Sustainability touches all aspects of snack food manufacturing and has become a major strategic issue – from consumers demanding sustainable products to optimizing operations and reducing carbon footprint. Factors such as consumer awareness, a desire for increased convenience foods and unprepared operations are just a few of the hurdles snack food manufacturers are navigating.

As consumer knowledge of environmental concerns grows, so has the demand for sustainable products, according to the Trends and Advances in Food Packaging and Processing report, produced by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies. Consumer preference for materials made from recycled goods that also may be recycled in turn has increased. Looking ahead, the next frontier of sustainability is biodegradable materials as consumers prefer not only materials made from recycled goods, but materials that are then also recyclable.

According to PMMI’s research, while the desire for sustainable packaging grows, especially among younger consumers, it is occasionally at odds with other consumer trends. For instance, there is a desire to showcase product freshness using see-through materials, but many multi-layered, see-through materials are not recyclable. Packaging innovations are necessary to address these increasingly complex consumer preferences.

Single-serve continues to grow as all generations of consumers demand greater convenience, creating challenges for snack food manufacturers who are developing these smaller packages. This stock-keeping unit explosion also means more changeovers and downtime. Unit material usage and thus costs are typically higher with these smaller package sizes, according to the Snack Foods – Packaging and Processing Market Assessment and Trends report from PMMI. Manufacturers continue to seek ways to reduce inefficiencies or compensate for them through measures such as reduced material usage.

Sustainable materials also can create operational challenges for snack food manufacturers. For example, manufacturers of snack food bars have attempted to use lighter-weight materials, but some cartoners have had issues handling the recycled paperboard. Speed also needs to be considered when using recycled materials.

But snack food producers continue to look for operational solutions to lessen the blow of any inefficiencies created by these recycled materials. For example, manufacturers work at augmenting packaging usage, i.e., finding ways to wrap primary and secondary packaging more tightly around content, allowing for reduction of material use and costs. Innovation in primary and secondary packaging equipment is needed to make this happen.

Manufacturers looking to overcome these challenges and improve the sustainability of their operations and their packaging can find the latest sustainability solutions and innovations at PACK EXPO East, set for March 3-5, 2020, in Philadelphia. 

Produced by PMMI, the show offers a projected 7,000 attendees the opportunity to gather insights from more than 400 exhibiting companies as well as network with industry peers. An opening “Taste of Philly” reception welcomes all registered attendees and exhibitors on March 3 from 4-6 p.m., followed by Packaging and Processing Women’s Leadership Network’s “Financial Empowerment and Fixing the Broken Rung” breakfast event on March 4 from 8-10 a.m. Keynote speakers Kweilin Ellingrud, a senior partner at McKinsey & Company, and Kelly Coyne, vice-president of Global Women’s Strategies, Impax Asset Management L.L.C. and Pax Ellevate Management L.L.C., will address the issues of the “power of parity” and accelerating gender equality.

Free educational offerings will provide opportunities for attendees not only to see machinery in action and talk with suppliers about the latest advances in packaging but also learn about best practices and industry breakthroughs. The Innovation Stage consists of a series of 30-minute sessions presented by expert suppliers each day, while the forum includes 45-minute seminars about the latest industry trends with hands-on activities, small group discussions and Q&A sessions.

Register and learn more at