Like many companies, Canadian candy brand Chewters Chocolates Inc. is adding recycled plastic to its packaging. But it wasn't actually the company's first choice for greening its wrappers and pouches.
Vice President of Sales Trent Thibert wanted to use compostable packaging, but getting there right now, with current materials and manufacturing needs, proved too difficult. So the Delta, British Columbia-based sweets maker is settling on recycled plastic as a first step.
The company and its plastics supplier, TC Transcontinental Packaging, talked about the hurdles and the progress toward reducing its environmental footprint in a May 7 panel discussion during the virtual Antec conference, hosted by the Society of Plastics Engineers.
The first thing, Thibert said, was being responsive to consumer sentiment.
"We're pivoting in the marketplace and consumers are saying, 'Look, I'm tired of going to the beach and seeing this plastic, I'm tired of seeing this on the street and I'm tired of really not having a place for this stuff to go,'" said Thibert. "So you're seeing this incredible pushback."
He told the online audience his first thought was to move away from traditional plastic, recycled or otherwise, for the stand-up pouches and other materials they use.
"My personal belief is that compostability is the way of the future," he said. "However, we're just not there with the type of material substrates that we've got."
Manufacturing needs were a major limit. Chocolate flows at 920 pieces a minute down the production line into its automatic packing machinery, and the new materials had to work within its existing cold-seal technologies and could not impede manufacturing. That was nonnegotiable for the company, Thibert said.
"We just cannot head that way in the compostability aspect that I wanted," he said. "So then we pivoted … based on the uniqueness of our machines and what was available to us."
Thibert and Rebecca Casey, TC's senior vice president of strategy and marketing, told the Antec panel the two companies arrived at using post-consumer plastic.