2021 SPC Innovator Award Winners Announced

This annual award celebrates the people and organizations behind the biggest achievements in sustainably innovative packaging

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA — The Sustainable Packaging Coalition® congratulates the five winners of the 2021 SPC Innovator Awards. This annual award recognizes meaningful contributions and advancements towards more sustainable packaging in the following categories: Innovation in Responsible Sourcing, Innovation in Design Optimization, Innovation in Food Waste Prevention, and Innovation in Recovery. 

A panel of judges, composed of SPC staff and SPC Executive Committee members, selected the winners from sixteen finalists who exemplify ingenuity and hard work that compel sustainable packaging. The winners were announced during Virtual SPC Advance on October 5th, 2021 in a ceremony sponsored by Trayak.

In addition to our five winners, we’d also like to highlight the work of our impressive group of finalists. This year’s submissions ranged from alternative e-commerce solutions for mailers and protective packaging to flexible packaging and pouches with ever-increasing amounts of recycled content, to sustainable alternatives to traditional inks and adhesives.  Member companies have continued exploring innovative packaging solutions to create fiber-based alternatives to conventional packaging designs, as well as the use of other alternative feedstocks. This year’s finalists join our library of excellence in sustainable packaging.

The SPC aspires that the winners in each of these categories will inspire other organizations and companies to re-calibrate their goal-setting and decision-making to recognize the importance of responsible sourcing, design optimization, food waste prevention, and recovery. 

Innovation in Responsible Sourcing: Driscoll’s, Responsible Sourcing of Recycled Clamshells 

Driscoll’s sought to raise the recycled content in their product while also addressing the end market challenges of recycled PET thermoforms by sourcing post-consumer recycled clamshells. Prior to this innovation, Driscoll’s thermoforms contain over 50% recycled PET sourced primarily from recycled bottles. In 2020, Driscoll’s worked with its supply chain to move its proprietary PET clamshells from containing 0% recycled content from PET thermoforms to10% recycled content from PET thermoforms by the end of the year.

The Importance: Historically, there has been very limited market demand for recycled PET thermoforms. Driscoll’s transition to sourcing PET thermoforms is a first in the berry industry with respect to promoting closed-loop packaging solutions. By working with its packaging suppliers to close the loop on clamshell recycling, it is estimated that in 2021 Driscoll’s will keep over 7.9 million lbs. of PET clamshells from ending up in the landfill. 

Innovation in Design Optimization: Sonoco Alloyd PaperBlister™ Packaging

Sonoco created a monomaterial alternative, readily recyclable alternative to traditional plastic-to-card blister packaging, without the need for new sealing equipment. The EnviroSense PaperBlister package is plastic-free, and it is recyclable in the paper stream. The PaperBlister™ completely eliminates the need for mixed material designs which can be recyclability-challenged, as plastic packaging usually has fiber residue when separated from the paper card, making it less desirable for recyclers. 

The Importance: The Sonoco Alloyd EnviroSense™ PaperBlister™ package has both operational and distributional benefits, sealing 20% faster than traditional packaging and shipping flat to maximize efficiencies. Sonoco’s water-based printing and sealing technology also ensures there are no resulting VOCs, while the new design increases the amount of space available for graphics and messaging.

Innovation in Food Waste Prevention – Tied for Winner: ProAmpac-RAP Modified Atmosphere Sandwich Wedge

The Modified Atmosphere Sandwich Wedge expands on the existing ProAmpac-RAP design to include a longer shelf life for fresh packed foods to go. By incorporating a unique barrier and sealant layer, these wedges pass modified atmosphere product (MAP) requirements to ensure the product inside remains safe and fresh to eat in an unopened package for an extended life. The film laminate barrier in the modified atmosphere wedge allows the sandwich product to be packed directly in the package without additional wraps.

The Importance: ProAmpac-RAP’s Modified Atmosphere Sandwich Wedge retains the clear window to display product freshness, but with an innovative sealant technology that minimizes oxygen and moisture from reaching fresh packed foods. The sandwich wedges ship flat with hundreds of units fitting in a small box compared to traditional clamshell containers, minimizing carbon impacts during shipping.

Innovation in Food Waste Prevention – Tied for Winner: AFC Packaging No Waste (NoW) Technology For Fresh Produce

Specifically designed for fresh produce packaging, the patented NoW™technology incorporates several surface treatments to the paper substrate to control the humidity levels inside the packs and protect the products from sunlight and UV. This technology allows paper-based packaging materials to be tailored to achieve the protection properties necessary for a specific food type.  

The Importance: With the help of surface treatments, the packaging can extend the standard shelf-life of some products by a factor of two. AFC Packaging has worked with a third-party laboratory and performed testing, commissioned by a preeminent Italian supermarket chain, to better understand the impact of its solution on preventing produce waste. The technology also encourages the recyclability of the paper substrate. 

Innovation in Recovery: General Mills – Nature Valley Store Drop-Off Recyclable Snack Wrapper

Since 2016, General Mills has worked to address consumer demand for a Store Drop-off recyclable Nature Valley wrapper by aiming to convert the polypropylene blend wrapper into a polyethylene blend that would be eligible for the Store Drop-off stream. As part of this, General Mills worked with an impressive number of partners to iterate on the film and to help support Store Drop-off at retailer locations and roll out the launch nationally. 

The Importance: The wrapper now features the How2Recycle Store Drop-off label and information for consumers to learn more. General Mills is helping to drive effective recovery of this film by coupling the release with a national ad campaign featuring Zac Efron to help raise consumer awareness about the Stop Drop-off stream and help bring circularity to high barrier films.


Do these spark ideas for your next sustainable packaging innovation? The 2022 SPC Innovator Awards will open in the Spring of 2022!

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