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Sustainable paper-based packaging products for food producers

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Sustainable packaging: No longer a trend but a license to operate for FMCG businesses?

Sustainability. Customers demand it, consumers want it, and regulators require it. Consumers today are more aware and conscious of their impact on the environment.

A 2021 study shows the growth rate of sustainable products is five to six times higher than average.1​ Consumers expect more from the products they purchase, and packaging is no exception. They look for packaging that is renewable, recyclable, and compostable. A Nielsen IQ study found that 78% of customers value sustainability, and 43% base their purchasing decisions on the environmental impact of product packaging.2

Furthermore, consumers are willing to make a conscious effort to positively impact the planet. Euromonitor research found that 44% of consumers choose sustainable packaging and prioritise recycling claims over specific materials used.3​ This indicates a broad understanding and awareness of recycling practices among consumers.

The evolving landscape of heightened consumer expectations and regulatory changes are shaping the future of consumer goods. Consumers are shifting their spending toward products with ESG-related claims. A five-year study across 44,000 brands and private label from McKinsey & Company and NielsenIQ in May 2023, demonstrated that in many categories, there is a clear and substantive correlation between consumer spending and sustainability-related claims on product packaging.4

One of the sustainable packaging solutions that Huhtamaki is offering customers to meet these demands is paperboard technology, using paper sourced from certified and sustainable forestry. By leveraging innovative paper forming and barrier technologies, businesses can create sustainable paperboard packaging solutions that are recyclable and functional, with a comparable shelf life.


Innovative paper-based packaging solutions tailored for FMCG applications

Huhtamaki is innovating to redesign the future of sustainable packaging. Its sustainable paperboard packaging solutions are designed to match the functionality and product performance of rigid plastic packaging. This makes paperboard a smart choice for the company’s Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) customers.

One of its well-known products is its paper-based ice cream containers and lids for Carte D’Or, launched in February 2022 in the UK. Huhtamaki's creative and technical teams co-develop tailored paper-based packaging solutions to support (parent company) Unilever’s transition from traditional plastic containers to fully recyclable paper tubs and lids.

By choosing Huhtamaki's paper-based packaging, the customer reduces the use of plastic in Carte D’Or ice cream tubs by 93%. The move to recyclable paper-based packaging will help the brand eliminate more than 900 tonnes of virgin plastic in the UK annually.

In North America, Huhtamaki introduced ICON®​ packaging, an innovative, recyclable ice cream packaging solution in November 2022 to meet the demand for sustainable packaging. Growth rates for packaging in North America are estimated at 2-3% year-on-year across Retail, Foodservice and FMCG markets.5​ ICON®​ packaging is made with 95% renewable material, in combination with Huhtamaki’s proprietary water-based barrier coating with Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certified paperboard. 


In addition, the technology allows ice cream packaging to enter the existing North American recycling stream more easily, so consumers in the US can recycle ice cream containers and lids just like other paper products, such as folded carton packaging.

Sustainability driven by packaging innovation

As an industry leader, Huhtamaki has been investing in technologies to produce more sustainable packaging solutions from Paperboard, Fiber and Flexible technologies. For example, Huhtamaki’s fiber solutions offer cutting edge and proprietary technologies both for smooth moulded fiber and rough moulded fiber packaging.

Some of the products available in the market are Huhtamaki’s fiber lids for hot and cold drinks to fit the company’s recyclable takeaway paper cups, egg packaging and food packaging for food on the shelf and on the go applications. These molded fiber packaging solutions are functional, high performing, scalable and necessary replacements for plastic.

Huhtamaki demonstrates it can create novel, fit-for-the-future packaging solutions that push the envelope by collaborating with customers across multiple technologies, materials and high-level food grade barrier solutions. 

Huhtamaki is a solutions provider and a strategic partner for customers, with a global footprint to match their customers. Huhtamaki have a global footprint of paperboard and Fiber factories to ensure close collaboration, co-creation, production and transportation. Huhtamaki have an innovation portfolio and roadmap for future proof sustainable solutions.

The company’s front end innovation team is tracking long-term market needs and trends globally, developing innovations from a market, customers, consumer and regulatory landscape perspective. By leveraging these perspectives, the teams can navigate this for their customers, and jointly develop tailored and futureproof innovations.

Working in partnership through the value chain

Globally, packaging has a fundamental role in building sustainable and resilient food systems. To create a more sustainable future, Huhtamaki is collaborating proactively with key stakeholders as it believes that no one organization can address the challenges of sustainability alone. Together, everyone must build a common understanding of sustainable development that considers the balance between environmental, social and economic factors, based on fact-based conversations.

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The Cup Collective initiative, for example, exemplifies Huhtamaki’s commitment to make a systemic change to demonstrate that paper cups are recyclable and recycled. The Cup Collective is a unique European partnership program that focuses on industrial-scale paper cup recycling.

Launched in Brussels in 2022 in collaboration with Stora Enso, its goal is to make paper cup recycling the norm for everyone, making it easier for both consumers and businesses. The initiative, aimed to recycle and regenerate paper cups on an industrial scale, targeting at least 5,000 tonnes in the coming years, is expanding in Europe and through projects in Asia.

At Huhtamaki, everyone contributes to redesigning the future of sustainable packaging solutions. Explore how its leading technologies can help you grow your business, while making a positive impact on the environment.

Find out more information about Huhtamaki Fiber Solutions​, ICON®​ packaging​, Huhtamaki Ice Cream​ and The Cup Collective​.


1.​ McKinsey & Company. Prioritizing sustainability in the consumer sector.
2.​ NielsenIQ. Sustainability: the new consumer spending outlook.​ 
3.​ Euromonitor. 2022. Sustainable Packaging Features.
4.​ McKinsey & Company. Consumers are in fact buying sustainable goods: Highlights from new research.​ 
5.​ Data provided by Huhtamaki.

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