The transition to circular packaging is an important part of the Sustainable in a Generation Plan at food company Mars. The company aims to bring only 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging to the market by 2025. With the new pouches (freshness bags) for Sheba, Mars is taking a major step towards achieving this goal.
Mars is an international food company that is home to many very familiar brands including Twix, M&M’s and Ben’s Original. The company is also a major animal food producer, with brands such as Pedigree and Sheba. In 2017, Mars launched the Sustainable in a Generation Plan, with the aim of making all its activities sustainable across the board, from the purchase of raw materials to safety at the workplace.
‘Of course, packaging plays an important role in this plan,’ says Kathy Heungens, Corporate Affairs Director for Mars Multisales Austria-Belgium-Luxembourg-Switzerland. ‘Put simply, the world that we want tomorrow is a world where no packaging ends up as waste. That starts, of course, with removing the packaging that we don’t need. Packaging that is still necessary needs to fit in a circular approach. In addition, we also encourage new recycling systems and solutions that can help close the loop still further.’
Concrete goals have been set for this. All Mars packaging throughout the world must be 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. At the same time, the company aims to reduce the use of virgin plastics by 25%.
At the moment, the focus is, among other things, on packaging that is difficult to recycle. ‘We are systematically replacing this with more recyclable alternatives’, Kathy Heungens explains. ‘A good example of this are the new, simplified pouches that we introduced for the Sheba brand in 2020. The old packaging combines three materials to ensure optimal preservation: aluminium, PET and PP (polypropylene). However, the aluminium layer makes the packaging difficult to recycle.’
Successful trial run
So Mars developed a completely new, aluminium-free packaging for the individual Sheba portions. The first trial runs of the new packaging were successfully launched on the German market in 2020. ‘It was no easy task in a year dominated by the consequences of the coronavirus crisis’, Kathy Heungens stresses. ‘Cooperating with external partners and plants in lockdown areas was a challenge in particular. But we are still on schedule.’
As of 2022, Mars is to roll out the new packaging across Europe, plant by plant. ‘The aim is to make the switch for about 40% of all our pouches across Europe by 2023, not just for the Sheba packaging but for all our animal food brands. After that, we plan to scale up further in order to achieve our sustainability goals by 2025’, says Kathy Heungens.