Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Evian Strips Down its Multipacks; Columbia, James Cropper Turn to Plastic Alternatives

More sustainable packaging options are cropping up – from water bottle multipacks to moulded paper packaging to renewable, recyclable bags, leading brands are changing the way products are wrapped.

Evian, a water brand under the Danone Group umbrella, is introducing a new way to multipack PET bottles using Nature MultiPack™, a technology developed by German packaging company KHS. Launching in select stores across France, the method uses a few small dots of specially-developed adhesive and a standard tape handle to carry the pack.

Nature MultiPack is designed to withstand transportation and merchandising logistics yet allow consumers to easily separate bottles from the multipack. Compared with paperboard, shrink film, and plastic ring carriers, it uses dramatically less packaging material and delivers a premium look and feel. NMP Systems, a KHS subsidiary, is bringing the product to market, and Evian is the first brand to commercialize it. The companies have been working together on the solution for about three years.

“Our job is to protect what nature gives us from the source to the bottle. No filtering, no thermal treatment, no chemicals. Just let nature do its work for 15 years and then bring that water into the bottle,” said Danone Waters’ Global Engineering Vice President Frederic Maetz, who has directly participated in the Evian-KHS collaboration. “Where do you innovate in such an environment? That’s where packaging comes in.”

For now, the Nature Multipack will only be used for 1.25 liter bottles of Evian in ‘prestige’ bottles that Evian launched in 2013, typically soled at premium locales. Maetz said that the company is considering using it more widely, but for now, the prestige bottles are more fitting given the lower amount of production and therefore smaller scale and scope for the initial roll-out. Besides some remaining technical issues, the reduced packaging creates questions around on-shelf messaging.

“Disruptive innovation like this can be very tricky,” said Didier Joannes, Director of Packaging Engineering at Danone Waters. “You have to dare and take risks, and you need volume to fine-tune your technology. But you have to minimize your risk by limiting the geography of shipping and the volume of production, because you are still learning while doing. It’s a delicate balancing act.”

Columbia Sportswear also sought a partner to create a new packaging for its products; with the help of Avery Dennison, Columbia is debuting a renewable, recyclable bag as a pilot with its new OutDry Extreme ECO rain jacket, set to hit store shelves in early 2017.

From the PFC-free fabric to the recycled zipper pulls, Columbia says it took pains to make sure every bit of its ECO jacket was sustainable. The final piece of the puzzle was the invention of a clear poly bag that is made from sugar cane – not petroleum – and can be easily recycled by customers. The packaging is made from 100 percent virgin content and will be used to ship new clothes to stores.

Meanwhile, UK specialty paper and advanced materials manufacturer James Cropper PLC has launched a renewable, recyclable moulded packaging product that it is calling a “sustainable alternative to plastic.” The new material is made entirely using renewable natural fibres from sustainably managed forests, and can be recycled with household paper.

“The production and disposal of plastic is one of the key environmental problems facing the packaging industry today. Not only does JC3DP packaging come from truly sustainable sources, but can also be recycled just like regular paper. We are really proud to have developed an innovation that will help the environment, but is also a great sustainability story that will capture the imagination of consumers,” said Patrick Willink, the chief technology officer for James Cropper 3D Products (JC3DP), a new business unit that is bringing the product to market.

The company says that the new moulded paper packaging challenges plastic in terms of color, quality and performance while “going above and beyond the capabilities of any other moulded fibre packaging.” Customers can customize the product’s look and feel with embossing or different fibre blends to create textures and finishes not offered by plastic.

“We know that if brands are to move beyond the need for plastic in packaging, sustainable alternatives have to add value and can’t compromise on colour, quality or performance,” Willink added. “Paper has a timeless sense of quality that’s worlds away from the multisensory disappointments of plastic. Of course, moulded fibre products are in limited use already. But these products have nowhere near the versatility in colour and design that we are able to produce. The switch from using plastic to our moulded paper packaging can also be made with relative ease, which means it is really challenging plastic as the go-to product for packaging.”

James Cropper has previously made a name for itself by developing renewable, biodegradable plastics and technology to recycle disposable paper coffee cups into high-quality paper products.


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