Last week, we ran an article about the launch of the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance (BFA). Co-funded by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and eight companies – Coca-Cola, Danone, Ford, H.J. Heinz, Nestlé, Nike, P&G and Unilever –, the initiative aims “to support the responsible development of plastics made from plant material, helping to build a more sustainable future for the bioplastics industry.”
Having asked Erin Simon, Manager for Packaging & Material Science at WWF, how WWF related to the initiative, we now talk to Frédéric Jouin, Director of the Danone Nutricia Research Packaging Centre. Here are Danone’s views on the BFA, and how it relates to Danone Nutricia Research’s innovative work on packaging.
Why did Danone Nutricia Research choose to be part of the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance?
Danone Nutricia Research has long been committed to creating new packaging solutions, with the aim of reducing their impacts on the environment.
We use different levers for that. First, eco-design, which means that we make sure we use as little packaging as possible to satisfy consumers. We also use 100% recyclable materials, as well as recycled materials – for instance, we were one of a pioneering company in the use of recycled plastic for our water bottles. Finally, we use more and more biomaterials, as with our yoghurt packs in Germany and the United States, and the Volvic bottle, where 30% consists of plant materials.
How do you already work on biomaterials, more specifically?
Two years ago, we signed a partnership with a company called Avantium. Together, we are developing a material that is made of 100% plant materials. It is a sort of polyester that resembles PET (the plastic used to make water bottles – Ed.). This product will not make it to the market before a few years, but the developing phase is well under way. Our participation in the BFA is consistent with this approach.
What is Danone Nutricia Research’s policy when it comes to bio-packaging?
We aim to use raw materials that do not compete with food crops (in other words, second- or third- generation rather than first-generation bioplastics. To learn more about that issue, you can read our article about agrofuels – Ed.). This adds an extra challenge, and
the BFA can definitely help us identify the best practices and rules that will ensure the best possible impact on the environment and people.
What are your methods to come up with innovative solutions?
Three years ago, we defined an approach called “Co-build, Connect”. We know that we can do nothing on our own. We thus seek to connect and co-build with people outside Danone, be they companies like Avantium, or experts in specific fields, who often work in private labs and universities. A large part of our work is to get closer to these people and collaborate with them. But we also value our internal resources very highly. We have specific competencies, as well as unique equipment, which allow us to test new packaging solutions very rapidly and confidentially.
How are you personally committed to the BFA project? What do you expect from it?
I have been working at Danone for 16 years. I am passionate about what I do. And where packaging is concerned, I have never before seen so much energy or so many expectations and exciting projects. For the past two or three years, Danone Nutricia Research has been perceiving higher expectations – with both consumers and Danone – to go further and faster with packaging. We also believe that the BFA is an extraordinary opportunity to connect to people from other companies, and thus share our views and experience.
Photo: ©Raphael Dautigny