Ferrero sets sustainability goal for its packaging

Ferrero sets sustainability goal for its packaging


A long-standing visitor to IPACK-IMA, today Ferrero holds a steady place among the top brands in the world thanks to its reputation. This success is built on the group's renowned commitment to social responsibility and caring, underscored by its "We care for the better" strapline, which conveys its dedication to making a positive impact on people and the planet.


We talked to Global Packaging's design director Paola Avogadro, delving into the group's sustainability strategy in relation to packaging, and in view of their approaching participation in the next IPACK-IMA.


1. The Ferrero Group has long been committed to sustainability in packaging, and the goal now is to design packaging which is reusable, recyclable, or compostable. Can you describe the action plan you have devised to achieve this?


Ferrero has consistently aspired to make tangible commitments to care for and focus on both people and the planet, acknowledging their importance as equal, rather than secondary to profit targets. Today, partnerships, collaborations, certification, and access to emerging technologies are all key to success. They are essential to craft a global sustainability strategy centred on pillars such as environmental protection, sustainable sourcing, promoting responsible consumption, and enriching people.


Our commitment to one particular key issue, the question of plastic and packaging, is a priority for us. As we operate in consumer-packaged goods markets, we are committed to progressively reducing plastic use, to replacing problematic packaging, and to designing our packaging so that it is recyclable, reusable, or compostable. The group is also committed to decreasing the use of virgin plastic by 10% and increasing the use of recycled plastic by up to 12%.


Ferrero has already reached some significant achievements including, by 2022, approximately 89% of Ferrero packaging being designed according to ecodesign guidelines, rendering them recyclable, reusable, or compostable. Several products marketed in Italy have undergone transformations during recent years. The range of Kinder and Ferrero snacks distributed in Italy has seen its packaging revolutionised through the adoption of an innovative packaging system which uses a paper-based film that can be thrown away in paper recycling bins. This has reduced the use of plastic by 80% in relation to our previous packaging, which adds up to approximately 360 tonnes less plastic.


Between 2019 and 2020, as makers of Estathé (the market-leading iced tea drink in Italy) we began our journey by introducing glass bottles, which were added to the 100% recyclable aluminium cans we were already using for these beverages. In 2021, the plastic straws provided with the plastic cup were replaced with a paper version and in 2022 the new Estathé 100% recyclable bottles made with 100% recycled plastic were launched. The introduction of the tethered caps will follow by 2024.


2. Your packaging is iconic and over recent years you have re-invented certain models, creating new sustainable versions. Are you exploring projects to test new compostable packaging materials?


Our main goal is to create our packaging according to ecodesign guidelines, focusing on its sustainability. Ferrero has a long history of innovating to improve this sustainability. The challenges in this field have been growing exponentially over recent years and require partnerships and teamwork with everyone involved in the supply chain.  To ensure packaging can be recycled, designers must choose materials carefully so that none of the components interferes with the recycling and the final pack can be sorted and thrown away in the appropriate bins, after which they can be recycled into valuable secondary raw material. To facilitate this choice upstream, it is essential to define clear ecodesign guidelines. With this in mind, Ferrero participates actively in working groups within associations such as 4Evergreen, Ceflex, and Recyclass, which see recyclers, suppliers, and businesses working together ... towards the significant goal of enhancing the waste collection and recycling chain while also identifying opportunities to use secondary raw materials.


For years now, Ferrero has been using various materials selected based on their specific characteristics in relation to the product and for years we have been working to uphold what are commonly known as "the 5 Rs": removal (of excess packaging), reduction (of material usage), reuse (of packaging), renewability (of materials), and recyclability (of the packaging), to guarantee better circularity. By signing the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, Ferrero has chosen to play an active tangible role, in which it is committed to eliminating all critical or superfluous plastic packaging through redesign, innovation, and new delivery models. We believe firmly in the role of these initiatives, which are designed to generate economies of scale by bringing together the efforts of individual companies working towards a common goal. In line with this global commitment, we feel it is essential to also invest in people and new skills, and we have strengthened our R&D departments, providing the boost needed to drive experimentation for new projects and packaging materials for targeted applications.


