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UPM switches out plastic lamination with paper in food packaging while maintaining barrier properties

#UPM switches out plastic lamination with paper in food packaging while maintaining barrier properties


Fazer's Oat Rice Pies
(All image credits: UPM Specialty Papers and Fazer).

21 Mar 2024 — UPM Specialty Papers and Fazer have collaborated on a new type of packaging for Fazer’s Oat Rice Pies, which replaces traditional plastic-laminated paper with a fiber-based paper solution.

As a result of more than two years of long-term development, the item is “easier to recycle,” while maintaining its standard of food protection.

“We are working closely with the packaging value chain to achieve Fazer’s responsible packaging goals. Each partner brings valuable expertise to the development work. This project combined Fazer’s expertise in food production and the production process while also ensuring food safety, with UPM Specialty Papers’ expertise in developing demanding specialty papers,” says Piia Soininen-Tengvall, Fazer’s director of Packaging Development.

“We are impressed with how well the new, easier to recycle packaging protects and preserves the high quality of the Oat Rice Pies until the best before date. The packaging solution works on our existing packaging process and achieves all this by reducing fossil-based materials.”

The new packaging is in line with Fazer’s Sustainable Packaging Vision and UPM’s Biofore strategy. The product can be found in the chill food aisles of Finnish supermarkets.

Heat sealing and barrier capabilities
Food packaging has protective properties that have traditionally been provided by plastic packaging or by laminating plastic to the surface of paper. The use of plastic has also enabled the package to be sealed with heat.

In the new Oat Rice Pies packaging barrier paper, branded UPM Confidio, both the barrier and heat seal properties have been incorporated without a separate layer of plastic lamination.

The barrier properties are designed to protect the product inside the package until the best-before date, while ensuring that, for example, grease in the product cannot penetrate the package.

“Packaging papers have the advantage of being recyclable within a widely established fiber recycling infrastructure,” says Susanna Hyrkäs, senior manager, Sustainability, UPM Specialty Papers.

“Today, more than 80% of the fiber-based packaging material used in Europe is recycled,” she continues. “Our product development is always based on the premise of ensuring recyclability, in addition to ensuring product safety and the required functional properties.”

Samples of UPM Confidio papersUPM Confidio papers offer barrier and heat seal properties.UPM Confidio was developed in cooperation between UPM Jämsänkoski mill and the UPM Research Centre in Lappeenranta, Finland.

Putting paper forward
In a recyclability test, the recycling reject parameter of unprinted UPM Confidio paper is around 1%, which means that about 99% of the paper can be used to create new, recycled products, claims UPM.

The recycling reject of plastic-coated paper packaging is “significantly higher.”

The Oat Rice Pie is baked at Fazer Bakery’s Lappeenranta bakery. Operating for more than 20 years, the bakery produces Finnish delicacies such as Imatra rice pies and Vuoksi rice pies.

The push for paper in F&B FMCG continues, gaining notable traction since Mondi’s announcement it would slash 80% of Iceland’s plastic packaging with fiber-based solutions in 2021, which was also the year Innova Market Insights announced “Fiber-based Frenzy” as one of its top annual packaging trends.

More recently, solutions including new biodegradable films were pitched to Packaging Insights at the ongoing Anuga FoodTec 2024 industry fair in Cologne, Germany. Companies are also exploring more circular pathways, like upcycled paper coating derived from waste sludge.

By Benjamin Ferrer

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