BRUSSELS — Mars Petcare announced Dec. 14 it will roll out new wet pet food packaging made with recycled plastic materials, in partnership with SABIC and Huhtamaki.

The company’s SHEBA® brand of wet cat food will be the first to make the transition across Europe, starting in 2022. The company’s partnership with SABIC and Huhtamaki was established in late 2020.

“We are pleased to share this progress in our sustainable petfood packaging journey,” said Barry Parkin, chief procurement and sustainability officer at Mars, Inc. “Over the past year, we have been closely working with SABIC and Huhtamaki, continually testing and learning and scaling up the recycled plastic content in our pet food packs. As part of our Sustainable in a Generation plan, we are committed to doing our part to help drive a circular economy, which includes redesigning our packages for circularity. The fact that we are now able to introduce recycled content into our SHEBA® pouches helps accelerate our journey to achieve 30% average recycled content in our plastic packaging and to reduce by 25% our use of virgin plastic.”

The process utilizes advanced recycling — or chemical recycling — technology to render food-safe recycled plastics for use in more sustainable flexible plastic packages. According to Mars Petcare, this technology is “essential to help close the gap” in the journey for more circular plastics.

“As we get prepared to deploy food safe recycled content in wet pet food pouches, it’s only fitting that it’s with our iconic SHEBA® brand, which through its work on ocean health strives to make a meaningful and measurable difference in the world,” said Deri Watkins, regional president at Mars Pet Nutrition Europe. “Our consumers want more than just quality food for their pets, and we are pleased that this innovation enables us to provide pet parents with more environmentally sustainable products.”

The new wet pet food packaging formats will incorporate ISCC PLUS certified recycled material. SABIC lends expertise in advanced recycling technology through its TRUCIRCLE™ portfolio of plastic innovations, which showcases the company’s ability to produce polypropylene from flexible plastic packaging waste that can be used for direct food contact packaging applications. Huhtamaki brings technical expertise in developing and manufacturing easy tear sterilizable polypropylene films, such as its Terolen® solution. The combination of both companies’ areas of expertise has allowed Mars Petcare to begin incorporating TRUCIRCLE polymers in its wet pet food packages.

“We are very pleased about the ongoing strategic efforts with Mars and Huhtamaki,” said Lada Kurelec, general manager of PP, PET, PS, PVC, PU and elastomers for petrochemicals at SABIC. “The transformation of the industry towards a circular economy requires unprecedented innovation and intensive collaboration across the value chain. Together, we have set another milestone on this exciting journey.”

Current packaging for Mars Petcare’s SHEBA brand includes aluminum trays, cans and cardboard sleeves, all of which are readily recyclable in key markets. The company hopes the inclusion of recycled plastic materials will take it one step closer to its goal of achieving flexible bag and pouch recyclability. This new application is also expected to spur growth for the development and availability of food contact recycled packaging solutions moving forward.

“We are fully committed to partnering with global leaders to develop solutions which drive the transition to a circular economy,” said Marco Hilty, president of flexible packaging at Huhtamaki. “We are proud to work with Mars and SABIC on a concrete solution which can be used globally. Successfully processing recycled polymers into high-quality, easy tear films for wet retort packaging at an industrial scale is a significant milestone in delivering on our ambition to have more than 80% of our raw materials renewable or recycled. This is important for consumers and in line with our ambitious 2030 strategy.”

The initiative is one of several from Mars aiming to reduce its overall environmental impact. The company has invested $1 billion in its Sustainable in a Generation Plan. Additionally, Royal Canin, a science-based brand of Mars, announced in October a commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2025.

On the whole, pet food and treat industry players big and small are shifting to more environmentally friendly packaging as the feature becomes increasingly important to consumers.

Read more about packaging solutions and trends for pet food and treats.