Chocolate Manufacturer Relies Solely on Paper Packaging

The Leipzig-based start-up Nucao wants to be a pioneer for vegan and sustainable chocolate products and now relies on primary packaging made of paper from Koehler Paper.

For the Federal Association of the German Confectionery Industry, the past year was a very difficult one, as it recently explained in its financial statement. In view of the increased raw material costs and supply bottlenecks for packaging components, among other things, the industry is looking ahead to the current year 2023 with concerns. For Nucao, the newcomer among chocolate manufacturers, this is different. With its vegan confectionery, the Leipzig-based start-up wants to reach consumers for whom sustainability is crucial to purchasing decisions. And is reporting success. The colorful chocolate fruits and bars can be found on many retail shelves. Since the end of 2022, the company has been using primary paper packaging for its “nucao fruits” and “nucao nuts” chocolate products. Koehler Paper’s Koehler NexPlus Advanced flexible packaging paper has excellent oxygen, mineral oil, and fat barriers, which is necessary for direct contact with chocolate and nuts, said the company says. “We are pleased that Nucao relies on our innovative barrier paper for its chocolate-covered fruits and nuts. This makes Nucao a pioneer in its market,” says Christoph Wachter, Division Manager of Flexible Packaging Papers at Koehler Paper.

Consumer demand for more sustainability in consumer goods is a fact, according to Mathias Schwarz, Sustainable Packaging Engineer at Nucao. “We chose Koehler NexPlus Advanced 75 grams after extensive testing. In addition to product protection, which was assessed via storage tests followed by sensory evaluation, recyclability in the paper recycling stream was an important factor. It was also important for us that the environmental service provider Interseroh rated the product with 19 out of 20 points,” says Schwarz.

Extremely low grammage

The Koehler NexPlus Advanced paper used in the pouch packaging of the “nucao fruits” and “nucao nuts” snacks has an extremely low base weight of 75 grams, he says. “Barrier papers previously on the market are of higher grammage and therefore limited in their application. This is why they cannot be considered as an alternative for many previous applications of plastic,” explains company spokesman Alexander Stöckle.

High recyclability

At the end of September 2022, Koehler Paper presented the first mockups of a 100-gram chocolate bar with the product innovation at the FACHPACK trade fair in Nuremberg. “That was the proof: even open, non-glazed chocolate can be packaged with our barrier paper innovation. This is unique on the market and has not been available before,” explains Stöckle. The 100 percent fiber-based material has very good printability in gravure, flexo and digital printing, which is important for product communication addressing the end consumer.

Recycling service provider Interseroh took a close look at the Koehler NexPlus Advanced product and tested how sustainable and recyclable it is. In the test, the paper scored 19 out of 20 points. Not only the materials used were examined, but also the sortability, and the method of disposal. The result shows that the packaging can be fed into the waste cycle and can actually be recycled. The evaluation methodology at Interseroh was developed together with the bifa Umwel-tinstitut and verified by the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging (IVV). According to Interseroh, 19 points is an exceptionally high rating for a paper packaging with product protection. No comparable paper has ever achieved this before, said the company says. Nucao’s other confectionery products are packaged in home-compostable films made of cellulose.

Nucao still has a lot of plans to make economical and sustainable production more successful. The start-up founders are involved in numerous environmental projects. Every product sold also supports reforestation projects in Nepal and Madagascar, the start-up says. The company donates three percent of sales to reforestation partner Eden Reforestation Projects. So far, 14 million trees have already been planted, it says. This sets new standards in the market. The goal is to plant one billion trees.

The idea of switching from plastic to paper as a packaging material is not new. Brand manufacturers such as Ritter Sport already package selected confectionery products in paper. In 2021, the Nestlé Group launched a new sustainability strategy, accompanied by marketing measures. The food manufacturer’s colorful Smarties brand chocolate lentils were the first product to be wrapped in paper. The Group is currently testing new paper packaging for its Kitkat chocolate bar in Australia. In Japan, by the way, fans of Kitkat can use the packaging as origami paper for crafting.

by Anna Ntemiris