Fantastic not-plastic packaging innovations

by Emily Saunders

Is packaging throwing a spanner in your sustainability strategy?

Some sustainability commitments are easier to meet than others. And when you’re in the FMCG game, packaging is one of the hardest.

But with everyone from government to consumers starting to realise the scale of the single-use plastic problem, it’s one you need to address.

The good news is, more and more sustainable alternatives are being developed every day – fully recyclable, fully-recycled, refillable – so it’s never been a better time to re-think your reliance on single-use plastic packaging.

Read on to discover ten packaging innovations that are exciting us at the moment in the FMCG space. We hope they inspire you to rethink your own brand’s challenges and how you can use smart thinking to design for a better world.

Why isn’t plastic fantastic?

It cannot be right to manufacture billions of objects that are used for a matter of minutes, and then are with us for centuries.

Roz Savage

Ten FMCG packaging innovations we’re loving right now

Smarties switches to paper packaging – globally

In 2021, Nestlé Oceania announced they were switching all Smarties packaging from plastic to responsibly-sourced paper.

This seemingly-simple switch is estimated to remove around 250 million plastic packs from waste streams every year, and makes Smarties the first global confectionary brand to be entirely sold in recyclable paper packaging.

Tip Top moves to paper bread bag tags

Not only are Tip Top’s new bread tags recyclable, they’re also made from recycled cardboard. It’s the first of a series of packaging innovations Tip Top has planned under their new corporate vision, “Feeding Aussie families more sustainably”.

Another small change with a big impact, the switch is estimated to remove almost 400 million bag tags from local waste streams across Australia in the first 12 months.

Barilla removes pasta box plastic window

Released under their “Good for you, good for the planet” strategy, Barilla’s latest packaging tweak to their UK-sold pasta is another simple change for good.

By removing the plastic window that let’s you confirm which type of pasta is, indeed, inside the cardboard box, they’ve made it much easier for consumers to correctly recycle the packaging – not to mention eliminate a completely unnecessary plastic from waste streams all together.

L’Oréal figures out how to put liquids in paper bottles

Selling liquids in paper? Sounds unlikely – but L’Oréal has figured out a way to make it happen.

L’Oréal is a founding member of Paboco Paper Bottle Community, a collective of companies seeking to speed up the development of innovative packaging.

BYO packaging: Coles trials refill stations in concept stores

Australian consumers are now pretty used to bringing their green bags when doing their groceries – so why not see if they’ll bring in their empty bathroom product bottles, too?

Coles is currently trialling refill stations in their Chatswood (Sydney) and Moonee Ponds (Melbourne) stores where customers can stock up on bathroom and laundry basics like shampoo, body wash and laundry liquid, thanks to partnerships with suppliers like Ecostore and Unilever.

Stafidenios Raisins wants your kids play with their food (packaging)

Here’s a great way to teach kids about the value of everyday materials – even ones they’re used to throwing in the bin!

Greek brand Stafidenios Raisins has cleverly designed its raisin packaging so it can be transformed into a fun, kid-friendly craft activity once the fruit is eaten. With ten different animal designs and no tools required (no sticky tape, glue, staples or scissors), this idea has been designed to be as accessible as possible – ensuring maximum engagement from consumers (and their kids!).

Pangea Organics packaging lasts forever… in a good way

It’s been discontinued now, but US-based organic skincare brand Pangea Organics used to sell its soap bars in a moulded pulp carton made from recycled newspaper. Within the pulp itself was embedded Spruce tree seeds.

Once the consumer was finished with the packaging, they could simply plant the whole thing – pulp and all – into their garden, and a tree would (hopefully!) grow.

Ooho wants you to eat your water

Sometimes solving a waste challenge requires you to think outside the bottle.

Ooho’s bubble of water is contained within a double membrane engineered from natural plant and seaweed: peel off the first membrane and discard (it breaks down after a few weeks), and pop the remaining bubble of water in your mouth.

The bubbles have already been successfully tested at the London Marathon and the Glastonbury Festival, and have infinite potential uses, from soft drinks to tomato sauce. What would you use Ooho for?

Corona turns brewing waste into packaging resource

While you can’t make beer from barley straw (a brewing surplus by-product), Corona has found another use for it: mixing the straw with paper to make the beer’s six-pack packaging. The process uses around 90% less water than the traditional process, as well as cutting down on energy, waste and harsh chemicals usage.

Trials began in Colombia in March 2021, and if successful, have the potential to scale globally.

Seedlip celebrates the potential of the natural world

The world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit, Seedlip was founded with the intention of celebrating nature. And it’s not just their gins that are packed full of botanicals: they’ve also taken their appreciation for all things growing into packaging choices, too.

The Seedlip gift set comes packaged in a box made of mushrooms,  thanks to a partnership between Seedlip and Magical Mushroom Co. The innovation makes smart use of Mycelium, the underground root structure of mushrooms, which is grow into a mould filled with biomass – hemp, corn and timber waste – from local farms. The composite is cost-competitive, uses a fraction of the energy that it takes to produce styrofoam, and for a cherry on top – is 100% home compostable.

You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.

Jane Goodall

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References and image credits

Statistics: Why isn’t plastic so fantastic?

Charles D, Kimman L, & Saran N 2021, The Plastic Waste Makers Index, Minderoo Foundation.

The Power and the Passion

Republic of Everyone, The Bravery & Mobium Group, 2021, The Power and the Passion, available at:

Nestlé Smarties makes global switch to paper packaging

Nestle, 2021, ‘Smarties becomes the first global confectionery brand to switch to recyclable paper packaging’ 

Packaging News, 2021, ‘Smarties makes total switch to paper packaging’ 

Tip Top moves to paper bread bag tags, 2020, ‘Tip Top changes sliced white bread with recyclable cardboard bread tags’

Tip Top, 2020, ‘The first recycled and recyclable bread tag launched in Australia, by Tip Top’  

Barilla removes pasta box plastic window

The Dieline, 2020, ‘Barilla Realizes They Didn’t Need That Little Plastic Window On Their Packaging’

Barilla, ‘Good for the planet’  

L’Oréal figures out how to put liquids in paper bottles

L’Oréal, ‘L’Oréal’s latest innovation for more sustainable packaging: The paper bottle’