7 sustainable packaging innovations that every CPG brand can learn from



9 Sep, 2021

The global pandemic gave consumers time to think about their values. For many people, reducing their environmental footprint came high on the list.

McKinsey research found that households used lockdown as an opportunity to change their behaviour and increase their green credentials – with 60% of people going out of their way to purchase products from brands using eco-friendly packaging. 

Sustainability is a challenging topic for consumer brands. It’s not as simple as sending out products in recyclable materials; goods still need to be securely contained, kept fresh, protected from contamination and strong enough to survive delivery. And product packaging also needs to be designed and labelled in a way that makes branding ‘pop’. 

Despite these challenges, there are many CPG brands who are innovating their choice of packaging materials and techniques to increase their sustainability credentials. Here are 7 of our favourites:

1. Silent Pool Distillers 

To celebrate Earth Day on 22nd April, Silent Pool Distillers released Green Man Woodland Gin; the world’s first commercially available spirit in a paperboard bottle. 

This ground-breaking container is five times lighter than glass, uses 77% less plastic than standard bottles, and is made from 94% recycled paper. And, most importantly, every aspect of the packaging is recyclable.  

Many major spirits brands are prototyping paperboard bottles, but Silent Pool Distillers is the first to bring a viable product to market. The Green Man bottle has been manufactured by Frugalpac, which specialises in sustainable product packaging. And its vibrant green design shows that you can use recycled materials without compromising on visual impact!

2. Mustela

We love to see brands that carry their values through to their packaging choices, and Mustela ticks this box. A family-run French baby and children’s skincare brand, Mustela takes a self-proclaimed “activist approach” to product development, minimising their environmental impact to protect the world for the next generation. 

Mustela has committed to being carbon neutral by 2030. From a packaging perspective, this means using recyclable containers and biodegradable formulas, and running its production operation in plants with 100% green electricity. Any goods sold in cardboard cases use sustainably managed forest cardboard, and instructions are printed with vegetable oil-based inks to support the recycling process.

3. The Coffee Factory 

One of the biggest recent trends has been the rise of subscription services; 1 in 4 UK consumers is now signed up to at least one form of subscription box. But ecommerce involves more packaging than in-store sales – so brands like The Coffee Factory are looking at sustainable ways to build direct consumer relationships. 

The fresh coffee through-the-post service has teamed up with Parkside Packaging to create compostable refill bags, made from a combination of corn starch, wood pulp, eucalyptus fibre and cassava. 

The Coffee Factory has needed to make some compromises – such as removing the seal, so the coffee needs to be decanted into an airtight container once open – but the refill packs can either be recycled or composted once the label has been removed. It’s also released a range of compostable Nespresso pods!

4. Rema 1000

We love hearing about brands breathing new life into waste materials, and Scandinavian discount supermarket chain Rema 1000 caught our eye in this respect.

Rema 1000 has created a line of own-brand washing up liquid using bottles made from recycled fishing nets, developed in collaboration with eco-friendly Danish product manufacturer, Plastix. 

The unconventional material choice is also challenging consumer perceptions of brand identity. Rema 1000 is promoting the fact there are variations in the detergent’s signature green bottle colour – rather than seeking to create identical packaging using recycled materials.

5. Alleyoop 

We’ve focused primarily on the use of recyclable or responsibly sourced materials so far, but sustainability isn’t just about what you put your products in. It’s also important to look at packaging volume to minimise material consumption, and makeup brand Alleyoop has excelled in this area. 

Alleyoop cosmetics centre around multi-use products, combining several functions per item to limit the volume of packaging required across its range. 

For example, Alleyoop’s 4-in-1 makeup pen is a black and brown eyeliner, lip liner and highlighter, while its Stack the Odds palette includes blusher, contour/bronzer, highlighter, and a mini mirror. And the brand’s core value of efficiency without compromising on style resonates with its fashionable-but-busy customer base. 

6. Nature Valley 

Certain food products have been traditionally packaged in unrecyclable materials because it isn’t easy to find a sustainable solution that can keep products fresh and ready for consumption. But General Mills is breaking new ground in this area by selling its Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars in a fully recyclable plastic wrapper. 

Part of the company’s commitment to using 100% recyclable packaging by 2025, the Nature Valley cereal bars are contained in polyethylene polymer-based wrappers created with advanced processing technology.  And from what we’ve seen, the change of material has not compromised Nature Valley’s packaging design and quality in any way. 

Even more impressive, General Mills has decided not to patent its new wrapping – instead, it is encouraging other brands to follow suit, to increase the green credentials of the food and beverage industry.

7. Lather and Sundara 

Another thing that makes us happy is seeing two great organizations joining forces to promote sustainable change. 

Natural skincare brand, Lather, is raising awareness of the toxic chemicals that go into many fragranced cosmetics products. In addition to using zero synthetic fragrances and prioritizing vegan/gluten-free ingredients, Lather’s products are packaged using plastic made with EcoPure, which accelerates natural biodegradation; it won’t languish in landfill for thousands of years like traditional plastic.  

Lather is then using the profits from its natural skincare products to support Sundara, an international non-profit that started out by collecting waste soap from hotels and giving it to women in underprivileged communities to recycle. 

Today, Sundara offers funding and mentorship to female entrepreneurs in low/middle income countries, who want to build sustainable businesses that resolve water, sanitation, and hygiene problems. A mission we can all get behind. 

Follow Hooley Brown on LinkedIn for more brand sustainability and labelling insights. 


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