It is orange, shiny, as high-quality as its contents, responsible for optimal product protection, a brand label – and currently our greatest challenge: Seeberger packaging. It should be made greener, not in color, but from the point of view of nature. Because we want to protect it, in every way. And we have been doing so since our founding in 1844.
Insight into a complex project.
For years, we at Seeberger have been concerned with the question of a sustainable packaging solution and the necessary steps to get there. The explosive nature of the pollution of the world's oceans and our entire ecosystem by plastic was not simply a wake-up call, but showed us that we have to act step by step. We are not alone in this thinking; practically every company on the market is facing similar issues to the ones we are. And yet we have to find an individual way that seems right for our products and the demands we have been meeting for over 175 years. It's not easy. And these are the most important reasons:
1. No food waste: sustainable packaging must offer optimum protection
In over 40 countries around the world, we have found people and growing areas that grow nuts and fruits of the very best quality for us. Harvesting often takes place only once a year, so we have to ensure continuous protection for the sensitive products during transport and further processing. All our efforts are invested in preserving the original flavors or intensifying them through refinement. Thanks to its special properties, such as light protection and oxygen impermeability, our packaging preserves this incomparable taste for a long time. It is optimal in the sense that it offers comprehensive protection – even when a packet of nuts is bought ahead and left in the cupboard for months. It guarantees fresh enjoyment for a long time and thus avoids a very important issue: food waste. In addition to guaranteed product safety, our primary goal is to ensure that precious natural products do not become food waste. Out of respect for nature and all the people thanks to whom we can enjoy these treasures.
2. Sustainable packaging: not all materials offer the necessary protection
We have tested various packaging solutions in the past. There are already alternatives to "plastic", such as glass or paper packaging. But can we use them for our products? Currently, the answer is unfortunately: No, not for all products. Each of our products has individual requirements and needs optimal protection in terms of hygiene, durability as well as light and oxygen impermeability. The alternative packaging variants are currently unable to provide these protective properties for all products, or at least not yet. Even biodegradable films do not (yet) offer the necessary protective properties for our sensitive products (e.g. oxygen barrier to protect nuts from rancidity). As soon as this changes, biodegradable plastics are an interesting alternative. Until then, we will take other paths, because waiting is not an option for us.
OUR PATH TOWARDS MORE SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING IS CALLED: CONTINUOUS TRADING
We have tested several other materials to make our packaging more sustainable. We then defined the next step towards more sustainable packaging.
Our milestones so far:
- Reductions in material for 13 of our so-called stand-up pouches – the zipper packaging (e.g. Trail Mix 150 g)
- Here, the bag height was reduced by 2 cm, which corresponds to a savings of material of around 5%.
- Since the changeover in 2019, we have been able to save over 18 tons of material. This is roughly equivalent to the weight of 12 adult giraffes.
- Reductions in material for 13 of our so-called stand-up pouches – the zipper packaging (e.g. Trail Mix 150 g)
- Around 90% of products have been changed from a flat bag to a recyclable film made from mono-composite material with a simultaneous reduction of material usage by up to 20%.
- When using mono-composite film, we are guided by the so-called "cradle to cradle" principle. This follows the approach of a continuous circular economy. Changing our packaging to mono-composite film means that the material we use is able to be separated in the future and reprocessed as a secondary raw material in the form of recyclates, for example, to make new plastic products.
- Since the changeover in 2020, we have been able to save over 37 tons of material. This is roughly equivalent to the weight of 6 adult African elephants, which are the heaviest land animals in the world, weighing more than 6 tons each.
- Inner part of the Seeberger Advent calendar made from 100 % natural recycled fiber
- This means that the material is fully compostable or recyclable and can be disposed of in the paper bin.
By saving on materials, we reduce our ecological footprint.
The following goals are at the forefront of our actions for 2021:
- Further film changes to thinner and/or recyclable material (stand-up pouches, zipper pouches and film for our soft products)
- Testing of paper packaging for individual products
3. Sustainable packaging solutions must be thought through holistically
Numerous solutions for bio-based and biodegradable plastics – e.g. from maize or sugar cane – come at the expense of agricultural land, which is then no longer available for food production. For us, this is not the solution to the problem. Already today, arable land is scarce and should be used primarily to feed the growing world population. We would not be Seeberger if we did not work on well thought-through solutions.
Working together for sustainable packaging management
Since November 2020, we have been a member of the HolyGrail 2.0 Initiative to advance the goals of the circular packaging economy. The goal is to see whether so-called digital watermarks can enable better sorting and higher quality recycling rates for packaging in the EU. Under the leadership of AIM®, the European brand association, more than 85 international companies from a value chain have joined forces to drive this project forward.
We remain on the move, working with our partners in the packaging industry to develop more sustainable packaging solutions, and will make great strides in the months and years ahead.
