Over the past two years, following requests from UK retailers, Greiner Packaging has replaced yogurt multi-packs made from polystyrene (PS) with polypropylene (PP) and ‘Project Snap’ has now successfully recreated the ‘snap’ which consumers love.
Yogurt multi-packs have traditionally been made from polystyrene (PS), but there is currently no PS recycling stream in the UK and supermarkets have focused on removing all PS products. Seeking to deliver a sustainable alternative, in February 2018 Greiner Packaging’s factory in Dungannon, Northern Ireland, began trials using polypropylene (PP), and was first in the UK to recreate a functional multi-pack in PP.
One of the advantages of PS was its ability to deliver a really effective ‘break’ which was initially difficult to achieve with PP. Leading UK retailer Tesco was one of the first customers to move from PS multi-packs to PP multi-packs, but consumers were disappointed that packs made from the new material did not ‘snap’ in the same way as the previous PS packs.
In July 2020, Greiner Packaging began ‘Project Snap’ to develop and improve PP multi-pack breakability. By October 2020, the first successful filling trials of the latest PP 4-pack had begun, and the new improved yogurt 100g 4-packs are now on-shelf.
“We needed to remove PS from our packaging and Greiner Packaging helped us with the move to PP,” said Tesco senior packaging manager Denise Mathieson. “However, our customers were always accustomed to the easy ‘snap’ of the old PS yogurt multi-packs and we needed to further develop this feature with the new recyclable PP packaging. Greiner has been at the forefront of these developments and worked with us quickly to re-engineer the PP multi-pack to give it the same ‘snap’ quality of PS.
A timeline of continuous investment
Multi-pack development from PS to PP has taken considerable investment, but has been achieved faster than originally expected, with ‘Project Snap’ delivering the final part of the story.
“Over the past two and a half years, Greiner Packaging Dungannon has invested heavily in delivering these multi-packs made from PP and then further engineering to give the same satisfying ‘snap’ as their predecessors,” says Greiner Packaging UK & Ireland CEO Philip Woolsey.
Working with international thermoforming specialist Kiefel, thermoform machine maker Illig, and filling and sealing specialists Trepko and Clondalkin, in February 2018, Greiner Packaging began the development of a 4-pack PP multi-pack that could be easily separated. Production tooling followed and by September 2018, filling and sealing trials were underway at a UK dairy company. By August 2019 all production trials were complete, and by the end of 2019 the new PP multi-packs were launched in the retail sector. Thanks to ‘Project Snap’, the new, improved multi-packs are now in retail.
Greiner Packaging is currently heavily involved in work on the use of recycled materials such as r-PET, r-PS, and r-PP for the food industry, with a view to utilising greater quantities of recycled material in the manufacture of its plastic products in the future. A holistic approach, together with the search for different material options, should lead to quick results, irrespective of whether an issue relates to new material-specific process innovations or particular food approvals.
“The next step, for PP yogurt multi-packs will be to manufacture them using recycled PP,” Woolsey concludes. “Mechanically recycled PP can currently only be used for non-food packaging, however a food approval is now in preparation. Chemically recycled PP is suitable for food contact, but not readily available as there are no large-scale recycling streams for PP. Greiner Packaging is currently involved in a project that aims to obtain food approval for r-PP from mechanical recycling. Ultimately, we will have succeeded in helping retailers move to using a material which genuinely delivers on our circular economy commitments, while still keep the fun element in place for consumers.”