Compostable materials are part of the business streams on which we are working today, considering the entire supply chain, from raw materials to end of life, and basing our work on the concept of choosing the right material for each use. There are undoubtedly specific applications, in specific countries, in which a compostable material leads to a reduction in environmental impact compared to standard plastics. But there are also applications in which we use standard plastics (such as PET bottles, which are highly recyclable and benefit from a consolidated supply chain throughout the world) for which compostable materials bring no real advantages. We believe it is vitally important, once again, to ensure proper, transparent communication to consumers when addressing this issue.


3. For a brand like Ferrero, which has always been a staple in homes everywhere, how do you face the challenge of responding to the growing attention towards more sustainable packaging but at the same time guaranteeing high food safety and health standards for the product it contains?


For Ferrero, packaging is created together with the product and plays a fundamental role. Our products contain carefully selected fresh ingredients such as hazelnuts, cocoa, milk, and wafers, all of which are sensitive to external agents. The packaging must ensure that the product remains in perfect condition from when it is produced in the factory, throughout the entire distribution process, until it reaches the customer's home, where it will be opened and enjoyed. But we must keep more than just protection in mind when choosing packaging because there is another very important issue at the centre of all our choices, namely food safety. Plus, every single package is created following a process in which design and technology go hand in hand, with the objective of providing optimal responses to both product requirements and environmental considerations. As a result of this approach, we have packs that have existed for 50 years and are now instantly recognisable throughout the world, icons such as the Nutella jar, or the Nutella glasses, which are also clear examples of circularity and reuse, in line with current needs.


The pandemic has heightened awareness concerning safe, airtight packaging that protects the product it contains - which have always been priorities for Ferrero. We are firmly convinced of the importance of choosing the right material for every need, which is why it should be recognised that plastic has once again proved its worth when it comes to protecting certain products.


Another equally important issue for families must be preventing food waste and packaging plays a fundamental role in this area too. Plastic offers a guarantee that, at present, we are also seeking to obtain from new paper-based, or biodegradable, materials currently under development. We must acknowledge, though, that it will take time for new materials to reach the levels of performance that plastic has attained over the 50 years of its development. Which  This is why it is so important today to combine research into new materials with targeted work on developing the infrastructure to increase the effectiveness of plastic recycling.

4. What role does packaging play in retail? What are the standards that retailers require today and what impact do they have on a production level?


Packaging has always played a fundamental role in retail, by contributing to efficient logistics management, extending shelf life, and protecting the quality of the product along the entire distribution process. Finally, it also contributes to achieving common goals linked to reducing food waste and also offers consumers a first impression of the company and product when on the shelf.


Nowadays, there is great media pressure to address environmental issues, which often taps into our emotions. Retail has shaped the approaches and the environmental policies of private labels to the expectations of consumers, who want the peace of mind that comes from choosing products and packaging designed with sustainability in mind. The ability of the trade to respond positively to this consumer expectation is fundamental and forms the basis of the relationship of trust between the two parties. For this reason, and to cope with growing regulatory pressure, retail has significantly raised the level of priority it attributes to sustainable packaging and is asking brand owners like Ferrero for a more proactive contribution than in the past. We frequently receive questions from our major customers about our packaging materials, in particular their recyclability and recycled content and we are aligned with them by common goals for recyclability and reduction. This helps make constructive dialogue possible.


5. More sustainable, lighter, fewer materials… what packaging trends can we expect for the future?


I'll recap: packaging will employ the right material for its specific use, without ruling out or penalising any material and applying a science- and evidence-based approach. Any unneeded materials that can be left out will be left out. We will reduce materials that can be reduced, without undermining food safety and quality. Finally, there must be curiosity and openness to explore new, as yet unknown, materials, a proactive approach to developing and testing increasingly effective technologies for selection and recycling, and last of all, increased adoption of food-grade recycled materials to close this virtuous circle.