Colruyt is switching to a 100% recyclable tray for Schouten’s plant-based products
“They wanted a more sustainable form of packaging for their plant-based range.”
Supermarket giant Colruyt has been living up to its slogan ‘Lowest prices’ for years. In addition to attractive prices, the Belgian family business also has an eye for sustainability. For example, the chain asked Schouten to package their plant-based products more sustainably from now on. A label has replaced the cardboard sleeve, and the tray is now 100% recyclable.
With approximately 250 supermarkets throughout Belgium, Colruyt is one of the top retailers in the country. By making efficient choices – for example, they don’t have racks but shelves – and always guaranteeing the lowest price, Colruyt has managed to attract many Flemings and Walloons.
18 plant-based products
Consumers who make a conscious choice for vegetarian and vegan products also get their money’s worth at the price giant. For example, there are no less than eighteen Schouten plant-based products on the Colruyt shelves. These products all bear the Boni brand name.
Wim Schipper, sales manager at Schouten, explains, “We have been working with Colruyt since 2010. They often ask for a specific plant-based product. But we also like to surprise them with new vegetarian and vegan innovations.”
More sustainable packaging
In 2021, Nelle Thyssen, a sustainable packaging expert with the Colruyt group, approached Schouten with a special request. Annemiek Vervoort, product manager at Schouten, explains, “They wanted a more sustainable form of packaging for their plant-based range.”
“Until then, they had used cardboard sleeves and a dark green PET/PE tray. The problem with a tray like that is that it consists of several layers of plastic, which cannot be recycled. In addition, recycling machines cannot differentiate between dark colours such as green and black.”
Schouten’s packaging experts shared all their expertise and current packaging knowledge with Colruyt so that Nelle and her colleagues could make a well-considered choice. They eventually decided on a transparent mono-layer plastic tray.
Annemiek: “The beauty of this PET dish is that it is not only fully recyclable, it is also made from 100% recycled material. So there is no ‘virgin material’, new material, involved.”
4000 kilograms of cardboard saved
At the same time as providing comprehensive advice on the monolayer plastic tray, Colruyt followed Schouten’s advice to use a label instead of a sleeve. Annemiek: “That also saves a lot of packaging material. If we only look at 2022, they have already saved more than 4000 kilos of cardboard.”
“An additional advantage of labels instead of sleeves is that the labels can be applied automatically, while sleeves have to be applied manually. The new packaging method makes the entire process much more efficient.”
When asked whether the plastic labels pose an extra burden on the environment, Annemiek says emphatically, “Certainly not! Just like the tray, the label is recyclable. A paper label would not have been an option, incidentally. If you want to make packaging recyclable, you must be able to peel the paper label off the plastic. But food legislation dictates that such a label must always remain in place and not come off when it gets wet, for example.”
Although they started designing the labels in September 2021, it was not until mid-2022 that Belgian consumers saw the new packaging in the Colruyt stores. Annemiek admits, “In this day and age, it can be difficult to get your hands on enough material immediately. We need large quantities.” At the same time, both parties also wanted to use up the existing trays and sleeves first. “It is not really sustainable if you just throw things away.”
Annemiek is proud of what she and Colruyt have achieved. “We have had every opportunity to assist them with our expertise. The new packaging looks nice and neat, but the environmentally conscious consumer immediately sees that there is no longer an unnecessary sleeve around it.”
It seems that Colruyt is happy with the new packaging choices: the more than one hundred Spar supermarkets that also belong to the Colruyt group have now also switched to transparent PET trays with a label and without a cardboard sleeve.
On the left, the old PET/PE packaging with a cardboard sleeve, on the right is the new monolayer tray with a label.
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