AMSTERDAM — The pet food and treat industry is responsible for producing an estimated 300 million lbs of plastic waste, annually, just in the United States alone, according to the Pet Sustainability Coalition (PSC). Several manufacturers have stepped up to reduce the amount of plastic packaging waste; however, current recycling streams make recycling such plastics difficult. With this in mind, some processors are turning away from plastic to favor metal-based packaging.
One such company is Doothie, a liquid dog food supplement by Petcura GmbH. The German company recently introduced its products, encased in infinitely recyclable, metal packaging created by Trivium Packaging.
Introduced in 2022, Doothie is a liquid food supplement, or “smoothie,” for dogs. The liquid supplement is available in four varieties — Vitality Vol. 1, Vitality Vol. 2, Activity Vol. 1, and Activity Vol. 2 — each of which is packed with functional ingredients to provide pups with a boost of nutrition.
Though Doothie seeks to support dog health and wellness, the brand refused to sacrifice its commitment to the environment in order to provide nutrition to pets. So, when it came time to find the right packaging, Doothie set out to find a format that juggled both product protection and sustainability. The brand came to Trivium Packaging to create an infinitely recyclable, metal-based solution to help meet its goals.
Trivium is a global packaging manufacturer specializing in metal-based packaging using aluminum and steel. Trivium offers an extensive range of metal packaging, including two- and three-piece DRD and DWI cans and impact extruded aluminum bottles. And Doothie took full advantage of the company’s capabilities.
When approached by the liquid dog supplement brand with a rough idea on packaging, Trivium set right to work. The packaging company ended up creating a three-piece welded tinplate can for the liquid supplement.
According to Trivium, the packaging protects and preserves Doothie’s smoothie supplement product for significantly longer compared to other packaging alternatives. The can features an easy-open end for fully recyclable benefits for consumers. The packaging is also printed in full color, creating a premium feel without relying on any secondary packaging, like paper or plastic labels, using fewer materials and unaltering the packaging’s full recyclability.
Upon developing Doothie’s infinitely recyclable packaging, Trivium realized an opportunity for the pet food industry to leverage metal packaging as it continues to move toward sustainability.
With more than 60 locations and nearly 7,500 employees around the globe, Trivium’s focus on metal-based packaging has led it to produce packaging for several brands throughout a variety of industries, including food and beverage, home and personal care, nutrition, beauty, industrial, and now, pet nutrition.
Though the pet food and treat industry has made many advancements toward increasing the recyclability of plastic-based packaging, they can only be recycled so many times via existing streams. Metal, however, can be recycled infinitely.
“Metal recycles forever,” said Robert Hukshorn, director of sales, pet food at Trivium. “There are big differences between the number of times different materials can be recycled. Some, like plastics, can only be recycled a limited number of times before they degrade and have to be permanently discarded. Some types of packaging, like brick or liquid cartons, are composites made up of different types of materials. Even though each component can technically be recycled, it is virtually impossible, or not economically viable, to separate and recycle the individual components.”
According to Metal Packaging Europe (MPE), metal packaging boasts one of the highest recycling rates: 74.5% for aluminum cans and 82.5% for steel packaging. This makes metal packaging a perfect contender in creating a more circular economy.
“When a material can be recycled forever, like metal, it enables a circular economy by remaining in the loop and eventually eliminating the need for virgin material,” Hukshorn explained. “Metal also has one of the highest recycling rates when compared to other materials. High recyclability and high recycling rates are both needed for circularity.”
Not only does metal packaging offer a wealth of sustainability benefits, but this particular packaging format also offers pet food processors various other benefits, from meeting shifting consumer expectations to product protection.
According to Trivium Packaging’s 2023 Buying Green Report conducted by Euromonitor International, which surveyed more than 9,000 consumers throughout Europe and North and South America on their attitudes toward sustainability and sustainable packaging, consumers are seeking more products with packaging that offers environmental benefits.
Sixty-three percent of those surveyed reported they are less likely to buy products with packaging that is harmful to the environment. Seventy-nine percent are specifically seeking products in sustainable packaging. Additionally, Gen Z and Millennial consumers are more likely to choose to buy a product due to its sustainable packaging compared to consumers in older generations.
“Studies show more and more consumers are looking for sustainable packaging, and more importantly, refusing to buy products in packaging that is harmful to the environment,” Hukshorn said. “According to the 2023 Buying Green Report, 66% of consumers consider themselves to be environmentally aware. Seventy-one percent have chosen a product in the last six months based on its sustainability credentials and 79% are looking for products in sustainable packaging.”
Despite rising prices in food, and pet food, consumers are still prioritizing sustainability and sustainable packaging when it comes to their purchases. According to the report, 70% of consumers claimed they chose not to swap out sustainably packaged products for an alternative, even amidst financial struggles.
In fact, consumers are willing spend more in favor of sustainable packaging. Eighty-two percent of survey respondents shared they are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging and 29% are willing to pay over 10% more.
In addition to meeting consumers’ desires for more eco-conscious packaging, metal packaging also provides strong protection to help ensure product quality and reduce food waste. According to Trivium, its metal packaging offerings offers a “superior” level of product protection with an impermeable barrier compared to standard plastic containers or multi-layer pouches.
“Metal allows packaging to fulfill its primary function: protecting contents from contamination, spoilage and damage at all stages of the supply chain to deliver the highest quality product,” Hukshorn said. “It is one of the most durable packaging materials, offering resilient protection and safeguarding contents from external elements. It provides one of the strongest barriers against UV and oxygen. This strong barrier also enables long shelf life which reduces waste.
“When it comes to food specifically, the convenience that metal cans deliver to consumers is often cited as their key strength, but cans also lock in essential nutrients and preserve food freshness,” he added. “In fact, canning is one of the most effective ways to maintain food quality at its peak.”
Though metal packaging boasts one of the highest recycling rates, consumer perception of metal recycling is extremely lacking. According to Trivium’s Buying Green Report, metal has the lowest consumer-perceived global recycling rate compared to glass (54%), liquid cartons (45%) and plastic (45%).
In reality, global recycling rates for these packaging materials are actually much lower: glass hovers at 32%, liquid cartons at 27%, and plastic at a mere 14%, while metal soars above the rest at 69%.
This is a stark reality for many, demonstrating the need for consumer education on metal packaging’s actual recycling rate. To help bridge the gap between consumer perception versus real recycling rates, Trivium offers to print MPE’s Metal Recycles Forever™ logo onto its customers’ packaging.
As more pet food brands make the shift toward metal packaging, consumer education will become ever more paramount.
The future is metal
The humanization of pets continues to drive consumer demand for foods, treats and supplements that boast high functional benefits. Though these products have the greatest of intentions to support pet health and wellness, many can come with a high environmental cost caused by their plastic packaging.
As demand for these types of high-nutritional products continues to rise, as will the need for more metal packaging to help the pet food industry meet demand without compromising its advancements toward sustainability.
“The world is changing and so is our packaging,” Hukshorn shared. “Together we can create pioneering products that make a real difference. We use innovation to drive sustainability and that means lightweighting, reclosure solutions, recycled content, CO2 reduction, and reduce and recycle options are always top of mind.
“We want to drive innovation that matters, but we know we can’t do it alone,” he added. “It’s important to us to partner with customers from initial concept to product launch to constantly develop new solutions that make a difference.”
Read more about packaging solutions and trends for pet food and treats.