Frozen Food: It’s not Possible to Go Completely Without Plastic
10/12/2023 Retail Brands Industry Look into Europe Article

Frozen Food: It’s not Possible to Go Completely Without Plastic

Paper instead of plastic: this is possible for products stored in the freezer as well. However, replacing entire plastic bags is difficult, a survey of brand manufacturers shows.

Iglo and other frozen food manufacturers are focusing on renewable raw materials for packaging. Iglo and other frozen food manufacturers are focusing on renewable raw materials for packaging.

Frozen food packaging must be cold-resistant, leakage-proof, and food-safe. Manufacturers are increasingly focusing on avoiding composite materials and minimizing the use of plastic. Lebensmittelzeitung asked brand manufacturers about their experiences and the status quo of their frozen food packaging. Iglo, for example, uses paper instead of petroleum-based packaging solutions and currently relies on paper-based cardboard boxes for about 95 percent of its product range, which can be disposed of in waste-paper. “We focus on ‘fossil free’ packaging,” says Alfred Jansen, Head of Sustainability Communications at Iglo Germany. When researching more sustainable packaging materials, he says, one must always keep in mind their practicality. Packaging made from recycled paper appears more sustainable at first glance. However, it might contain printing ink that is not allowed to come into contact with food. If additional inner packaging were necessary in this case, such packaging would be absurd from a sustainability point of view, Jansen emphasizes.

Replacing entire plastic bags with a paper solution is not easy. Frosta started with vegetables in paper bags in 2020. Now, Iglo is looking into the possibilities of switching to fossil-free packaging for the remaining products as well. Iglo Austria is currently testing a paper bag solution with its first products.

Alnatura is also working on reducing packaging and waste and uses cardboard folding boxes for the majority of its products. However, Alnatura cannot do entirely without plastic either. To further reduce its use, the company is currently replacing foil bags with thinner versions for a number of products. “This allows us to reduce the amount of material used, for example, in our frozen pomegranate seeds to 19 percent of the original weight,” explains Anne Catherine Hahl, Product Manager Fresh Produce. With their new product pretzels, on the other hand, they completely dispense with the standard outer carton and only offer them in foil pouches.

Pizza Packaged Only in Foil Did not Do Well

In 2022, Ökofrost had launched three pizzas under the BioCool brand that were only shrink-wrapped in foil. “The range was not accepted, and we discontinued the products again,” reports Business Manager Anke Frenzel. The foil-wrapped pizzas of its Biopolar brand, on the other hand, are marketed in a complementary carton made of recycled paper. Ökofrost is now looking for more sustainable or lighter plastic variants for the foil. FACHPACK 2024 can provide answers here: Exhibitors at the European trade fair will be showing and explaining innovative alternative materials. Among other things, the European trade fair will feature solutions for product packaging for industrial and consumer goods.

Wagner is also focusing on recycling. The outer carton of his pizzas is 99 percent recyclable, the company says. The printing ink and adhesive that seal the packaging alone are not, reports Judith Petit, Head of Corporate Communications. In addition, the plastic film is not only currently the thinnest that can be technically processed but is also 100 percent recyclable.

Costa, the seafood specialist, only uses FSC-certified folding boxes or paper, explains Marketing Manager Annette Klepper. The tubular bags used have been certified as “highly recyclable” by an independent institute. Costa is also planning to make its films even thinner.

Limits to further material reduction are set by the product, explains Lina Witte, Communication Lead Transformation Officer at Vion Food Group Germany. “As things stand today, product safety would no longer be guaranteed with even thinner mono films,” says Witte. Using poly-material films is currently not an option for reasons of sustainability, she says, as they can not be recycled using today’s standard procedures. Should chemical recycling in which all components could be separated again become the dominant method, this would have to be reevaluated.