Tetra Pak Pioneers 100% Renewable Packaging
Tetra Pak, with headquarters in Lund, Sweden, is the world’s leading food processing and packaging solutions company. It was founded in 1951 by Ruben Rausing, whose guiding principal was “A package should save more than it costs.” What does that mean? It means a package should consistently protect its contents from spoilage, which helps build customer trust and loyalty for the company using the package.
Dedicated to sustainability
Tetra Pak is constantly pushing the boundaries of sustainable packaging. It uses only wood products that meet the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council and asks its customers to share its environmental goals. Third party independent monitors are used to verify adherence to those goals.
Starting in 2015, Tetra Pak pioneered its Tetra Rex containers. These are the world’s first fully renewable liquid food cartons and are manufactured exclusively from fiberboard from Forest Stewardship Council certified resources and bio-based plastic derived from sugarcane. The plastic pieces are chemically identical to those made from oil, but contribute no new carbon emissions to the environment the way any oil based products do. The Tetra Rex containers received the highest award for Sustainable Innovation from Ethical Corporation in September, 2015.
The Tetra Rex system
Tetra Rex containers were first introduced in Finland last year, where response was overwhelmingly favorable. 78% of customers said they prefer products delivered in recyclable, renewable containers even if they cost a little more. The Tetra Rex package is now in use throughout Sweden and Norway and is used by such brands as Valio, Arla Foods, Vermlands Mejeri and TINE. The company expects to ship over 100,000,000 Tetra Rex products in 2016.
Tetra Pak plans to expand distribution to other nations around the world and will introduce its bio-based twist off cap system in America in July of this year. I was fortunate enough to attend a briefing about the company and its products this past week in Lund.
I met first hand with Mario Abreu, vice president for environmental affairs, and Omer Emran, product manager for environmental innovation. Mario explained to me how the Tetra Rex package is recycled to recapture the wood fibers and bio-plastics for re-use. Both paid great attention to the company’s commitment to the environment and plans to bring safe, nutritious food to millions of people around the world.
Supporting its customers
There is an interesting story on the Tetra Pak website about how it works with customers to protect their products and grow their market. In Halland, Sweden, a local farm started making homemade cheesecake in the family kitchen. It was so good, word spread and in 2006, Källsjö Dairy was established. Its business grew to the point where it purchased an inexpensive filling machine so it could begin distributing its milk beyond the local community. But the packaging gave the milk and odd taste. Customers complained, so the dairy asked Tetra Pak for help.
I will let account manager Michael Aly pick up the story from there. “We needed to help them remedy this problem quickly,” he says. “A small local dairy only gets one chance to impress its customers. If the milk doesn’t taste good the first time they try it, people will not come back for more.” Tetra Pak managed to install their own filling equipment in just three weeks.
The dairy’s business is now growing faster than ever. Volume today is only about 350,000 liters a year — minuscule in comparison to big producers. But with assistance from Tetra Pak, it is looking forward to doubling that amount and then doubling it again in the coming years.
Why would giant Tetra Pak take such an interest in a little operation like Källsjö Dairy? Here’s Michael Aly again. “They are a new player in the market and they have ambitions to grow volumes to 3 million packages per year. But even at current volumes, we are happy to supply Källsjö. The founders are committed to this business and doing a great job. At Tetra Pak, we sometimes say ‘every million counts’. I would like to extend that and say ‘every package counts.'”
Protecting What’s Good
The Tetra Pak motto is “Protecting What’s Good”. Part of that protection is making sure the products inside its packages are pure and wholesome. It’s also about being a good steward of the environment and helping its customers compete successfully in the global economy.
Tetra Pak employs 23,460 people around the world. It has 6 research and development centers, 82 sales offices and 37 production facilities. Yet it is a company that cares passionately about sustainability and recycling. It actively promotes collection and recycling programs in the places where its products are sold.
It is steadfast in its commitment to the Forest Stewardship Council and proudly displays the FSC trademark on its products. It works closely with the companies that use its products and encourages them to commit to sustainable business practices.
I confess that I often think of large corporations as soulless organizations interested only in maximizing profits. Despite any preconceived notions I might have about big business, the word that kept coming to mind while visiting company headquarters was “ethical.” I think it fits Tetra Pak perfectly.
Photo by the author and Tetra Pak.
This post was made possible by the generous support of Tetra Pak, which provided transportation, meals, and lodging for the author.