Natural Products

New trends in paper and paperboard packaging: repulpable barrier coatings

New trends in paper and paperboard packaging: repulpable barrier coatings

Consumers are increasingly choosing fast food options and eating meals at home.

While these two trends may seem counterintuitive, a closer analysis reveals that while many Americans want to eat at home, they do not necessarily want to cook at home.

Unlike years past, fast food does not always mean a burger and fries from McDonald’s. Many health-conscious consumers are choosing healthier fast food options, signing up for meal kits and grocery delivery services, or buying premade dishes at grocery stores.

One thing all of these food options have in common is the need for food packaging options.

The increase in “take out” choices are having an impact on the food delivery system, and on the environment, too. For example, looking at single-use paper-based cups, estimates show that 200 billion cups are thrown away every year in the U.S. alone. Only about 0.25% is recycled.

The good news is that fast food brands are capitalizing on the popularity of eco-friendly food packaging options. The most significant initiative came from Chipotle, which announced that by 2020 it plans to achieve 50% waste diversion for its food and packaging. According to the press release, this is similar to a move made two years ago by McDonald’s.

The goal is to have half of the restaurants’ waste accumulated from food and packaging be re-routed through a combination of recycling and composting rather than sent to landfills.

The Problem: Food Packaging Containers Are Not Recyclable

A major hurdle to achieving waste diversion is that the average fast-food containers for soda, french fries, and sandwiches are not recyclable.

Similarly, many take-out containers, like the typical Chinese food box or the take-out box from your favorite restaurant, are not recyclable either.

Many food containers that appear coated with wax (which can cause issues at the recycling plant) might actually be coated with polyethylene (PE) plastic. Often, the containers are made from fibers held together by a PE compound, or the container is lined with PE.

The PE serves as a moisture and gas barrier. As a moisture barrier, PE prevents transmission of liquids through the paper container. As a gas barrier, PE prevents the contents from absorbing gas in the air like oxygen and carbon dioxide, which can negatively affect the freshness and quality of food products.

PE and wax coatings have historically been used to seal porous paper, corrugated boxes, and sheets to provide a moisture barrier and/or moisture-vapor barrier to these substrates. The resulting paper product poses an environmental problem because it cannot be recycled through traditional channels.

Returning to the single-use paper-based cup mentioned above, the cup is often coated with PE to seal the rim, sides, and bottom of the cup. This coating makes the cup non-recyclable because PE is (currently) non-biodegradable. It also does not respond to microbial action in composting systems and breaks down into flakes during the repulping process, which blocks filtering screens.

PE and other food container coatings cause problems during the recycling process. For example, the PE moisture barrier separates from the fiber during the repulping process and creates additional residue in the recycling/milling process.

To create environmentally friendly, recyclable paper products, manufacturers are turning to a water-based coating. The water-based coating allows take-out containers that are recyclable, repulpable, and compostable.

The Solution: Water-Based Barrier Coatings Allows for Recycling

Water-based biopolymers and bio-waxes are derived from renewable resources. This means they can produce sustainably. They are also suitable for packaging applications that require specific water/moisture barrier properties or grease resistance and can replace PE formulations.

Also, water-based coatings could allow food containers to go to a traditional paperboard mill to repulped without creating additional residue. Then cups can be included in a mixer-paper bale without adding PE contamination. 

Learn More About Repulpable Barrier Coatings

For more information about the transition to water-based biopolymers and bio-waxes and how these trends can positively impact your business, turn to an experienced and trusted packaging expert like Greif.

Greif CPG is a leader in providing consumer packaging solutions at the best value to our customers. Our experienced team fully understands the packaging process and can help you stay on top of emerging trends by helping you control costs. We give our clients a competitive advantage by using cutting edge materials.

Contact us today by calling 216-281-7000, or email

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Natural Product Packaging 101

Natural Product Packaging 101

Do you know that old saying, “never judge a book by its cover”? The same can’t be said for natural product packaging. Natural product packaging is sometimes more important than the product itself. Businesses want the attention of their customers and in order to get that, their products need to stand out.

The amount of food, beverage, cosmetics, and natural wellness products is rapidly expanding, and companies need to be intentionally innovative in their branding and packaging strategies to compete in the digital landscape. With so much sensory information appearing in front of us daily, companies must improve the visual branding of their products to please and sell to their audiences.

How do you get started?

Align your package with your brand

Packaging is an expression of the brand that you are selling. From color to shape to writing tone, your product’s package can influence a purchase in just a few seconds. Knowing who your target market is will keep you on track and help guide your branding strategy and message. There will be a disconnect if your brand fails to visually speak to your target audience when they are browsing the shelves or surfing the web.

Consumers want to know what is in their products and how it may affect them. It’s vital that natural products show their ingredients instantly. Clean labels are trending, and folding cartons provide an attractive billboard for important communication like “all-natural ingredients” and for listing health benefits.

Now is your chance to provide opportunities for customer engagement by including items such as QR codes, hang tags, and expanded labels. However, remember not to overload your consumers. Only highlight key messages and certifications on your packages.

Finally, connect with your customers by leading with passion. Tell your customers why they should become part of your loyal consumer community. Make your brand investment worthy to your customer audience by speaking their language.

Prepare your natural products for eCommerce

It’s nearly impossible to discuss branding and packaging without considering all of the sales channels available today. Companies cannot ignore online sales. As we mentioned in our previous blog, eCommerce is switching up product packaging drastically, creating unique challenges as well as opportunities.

Consumers who purchase natural products in-store and online tend to spread their buying across multiple locations. They like what they like and have specific shops and websites they purchase specific products from. Consumers who shop online want their products fast and damage-free.

You don’t have to necessarily change your packaging to fit individual channels, but you should try to evolve. All of your brand packaging designs should include eCommerce iterations. Consumers shopping for natural products online have a different sensory experience compared to shopping in-store. In general, your designs and product imagery should be engaging online and especially when viewed on a small thumbnail scale because that is the first thing your customer notices.

Consumers can’t touch the products so shimmer, soft touch, and unique structures won’t convey well through images. Senses are limited, but heightening the visual component helps your product stand out. Create beautiful packaging with unique structure and creative embellishments, but remember to keep in mind what can be viewed online when creating your visual assets.

You have complete control over how your products are represented. Don’t be afraid to try out new ways to display your product.

It’s not enough to just have a good natural product. Your product packaging needs to stand out.

Check out three savvy tips
to succeed in our free eBook.

Ask us about our paperboard solutions today:
Call 216-281-7000 or email

Don’t forget the environment

Healthy, natural products—food, beverage, or otherwise—go hand in hand with sustainability. Consumers want to know that the brands they invest in are investing in the environment by partaking in renewable practices. What better way to do that than paperboard packaging?

Paperboard packaging is hotter than ever. Quality products need quality packaging that complements the brand and fits supply chain needs. Most companies want their designs produced and delivered to retail shelves as quickly as possible with minimal waste. Paperboard packaging is cost-saving. It can be folded flat for shipping and it takes up less shelving space.

Paperboard packaging is strong enough to protect breakables and preserve perishable items. Folding cartons create easy-to-open and reusable packaging for natural products like frozen foods, dry foods, and nutrition supplements. Not only that but paperboard packaging creates a smaller carbon footprint than plastic packaging.

At GREIF we don’t just ensure your products stand out on the retail shelf or online, we work hard to make sure your customers are engaged. We find the best solutions to meet your natural product needs.

We can bring your natural products to life on the shelf and online through any of our packaging solutions such as folding cartons, set-up boxes, or packaging designs. If you aren’t sure where to start, talk with our experts to determine how we can help your natural product packaging evolve.


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