Chocolatier and TC Transcontinental work to find sweet spot for sustainable packaging
By Robert Grace
Canadian chocolatier Chewters is partnering with TC Transcontinental Packaging to develop more sustainable flexible packaging for the former’s ChocoXO brand. Officials from both firms shared what they’ve learned in the effort at a virtual ANTEC® 2021 conference on May 6, moderated by Conor Carlin, SPE’s vice president of sustainability.
Trent Thibert joined Chewters of Vancouver in April 2020 as vice president of sales, with a focus on developing more eco-friendly packaging for ChocoXO, a premium, certified-organic chocolate with low sugar content.
Thibert approached TC Transcontinental of Montreal with the initial idea of creating compostable packaging, but the joint team soon discovered a problem with that. The wrap on the ChocoXO chocolate pieces requires a cold seal, which means that when combined with challenges in running such materials on Chewters’ high-speed equipment, compostable resins were not the right solution. So, just 90 days into the effort, Thibert and TC pivoted to post-consumer recycled (PCR) content.
Mélanie Montplaisir, TC’s marketing manager, explained in a post-presentation email that the companies could have specified compostable resins with a record of success for Chewters’ standup pouch, but believed “the consumer would be confused with having one package compostable and the other one not … With that in mind, we chose that the best option for now was to do both with PCR.”
As a result, Thibert said, ChocoXO is integrating 38 percent PCR with the goal of reaching 51 percent. The outer bag is post-consumer polyethylene terephthalate (PET) with a post-consumer polyethylene (PE) sealant and FDA-accepted PCR high-density PE in the sealant core. The current 38 percent level may seem modest, he remarked, but amounts to diverting the equivalent of an estimated 1.2 million 18-ounce PET bottles from waterways, beaches and the waste stream. “It’s where we’re going to start, not where we’re going to finish,” he says.
Rebecca Casey, TC’s Chicago-based senior vice president for strategy and marketing, tag-teamed with Thibert on the presentation. She said her company tested more than 60 PCR resins for the blown film application. TC’s product development and technical services teams needed to ensure not only that the resulting film was clear and did not harbor odors or other undesirable characteristics, but would run smoothly on Chewters’ high-speed equipment, which churns out 920 pieces per minute.
There is a price premium for adding PCR to the packaging, but Thibert is confident that will not be a big hurdle when it comes to commercialization. The key is communicating to brand owners that this is “not a cost, but a marketing spend,” he said.
What’s important is to get the solution, and related messaging, right from the start. “Consumers will reward you with a lot of love if you do it right, but if they feel you are misleading them, they don’t just try to slap you on the wrist—they destroy brands. They’re unforgiving, and they don’t forget.”
Chewters, therefore, is not promoting the sustainability angle on its ChocoXO packaging yet. “We’re working behind the scenes now,” he said, with the aim of fully integrating the messaging by January.
Both Thibert and Casey are excited by the involvement of all sectors of the supply chain to find sustainable solutions, a factor driven in part by the self-imposed deadlines many consumer packaged-goods companies face for meeting eco-friendly packaging goals. “I’ve never seen this type of collaboration across the industry,” Casey said.
Thibert stressed the need to push forward on the sustainability journey, even if it initially involves baby steps. “Start small but start somewhere.”