1. How sustainable is Seeberger packaging to date? Is it recyclable?
The top priority of our packaging is product protection. We have partners all over the world who grow the best quality nuts and fruits for us. Harvesting often takes place only once a year, so we have to ensure continuous protection for the sensitive products during transport and further processing. Our goal is to preserve the original flavors so that you too can get the unadulterated pleasure directly to your home. We do not want to waste any food and focus on the longest possible shelf life, for example by paying attention to light protection and oxygen impermeability. So you can enjoy our products even if you buy a pack of nuts to stock up and it sits in the cupboard for a few weeks or even months.
We are aware that we need to constantly optimize our packaging in terms of sustainability. Currently we use mostly recyclable mono-composite films. The following products or product groups are an exception:
- Films for stand-up pouch packaging – goal: changeover in 2021
- Films for zipper packaging – goal: changeover in 2021
- Foils for soft products – goal: changeover in 2021
- Individual products in flat or stand-up pouches such as roasted products, banana chips and jumbo walnuts. These cannot currently be converted to the thinner mono-composite film as they are too pointed. The packages would then leak and product protection could no longer be guaranteed.
Unfortunately, the solution is not simple. Each of our products has individual requirements and needs optimal protection in terms of hygiene, durability as well as light and oxygen impermeability. We are working at full speed on sustainable packaging solutions that take precisely these protective factors into account.
2. What more sustainable packaging solutions is Seeberger working on? With whom are they working?
We have been working with our packaging suppliers and designers for some time on various solutions, and have carried out material and storage tests for numerous types of packaging established on the market. Biodegradable and bio-based films have been tested, as well as mono-composites and packaging with significantly less material input. In order to be able to continue to guarantee the best quality of our nuts and dried fruit, we are currently pursuing the approach of converting all products to recyclable films (mono-composite). We have chosen this packaging solution because we want to orientate ourselves on the so-called "cradle to cradle principle". This follows the approach of a continuous circular economy. Changing our packaging to mono-composite film means that the material we use is able to be separated in the future and reprocessed as a secondary raw material in the form of recyclates, for example, to make new plastic products.
Moreover, we also test paper packaging for individual products or product groups and are a member of the HolyGrail 2.0 Initiative.
In this way, we can reduce the burden on the environment in the short term. For us, this is another step in the right direction.
3. How can I tell if a product has already been switched to the more sustainable material?
You can easily recognize the new packaging material by the indication on the packaging. You will find this either on the front or back of our products.
4. Why is it taking so long to change over the packaging? What does packaging have to achieve in order to meet the Seeberger quality?
Each product has very specific requirements. Unfortunately, this means there is no uniform solution for the entire range. We buy the very best quality from our partners in the countries of origin, which means: nuts, seeds and fruits that have the optimum degree of ripeness, an inimitable full-bodied taste and are also visually flawless. For decades, we've optimized our packaging to ensure our products retain their original flavor until you open the bag. By original, we mean our untreated products taste almost like they have been freshly harvested. The flavor of our refined goods is preserved in just the way they were created by our culinary craftsmen. To ensure this, the packaging must first and foremost guarantee a relatively long best-before date and protect the contents from light and oxygen over this period so that color and flavor are preserved. That is the general requirement. The individual requirements for cashews are different than those for mangoes or sunflower seeds. At first glance, the packaging looks very similar, but the packaging technology behind it has been fine-tuned and redeveloped for each individual product.
5. Why does Seeberger not use any biodegradable packaging? Are bio-based plastics an alternative for Seeberger packaging?
Of course, we are also looking into this possibility. Unfortunately, biodegradable packaging is not currently mature enough to protect our products on the shelf for an extended period of time. They are currently still too sensitive to light and oxygen effects. The aroma and freshness of our natural products would suffer. Nevertheless, we are closely monitoring technological developments in this area.
Moreover, numerous solutions for bio-based and biodegradable plastics – e.g. from maize or sugar cane – come at the expense of agricultural land, which is then no longer available for food production. For us, this is not the solution to the problem. Already today, arable land is scarce and should be used primarily to feed the growing world population.
6. Where does Seeberger procure the film material?
Our films are produced in Europe. We obtain most of our films and bags directly from Germany and Austria.
7. Is there a way to dispose of Seeberger packaging "correctly"? Can the material be reused in any way?
The "right" way is already now the separation and disposal via the yellow recycling bin or the yellow recycling bag. A large portion of the product packing made of mono-composite film is recyclable. To achieve this, we also rely on the help of each individual. The packaging must be disposed of in the recycling bin. The waste disposal companies can then return the packaging to the recyclable materials cycle.
Alternatively, the packaging can also be creatively recycled. For example, you can easily make a sturdy and practical shopping bag out of our Seeberger packs. The inside of our Advent calendars can also be put to good use. There are no limits to creativity!