Opinion from global food and drink experts, Zenith Global

This second innovation idea of the week has a brilliant intellectual symmetry.

PepsiCo UK is actively looking at extracting the starch from potato skins and turning it into bags for potato crisps. It seems such packets could even be in use by Walkers within 18 months.

While on the subject of novel packaging concepts, I can’t resist repeating the story of the world’s first biodegradable crisp packets from another part of PepsiCo in the United States. Frito-Lay had to abandon them after complaints that they were too noisy.

One blogger recorded the rustling at 95 decibels, similar to an underground train, and 45,000 people signed up to a Facebook page called “Sorry but I can’t hear you over this SunChips bag”.

We should be thankful, though, that PepsiCo is undaunted.

I’ve commented on footprint comparisons before, but now return to the topic because new figures have been issued by the European Federation of Bottled Waters.

The first set offers indicative measures for the carbon footprint of various non-alcoholic drinks in grams of CO2 per litre, as sourced from Danone.

Plain still water
Carbonated soft drink
Fruit drink
Energy drink

The second set provides water footprints for different beverages in litres of water per litre of product, as sourced from waterfootprint.org

Bottled water under
Orange juice

The EFBW also reports that:

  • PET bottle recycling across Europe has increased from 35% in 2005 to 48% in 2009.
  • PET bottle weights have reduced by 17% since 1996.

It is reassuring that bottled water is coming up with robust answers to more of the environmental questions being asked.

Last weekend, I read about four separate packaging initiatives of great environmental merit.

  • Stonyfield Farm in the United States is pioneering yogurt cups made from plants, cutting carbon emissions by 48%.
  • Arla in the United Kingdom is already using 15% recycled plastic in all its milk polybottles and is aiming for 50% by 2020.
  • Coca-Cola expects to produce 5 billion bottles with 30% plant based materials in 2011 and plans to introduce Odwalla fruit juice bottles with 96% plant ingredients next March.
  • Stora Enso and Tetra Pak have developed new technology in Spain that enables recovery of the plastic and aluminium in beverage cartons.

As I keep saying, it would be even greater if local and national government recycling schemes advanced at the same pace.

Lightweighting can be taken too far. Sometimes it leads to floppy bottles and squishy cans.

But until recycling rates improve, drinks manufacturers are right to reduce their use of materials as far as possible.

Bags are fast becoming a serious new option, judging by two news items 1 saw in the UK trade press during August.

One was Kraft’s Eco Refill packs, which now account for a quarter of all Kenco coffee retail sales and use 97% less packaging weight than their equivalent in glass.

The other was Sainsbury introducing bags for its full range of milks, saving consumers 6 pence for 2 pints and using 75% less packaging.



July 7th, 2010 | Posted by Richard Hall in Environmental - (0 Comments)

I read endless reports.  Some of them put a smile on my face.  Notably when I see businesses performing well and communicating well.  Thus, I commend to you the latest Social Responsibility Report of Coca-Cola Hellenic.  It seems every dimension of the company’s operations is now conscious of and improving its contribution to sustainability.  I cite a selection of measures that caught my attention.

  • 37% reduction in operational water footprint between 2003 and 2009, despite a 69% increase in production volume.
  • 25% decrease in water usage per litre of product from 3.2 litres in 2002 to 2.4 litres in 2009.
  • 31% improvement in plant energy efficiency since 2002.
  • 4 on site combined heat and power units constructed, with 12 more planned.
  • 66% energy saving from latest vending machine technology compared with 2004.
  • 36% lightweighting of average 50cl PET water bottle since 2005.
  • 66% of packaging in Europe recycled.
  • 18% lowering of average calorie content per 100ml from 37 in 2001 to 30 in 2009. 

If Coca-Cola Hellenic can report as comprehensively on 77 bottling plants across 28 countries  from Ireland to Nigeria and Moldova, then so can most other businesses.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

Thursday 24 June

After yesterday’s opening session in the UN General Assembly Hall, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gives his third speech where he talks about “saving the world”. How often do you hear that with credibility in a business meeting ? He is referring to everything from poverty to water stress.

At a workshop on ‘Water : A Business Imperative’, I hear more big hopes and big numbers.

“Water is the lifeblood of our business,” Diageo Americas Executive Vice President Guy Smith.

Coca-Cola International Government Relations Vice President Afzaal Malik – The company and its bottling partners are planning to invest a whopping $12 billion in Africa over the next ten years.

An earlier speaker had said of water : “We simply have to rethink water. Water stress is one of the world’s biggest challenges. Yet the solutions have to be local.”

Last words to Unilever Chief Executive Officer Paul Polman: “Business as usual is no longer an option… Climate change and water stress are real medium term risks… Consumers will be looking to companies that are good citizens.”

At the United Nations in June 2010

Last week I was in the United States. Here are my notes.

Wednesday 23 June

I am writing today’s blog from the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations in New York. I am attending a business leaders’ summit for companies that have signed the UN Global Compact, which Zenith endorsed some years ago.

Two things strike me about this event. One is that the big picture really is big. It is about the future of our entire world. Sustainability of the planet. The responsibilities of business to society. The goals of true leadership. Good employment practice. Water availability. And the General Assembly Hall is imbued with symbolism.

The other thing is how few companies have actually signed up to the Global Compact, which consists of ten basic principles of ethical business conduct. Under 10,000.

In the past everyone was suspicious of everyone else. Politicians and pressure groups have been suspicious of business. Business is there to compete and yet, here, it must learn to co-operate.

It is clear that we are all in this together, which means we must all work together. Business leaders are not real leaders if they don’t take a leadership role in these areas.

The next day consists of a series of presentations and roundtables. Let’s see what this summit can achieve.


May 24th, 2010 | Posted by Richard Hall in Bottled water | Environmental | Water - (0 Comments)

Two revealing surveys were reported in the May 2010 issue of Rayon Boissons – one on carbon footprints, the second on water …

Non-alcoholic drinks including bottled water account for 31% of grocery volume sold in French supermarkets and hypermarkets, but only 10% of their carbon footprint. The reverse is the case for frozen food and non-dairy fresh produce, whose carbon footprint is three times their share of volume.

71% of French people said they drank tap water at least once a week in 2009, up from 67% in 2008. The number stating they drink bottled water weekly has fallen from 72% in 2003 to 52% last year.