The world’s largest and oldest baby food company will shortly introduce the first single-material baby food pouch. Gerber says the new all-polypropylene pouch creates greater value for the recycling industry because it simplifies the process and promotes the development of better recycling infrastructure.
Here are the essentials of the development, draw from the press release and custom input from Tony Dzikowicz, Gerber’s associate director of packaging, Sina Hilbert, Gerber’s brand manager & sustainability lead, and Justin Welke, Nestlé’s packaging project manager.
1. The current pouch is a standard multilayer construction.
Gerber launched its first baby food pouch in 2011, a multi-material structure made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), foil, and polyethylene (PE).
It’s an industry-standard structure that reflects the current industry standard for pouches, structure using two outer layers of plastic that sandwich an aluminum barrier layer.
That kind of structure is not currently municipally recyclable in the U.S. due to outdated infrastructure that struggles to sort and process flexible plastics.
2. That experience helped with the new pouch development.
Since 2011 Gerber has built “substantial expertise” in package development and filling operations by working with different material, designs, and equipment, as well as different partners. That expertise provided an understanding of the performance requirements and validation needs for this first-of-its-kind pouch.
3. The new pouch is a mono-material polypropylene structure from Gualapack.
In 2017, Gerber began conducting trials with Gualapack, a global supplier of premade spouted pouches, with the goal of bringing the industry’s first mono-material pouch to market.
A key benefit of the PP pouch is that it provides transparency and window options so consumers can see the product inside.
4. It’s 100% recyclable, but there’s a caveat.
The pouch will be 100% recyclable through Gerber's national recycling program with upcycler TerraCycle, which is noted on the pouch back panel (below).
5. A curbside recycling pilot holds promise.
With Nestlé as a founding member of Materials Recovery for the Future (MRFF), a research collaborative committed to creating recycling solutions, Gerber is supporting curbside recycling for the pouch. MRFF's pilot program in Pottstown, PA, is the first curbside recycling program in the US to accept flexible plastics such as these. The goal is to expand the program across the country.
6. Why it wasn’t developed to be #2 PE In-store Recycle Ready pouch.
Currently, the #2 Polyethylene (PE) in-store drop off stream is limited to plastics that are “clean and dry.” Because baby food is a wet product, it is challenging to clean and dry pouches to the level that is compatible.
7. The shelf life is lower at nine months.
That’s a reduction from the 12-month shelf life of its standard Organic pouch, but Gerber exploring ways to increase the shelf life while maintaining a focus on recyclability.
8. Same size, lower net weight.
Although the pouch size is the same as its Organics line, the approximate 3 1/6-oz net weight is slightly less than the current line’s 3 ½-oz net weight. That was done to preserve the integrity of the mono-polypropylene structure, Gerber says.
9. Gerber’s advice for other companies.
The company says that “it’s imperative for all parts of an organization to work together to accomplish the goal of sustainable packaging. As the industry moves to mono-material and other designs ‘with the end in mind,’ compromises may be required, such as shelf life, filling performance, cost of materials and more, so support from all business functions is key.
10. The first product launches in May on TheGerberStore.com.
The pouch will be available exclusively on TheGerberStore.com for Gerber's Organic Banana Mango Puree beginning in May 2020. The initial launch gives Gerber an opportunity to gain experience in the market before expanding more broadly.