But now the Kraft Heinz company relies heavily on plastics to the point of using 500 million pounds of virgin material each year. The announced goal would cut that by 20 percent.
Just as glass has largely given way to plastics in consumer packaging, plastics will see its own change at Kraft Heinz.
"We know that to achieve our ESG goals, including reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, we can't continue to do things as we have in the past. That's why we're setting new goals that will help us decrease our use of fossil fuels and find more sustainable packaging options," said Linda Roman, associate director of packaging ESG and technology at Kraft Heinz, in an email interview.
"When it comes to reducing our use of virgin plastic, we start by challenging paradigms. We first see if there's an opportunity to remove any unnecessary plastic, then we look for opportunities where we can reduce plastic weight, add recycled content or replace plastics with other types of materials, while ensuring that we don't compromise the product quality and still meet consumer expectations," Roman said.
The decision to cut virgin plastic use follows an earlier company target to replace 15 percent of its rigid PET plastic in the United States with post-consumer content by 2025. Kraft's mayonnaise and Miracle Whip packaging will move to 100-percent recycled content in 2024. This move, alone, will cut 14 million pounds of virgin plastic use.
The company also will start using 30-percent recycled content in most bottles for products in Brazil, the United Kingdom and Europe, the company said. Heinz Beans Snap Pots, a tray product with film lidding, in the United Kingdom already come in packaging made from 39 percent recycled plastics.
Kraft Heinz is working with plastics pacts in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom to help achieve the company's goals. The pacts, created through the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, bring together people from business, nonprofits, governments and research to create a circular plastics economy.
“As we pursue our packaging goals, we’re transforming packaging across our entire portfolio from Kraft Real Mayo and Miracle Whip in the U.S. to Heinz in the U.K. There’s no one-size-fits-all across our vast portfolio, so we’re evaluating solutions through iterative development to find the best option while considering the packaging appearance, functionality, cost, how it can run on our manufacturing lines and the environmental impact,” Roman said.
Material elimination and reduction is also part of the strategy. One effort last year cut 900,000 pounds of plastic by removing a plastic bag from the company's Shake 'N Bake line of products. Another project substituted a paperboard sleeve for shrink wrap and eliminated 1 million pounds of plastic in 2022.
The company also are looking at what it calls "cutting-edge innovations" that could substitute alternative materials, such as paper-based packaging, for plastics. The company already is studying use of a ketchup bottle made from wood pulp.
Kraft Heinz is using 2021 as a baseline to measure the company's virgin plastic reduction.