the latest is Hellmann's, a Unilever brand based in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, that announced in April that by 2020, all mayonnaise and mayonnaise dressing plastic PET containers sold in U.S. retail stores would be made from recycled plastic materials as part of the company’s ongoing commitment to advance sustainable packaging.

The recycled plastic packaging is rolling out now, beginning with Hellmann's mayonnaise and mayonnaise Dressing squeeze bottles, to be followed by Hellmann's jars by the end of 2019. More than 200 million Hellmann's bottles and jars will be impacted, and the new containers will feature How2Recycle label and artwork that highlights the brand's commitment to using recycled plastic.

"Switching to recycled plastic has a positive impact on the environment by reducing the amount of bottles sent to landfills and lowering greenhouse gas emissions," says Benjamin Crook, senior director, dressings & condiments, Unilever. "At Hellmann's we strive for sustainability in all that we do, including helping customers make a responsible choice while still enjoying the products they love."

This is the first step for Hellmann's to move its portfolio of products toward fully recyclable bottles and jars that are made from 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) materials. The brand's commitment is one way the brand is delivering on the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, the company's blueprint for sustainable growth. Specifically, Hellmann's efforts will support the company's goal of ensuring 100% of plastic packaging will be designed to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

The entire lineup of Hellmann’s mayonnaise and mayonnaise dressing jar and squeeze containers are made with recycled plastic: 15oz, 24oz, 30oz, 36oz, 48 oz and 64 oz. for jars; and 5.5oz, 11.5oz, 20oz, 25oz for squeezable plastic dispensers, Crook informs Packaging Digest.

Bottles, jars and caps

In addition to PET bottles, the company plans to use recycled content in its polypropylene caps.

We are actively researching ways to ensure 100% of our plastic packaging is recyclable and made from 100% recycled materials,” Crook explains. “As we work towards our goal, we are also developing technologies that improve the recyclability of our packaging. We have committed resources and people to get the job done as we do our part to meet Unilever’s goal of ensuring 100% plastic packaging will be designed to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.”

As with some moves toward more sustainable resources for primary packaging, there are tradeoffs.

“As a result of the recycling process, our new packaging will have a slightly darker tint compared to the previous packaging, but it performs exactly the same as our standard packaging,” Crook discloses. “We’re excited that consumers can make a responsible choice while still enjoying the products they love.”

Notably, the retail pricing of the products will remain unaffected by the packaging changes.

The company has lined up vendor sources for the packaging that it declines to identify. “We work with a variety of partners to ensure we have enough high-quality recycled materials to meet demand,” Crook offers. “The recycled materials we use in our packaging are safe and cleared for food-contact use by the FDA.”

Crook will neither affirm or deny the company’s interest in bioplastics, saying “we are actively researching new plastic packaging innovations as we work towards ensuring 100% of plastic packaging is recyclable and made with 100% recycled materials.”

New label and Loop involvement

The new containers will also feature the How2Recycle label that clearly and graphically simplifies summarizes on-package recycling instructions for consumers (for more information, see How2Recycle label is growing—here’s who, why and how, published February 2019).

Our Hellmann’s mayonnaise and mayonnaise Dressing jars and bottles will have new bottle wrapper artwork highlighting our commitment to using recycled plastic,” Crook explains. “These containers will state: ‘Bottle [or jar] made with 100% recycled plastic, because it’s the right thing to do.’ The front of all packsLoop reusable packaging shopping platform launches in the U.S. will also display one of the following messages: ‘100% recycled bottle’ or ‘100% recycled jar.’

Unilever is also developing reusable packaging innovations in an effort to reduce single-use plastics as part of TerraCycle's Loop platform (for more information, see Loop reusable packaging shopping platform launches in the U.S., published June 2019). Premium skincare brand REN Clean Skincare, Hellmann’s, Love Beauty and Planet, Love Home and Planet and Seventh Generation will trial new reusable packaging made from aluminium and glass, according to the company.

“At Hellmann’s, we’re excited to be one of nine Unilever brands participating in the Loop program,” says Crook. “Loop is a win-win for consumers and businesses, and of course, for the planet. We are thrilled to be involved and to continue to encourage others to join the movement. We look forward to working with our partners to develop reusable packaging for the everyday products consumers love.”

The company will be measuring the recyclable plastic packaging program’s progress in the months ahead.

“Switching to recycled plastic has a positive impact on the environment by reducing the amount of bottles sent to landfills and lowering greenhouse gas emissions,” Crook says. “We look forward to tracking the impact of our recycled plastic packaging especially as we look to implement even more changes to improve the recyclability of our packaging.”

Rick Lingle

Rick Lingle is senior technical editor of Packaging Digest. He’s been a packaging media journalist since 1985 specializing in food, beverage and plastic markets. He has a chemistry degree and has worked in food industry R&D for Standard Brands/Nabisco and the R.T. French Co. Reach him at [email protected] or 630-481-1426.

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