Developing environmentally friendly packages is one of the key goals of Atria’s packaging development. It is also something Atria committed to in its Carbon-Neutral Food Chain 2035 goal. The solutions made in packaging development are part of our efforts to achieve energy and resource-efficient production. At the same time as it is considerably cutting down on the plastic in its packages, Atria makes no compromises on usability and ensures product safety.
– The design of ecological packaging is a truly major player in the packaging development process. It informs our choices all the time and has an impact on new solutions. It influences the materials used and how much of them are used. Sustainable packaging solutions are included in Atria’s packaging strategy, says Jarmo Marttala, Atria’s packaging development manager.
– You also get to challenge yourself in this because you need to think about things a little differently, he adds.
Atria’s Director of Product Development Aaro Mäkimattila points out that consumers are increasingly serious in their demands for ecological daily consumer goods, starting from the packaging solution. Reducing plastic plays a big role in this.
– Many may remember the Grilliboxi product we launched a while back. Its packaging was fairly heavy on plastic. Packages like that would be difficult to launch these days. Consumers are extremely aware of environmentally friendly solutions and spot them very quickly. That’s a good thing for all of us, says Mäkimattila.
"You also get to challenge yourself in this because you need to think about things a little differently."
Shaving grams off individual packaging brings in thousands of kilos in material savings
To increase environmentally friendly solutions, Atria’s packaging development has set the following goals: reducing the use of plastic, supporting the recyclability of packaging materials, developing and adopting bio-based packaging solutions and informing end users by adding recycling instructions to packaging, for example.
– Everything we do is based on our goal of cutting our total emissions, says Mäkimattila.
In 2021, Atria reduced the plastic in its packaging by 45,000 kilos. In Finland, all product groups are studying opportunities for making packaging even lighter and thinner.
– If all goes as planned, in 2022 we will reduce plastic by 109,000 kilos in total, says Marttala.
That is more than twice as much as in the previous year. So, what kind of solutions has Atria made and is currently making?
– The biggest individual change in fresh meats was replacing the container package of minced meat sold to a retail store chain with a vacuum package, says Marttala.
In convenience foods, Atria cut plastic by 10,000 kilos by replacing the traditional container packaging of foodservice products with larger inert gas packaging.
– Right now, we’re in the process of thinning the packaging for poultry products. By the end of the year, this will result in a roughly 54,000-kilo reduction in plastic, says Marttala.
Thinning of this kind is also underway in the packaging of cold cuts, thanks to which the expected savings in materials in Finland this year are as high as 55,000 kilos.
– Every individual solution on a small scale influences the bigger picture, says Mäkimattila.
When the packaging of a single product is made thinner by 1.5 grams, it adds up to thousands and thousands of kilos in material savings in terms of millions of packages of that product.
The environmental impact of packaging is always weighed from all angles. Plastic is still the most environmentally friendly alternative in many cases, given that it prevents food waste by protecting the product and improving its shelf life. The environmental impact of food waste is much greater than that of packaging.
"Every individual solution on a small scale influences the bigger picture."
Significant solutions at group level
Atria Group has a common carbon-neutrality goal. However, packaging development in our different business areas focuses on slightly different measures due to differences in their markets.
Atria engages in continuous development work aiming for the adoption of potential bio-based, or renewable, raw materials and the replacement of fossil raw materials. At group level, the development of bio-based raw materials has taken particularly great leaps in Sweden. Last year, Atria Sweden also renewed the Lönnberga poultry packaging, which reduces the use of plastic by more than half compared to previous packaging.
– The demand for ecological packaging is stronger among consumers in Sweden than in Finland, for example, says Mäkimattila.
Atria Denmark, on the other hand, has increased its use of recycled plastic by as much as 80 per cent. The recycled material was used for the first time last year, and more tests are underway even now.
Atria’s goal is for all its packaging materials to become recyclable during this decade.
– The long-term research work of several years and materials tests are now underway. While there’s still work to be done, we’re making progress all the time, says Mäkimattila.