Competition for Sustainability in the Deep Freeze Rack

The trend towards more paper instead of plastic has reached the frozen food industry. The major manufacturers are competing for the most sustainable packaging concept. Frozen food poses special demands on its packaging. Frosta has recently started using paper bags and Iglo is advertising with the first “real” cardboard tray.

In the future, Frosta wants to completely avoid the use of plastic in its packaging. Since January, the Bremerhaven-based family business has been successively replacing the pouches for ready meals and vegetables with paper bags, and the changeover should be completed by the end of the year. According to the company, this way, about 40 million plastic bags will be saved per year.

For some time now, manufacturers have been increasingly switching to paper packaging for dry goods, but when it comes to frozen foods, this poses a particular technical challenge: the product wrapping must consistently protect the contents at very different temperatures and must neither soften nor tear when the thawing process begins.

Barrier against fat and moisture

According to Frosta, the company has spent three years researching the new strength paper, which forms an effective barrier against grease and moisture through purely physical processing. It consists of two layers of 100 percent paper each, which, like the package seams, are glued together with plant-based glue. Frosta has filed a patent application for the process. Frosta CEO Felix Ahlers told the newspaper “Die Welt” that the investment sum would be around 2 million euros.

“Unlike all other cardboard packaging in the freezer,” the new paper bag does not require any plastic coatings or films, Frosta emphasizes. Since 2016, the manufacturer has been using a single-grade recyclable film made of the monomaterial PP for its frozen food bags. The changeover to paper is now taking place because the amount of plastics that are recycled is still low.

20 cents more per pack

The new bag packaging is made of unbleached and uncoated paper, the formerly white bags are now brown. The printing, which according to Frosta is deliberately economical, is done exclusively with water-based inks, so that the bags can be disposed of in the paper recycling bin. “On the unbleached paper, our product photos no longer look as brilliant as before, but we are happy to accept this for the sake of the environment,” says board member Hinnerk Ehlers.

But consumers will not only have to get used to the new appearance. The changeover also involves price increases of 5 percent or 20 cents per pack. The paper bag also differs slightly from its plastic predecessor in terms of handling: The new bags should not be stored in the ice cube compartment for too long because of the risk of tearing, Frosta explains in the company blog. And: “If you defrost the products in the refrigerator, you should do it on a plate without the pack.”

Iglo plans to convert all packaging to recyclable paper by 2022

Almost simultaneously, Frosta and competitor Iglo also changed the packaging of their “Schlemmerfilets” in January. Iglo said goodbye to aluminium trays and introduced cardboard trays. For a product that is baked with the tray, the demands on the material are particularly high: Not only must the paper not soften, it must also not burn in the oven. The new tray consists of more than 95 percent cardboard and has a wafer-thin silicone coating similar to baking paper. The cooking time is about 10 minutes longer than in the aluminium tray, but from now on the product is also suitable for microwave ovens.

According to Iglo, this will save 250 tons of aluminum per year, which is recyclable but environmentally harmful in production. In the course of the changeover, Iglo will no longer use an extra protective plastic film for the “Schlemmerfilets”. The company has announced that by 2022 all packaging will be converted to recyclable paper.

Frosta has already been forgoing aluminium since 2013. Nevertheless, Iglo is now offering “the first gourmet fillets in a real cardboard tray” and is alluding to the competition from Bremerhaven: Because “unlike other paper-based oven trays” Iglo does not use PET coating and can therefore be completely recycled.

Who invented the “real” cardboard tray?

In fact, the baking tray of the Frosta “Schlemmerfilets” previously required an increased PET coating and therefore had a paper content of less than 95 percent. Therefore, it had to be disposed of as a composite material in the yellow waste disposal bag.

But Frosta also changed the packaging of the gourmet fillets at the beginning of the year and, according to its own statements, now uses a “real cardboard tray.” The PET coating has been reduced so that the tray now consists of over 95 percent unbleached paper and can be disposed of in the recycling paper bin. In the race for the first “real” cardboard tray on the market, the two competitors crossed the finish line at the same time. A win for the environment in any case.

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