ConAgra outlines sustainable packaging strategy

by Eric Schroeder
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OMAHA — The importance of packaging has not gone unnoticed at ConAgra Foods, Inc., where delivering nutrition information, preparation instructions, convenience and portion control are all part of the process.

“Packaging shape and design helps identify our brands, making them easier for consumers to find in stores and enhancing the overall experience with our food,” the company noted in its 2013 Citizenship Report released Oct. 3. “Packaging preserves freshness, extends shelf life and provides important protection to help food waste from spoilage or damage. With so many food options and formats offered across different sections of the store, we use a large variety of packaging materials — from corrugated boxes and paper-based cartons to plastic containers and metal cans — to perform all these functions.”

As part of its “2020 Vision” for packaging, ConAgra said it is focused on minimizing waste throughout the package system. In its report, the company highlighted six principles of sustainable packaging:

• Incorporating features that meet or exceed their needs;

• Using the most economical means possible;

• Integrating responsible sourcing of raw materials and renewable energy whenever possible;

• Considering recovery options after the package’s useful life;

• Striving to minimize the lifecycle impact of packaging and the total product system; and

• Minimizing wastes throughout the system, especially food waste.

As an example of a successful packaging project, ConAgra pointed to the decision in early 2013 to implement a new plastic bag in its Oakland, Calif., flour mill to address challenges with damage in distribution and storage. ConAgra said the new packaging has exhibited substantially reduced flour leakage in distribution and storage and is more durable than traditional flour bags. The new bags also use 53% less material and are easier to collect and recycle than traditional multi-layer paper bags, ConAgra said.

“We’re using a new technology and putting flour into a plastic bag, which has never been done before in the bulk flour industry,” Matt Huelsman, plant manager at the Oakland flour mill, noted in the report. “The Oakland mill is extremely excited and happy to be a part of such an innovative project.”

ConAgra also said it has been sensitive to consumer perceptions about Bisphenol A. In 2010, the company began packaging some of its Hunt’s brand tomatoes in cans using a non-epoxy liner, and in 2012 the company transitioned its Reddi-wip dessert toppings and Pam cooking spray to new, two-piece can technology that does not use B.P.A. liners.

“We continue to evaluate alternative coating technologies for the remainder of our canned food, while closely monitoring the regulatory environment and consumers’ expectations, and we are working toward discontinuing use of B.P.A. in our canned products by the end of 2015,” the company said.

For the full 2013 Citizenship Report, visit www.conagrafoods.com.
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