“We are currently partnering with Indian research institutes to study recycling of cartons”

With an ambition to deliver the world’s most sustainable food package, made solely of responsibly-sourced, renewable or recycled materials, fully recyclable and carbon-neutral, Swedish-Swiss multinational food packaging and processing company Tetra Pak is taking multiple initiatives to secure food safety and availability, while reducing the impact on our planet. Praneeth Tripurari, Marketing Director, Tetra Pak South Asia, spoke to nuFFooDS Spectrum about the company’s sustainability plans encompassing their entire value chain. Edited Excerpts

How has Tetra Pak advanced towards achieving its net-zero goals during FY 21-22? What were the key highlights – for the Indian market & globally? What are the major plans in store for FY 22-23?

As a company, Tetra Pak made significant progress over the last year. Global highlights included the launch of tethered caps on carton packages, joining forces with leading beverage producers including ​Borrisoleigh Bottling Ltd (BBL) in Ireland, Cido Grupa in the Baltics, LY Company Group and Lactalis Puleva in Spain and Weihenstephan in Germany. Following the successful completion of a 15-month commercial technology validation of a polymer-based barrier replacing the aluminium layer, Tetra Pak also moved to the next level of development – testing a fibre-based barrier, that is a first within food carton packages distributed under ambient conditions.

Meanwhile, the Indian market has seen the advent of many new and interesting categories, including ready-to-drink Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS), immunity boosting beverages, value-added dairy products, as well as ethnic drinks such as Amla / Giloy juice. There have also been a couple of particularly interesting new launches in this market, including a new range of flavoured milk in Tetra Brik Aseptic 90 Ultra (TBA 90U)– the first launch for TBA 90U in the world. We have also launched the first ever made-in-India holographic packaging for Tetra Pak, which is being manufactured at Chakan, near Pune.

However, we are keen to evolve and adapt, taking into account rapidly changing scenarios and growing expectations from customers, society and regulators. 

Tetra Pak has recently joined hands with India’s Reliance-owned Milkbasket. How does the company plan to bolster such concepts to address the issue of sustainable waste management in India?

The partnership with Milkbasket simplifies the process of carton recycling for consumers. Milkbasket users can simply put in a pick-up request along with their usual grocery delivery order through the app, and leave the used cartons in the Milkbasket bag outside their door. While dropping off the groceries, the delivery agent will then pick up these used cartons and take them back to a central hub. From here, the cartons will be channelled to the nearest recycler with Tetra Pak’s support. This initiative brings together Milkbasket’s strengths in distribution and logistics, with Tetra Pak’s understanding of the collection and recycling ecosystem, to accelerate recycling of used cartons. We have kicked off the partnership with a pilot project in the National Capital Region (NCR), and hope to scale it to other areas over time.

In addition to this latest partnership, we run several other consumer awareness initiatives across India, e.g., Go Green with Tetra Pak in Mumbai, Alag Karo Teen Bin in NCR, Take Me Back in Chennai, and more. In addition, we have invested in building a collection and recycling ecosystem from scratch over the past 18 years in India. Today, we work with over 30 collection partners and 4 recyclers, covering 26 states and union territories of India. However, sustainable food packaging goes beyond just recycling and there is a strong need for consumers and other stakeholders to understand this. Our cartons are already over 70 per cent paper-based, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified and recyclable, which is a great starting point on our journey to developing the world’s most sustainable package.

What are the current challenges facing the food packaging industry in India? How is Tetra Pak addressing those?

There is an urgent need to maintain a balance between food safety & sustainability, and we believe that one should not be at the cost of the other. For a country like India, it is important for the packaging to be robust, ensuring it can travel long distances without the need for a cold-chain. This is where our aseptic cartons play a vital role in ensuring that safe food can be made available across the length and breadth of the country, including to the Indian Army contingents based in the most difficult-to-reach areas in North & North East India. 

Could you elaborate on the company’s breakthrough in developing fibre-based barriers to replace the aluminium layer, which Tetra Pak claims is a first within food carton packages under ambient conditions.

