Weetabix case study: Packaging
24 February 2021
Minimising the impact of packaging on the environment has been a long-standing focus for Weetabix, with an emphasis on plastics. They undertook a project to improve the environmental credentials of the brand by developing materials with reduced plastic & carbon footprint.
In 2018, Weetabix set a target to reduce the plastic in their wrapper. Plastic serves an important function by keeping out moisture. They developed a mathematical model of moisture migration to predict the optimum level of plastic that would retain freshness, but that wasn’t excessive. This work lead to a number of options, and they set about testing materials.
Phase 1 of testing was to ensure that factories could wrap and seal the biscuits. This proved successful for one of the levels chosen, so Weetabix entered Phase 2, where they used the trail samples to undertake extensive taste & quality testing over 1 year (the shelf-life of Weetabix). This data validated the mathematical model and lead to the finalisation of the optimum plastic level.
Weetabix launched a reduced plastic wrap in June 2020, which while it wasn’t at the optimum level (due to issues sealing the wrap) will deliver a 59 tonnes p.a. reduction in plastic without affecting the quality of the Weetabix.
Phase 3 looked at a further reduction in plastic, by addressing the way the optimum level didn’t work first time in the factories. The material underwent some adjustments and is currently completing taste testing to ensure quality is maintained. If predictions are correct, this will further reduce plastic by a further 28 tonnes p.a. All going well, this will launch in 2021.
Weetabix also contracted their supplier to measure the actual carbon footprint of this material, and with the June 2020 launch, reduced it by 20%. The Phase 3 launch will reduce it by 31% from a 2019 baseline.
Phase 4 is to replace the plastic with a plastic-free barrier coating. Weetabix are looking at several options this and have some promising ideas. The work already completed means that they have a database of knowledge to predict quality performance for any material they test.
Weetabix didn’t forget the outer carton either, and are currently completing testing of a new board material that is lighter and with equal performance to their current board, which will reduce it’s carbon footprint by around 22%, and reduce our board use by 23%.