The new fibre-based barrier is composed of paper and barriers. Engineered combinations of paper and barriers serve to secure the necessary barrier to light and oxygen, to protect the content inside the package. This is one of the key roles of the aluminium layer in our current ambient portfolio. Early results suggest that the package with a fibre-based barrier will offer substantial CO2 reduction when compared to traditional aseptic cartons, together with comparable shelf life and food protection properties. We believe this development will therefore act as a breakthrough in reducing the climate impact of the packaging. 

Moreover, the fibre-based barrier increases the attractiveness of carton packages for paper mills, because of higher renewable content, as the aluminium layer is removed and replaced by a fibre-based barrier. We believe that this concept presents clear potential for realising a low carbon, circular economy for packaging. It also supports end-user expectations. Based on recent global research, approximately 40 per cent consumers confirmed they would be more motivated to sort for recycling, if packages were made entirely from paperboard and had no plastic or aluminium.

Please also shed some light on the recent partnership with India’s Warana Dairy on launching the first Made-in-India holographic packaging for Tetra Pak?

This innovative packaging concept, called Tetra Pak Reflect, has been launched in partnership with Warana, a leading co-operative dairy, for its 1 litre Ghee (clarified butter) packs. The artistic package is designed to help food and beverage brands add a new eye-catching dimension to their packs. It is the first time for Tetra Pak that the holographic packaging material will be produced at Tetra Pak’s manufacturing site in Chakan, Maharashtra. Ghee is an intrinsic part of the Indian kitchen, and we are pleased to partner with Warana Dairy in bringing safe, authentic, high-quality ghee to the discerning Indian consumers, using our state-of-the-art packaging and processing technology. We are proud that the Tetra Pak Reflect packaging material is now being made in India, making it a truly local for local offering. In addition to Warana ghee, Amul ghee is also now available in this special holographic packaging.

How is Tetra Pak supporting the food ingredients industry in India & globally, particularly in the plant-based protein space?

We are committed to addressing the challenges around food safety and security, through the exploration and advancement of innovative food sources. Tetra Pak is using its deep understanding of food production to support food and beverage manufacturers on this journey – using one of the oldest processes in food production, fermentation, combined with some of the newest and most advanced technologies.

Tetra Pak’s relationship with Mycorena dates back to 2019 and forms part of the company’s drive to build an innovation ecosystem that helps open new opportunities in the areas of food safety, availability and sustainability. 

Far from a standalone venture, Tetra Pak’s innovation network includes a number of startups in various countries such as Sweden, France and the US, amongst others. While this may be Tetra Pak’s first greenfield plant within the new food-fermentation category, it has been investing in the development of this technology – including biomass to precision fermentation. Furthermore, as a company, it is already well-versed in the alternative-proteins field, working with the likes of Tebrito, an insect protein startup. 

What are your views on the industry-academia collaboration in accelerating innovation for the future of food? Does Tetra Pak have such collaborations? What are your thoughts on partnering with Indian research institutes?

Tetra Pak has been an early advocate of forming and strengthening links between academia and industry, and we have several long-standing relationships with universities and the sites in their vicinity. 

These partnerships expose the people at Tetra Pak to new areas and research, and encourage the discovery of solutions to existing challenges. However, these partnerships have mutual benefits. Tetra Pak’s market insight is also valuable to improving researchers’ understanding of real-world needs, providing them with data, feedback and guidance that can advance research from the theoretical to the practical.

Partnerships include one with Lund University, where we’re working collaboratively on sustainable plastics solutions to address the impact of plastics throughout their lifecycle. 

In Northern Italy, too, Tetra Pak has links with the University of Bologna and the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (UNIMORE). Tetra Pak is involved with two world-class research groups at UNIMORE, AImage Lab (which covers AI and computer vision) and High-Performance Real-Time Laboratory (HiPeRT) (which works with autonomous  real-time systems and vehicles).

We are currently partnering with Indian research institutes to study the collection and recycling of cartons, and we are always open to expanding relevant partnerships.

Mansi Jamsudkar


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