Technological watch

Upfield launches world’s first plastic-free, recyclable tub for its plant butters and spreads

World’s first plastic-free, recyclable tub for its plant butters and spreads © Upfield
  • The roll-out started successfully in Austria with Upfield’s Flora Plant brand in late 2023, with additional European markets and brands to follow this year.
  • Upfield has the ambition to replace up to two billion plastic tubs by 2030, replacing more than 25,000 tons of plastic waste per year.
  • For Upfield, the introduction of the plastic-free paper tub is a critical step towards meeting its ambition to reduce plastic across its portfolio by 80% by 2030.  
Upfield, global leader in plant-based foods, today announces the world’s first plastic-free, recyclable tub for its plant butters and spreads.  

Following four years of innovation, in collaboration with Footprint, MCC and Pagès Group, this introduction marks the beginning of Upfield’s transition to a paper solution across its portfolio, delivering on the company’s ambition to reduce plastic content by 80% by 2030.  

Initially launched in Austria with Flora Plant towards the end of 2023, Upfield expects further scaling of its paper solution, aiming to replace up to two billion plastic tubs by 2030, avoiding more than 25,000 tons of plastic waste per year.  

The pioneering paper tubs were developed with Upfield’s leading Research & Development team utilising Footprint’s material sciences technology. They are made from compressed wet paper fibres and are waterproof, oil-proof, and recyclable in local paper waste streams. The tub has received Conventional Plastic Free Certification and uses paper from a PEFC-certified supplier. Upfield expects the packaging to achieve home compostability certification by 2025.  

David Haines, Group CEO for Upfield, commented, “As a global leader in plant-based foods, we take our responsibility to make a positive impact on the world seriously. Globally, 40% of all plastic produced is for packaging that is used once and then discarded, it is clear that the issue of plastic waste is one of the most critical facing our environment. When we established Upfield, innovating our way out of plastic tubs was our moon-shot and I am very proud of all Upfielders that continue to work towards this goal. Consumers today demand products that benefit both people and the planet. Our plant butters and spreads do exactly that. We’re excited about the potential to launch this across our most iconic brands in some of our most important markets.” 

Unlike many paper packaging solutions, Upfield’s paper tubs do not have a plastic liner so they can be recycled along with other paper and cardboard household waste, as verified by a leading European recycling company.  

Karina Cerdeira, Head of Packaging for Upfield, said, “We are proud to have created, with Footprint, an innovative paper-based tub that is durable, oil-resistant and appealing and which many thought would be impossible with paper. But after years of dedicated focus from joint Upfield and Footprint R&D teams and dozens of prototypes, we made the impossible, possible. This new paper tub marks a true milestone for sustainable packaging that significantly minimises reliance on plastic. We will continue pushing boundaries through further innovation to adapt for compostability, develop new sizes and formats, and refine towards the optimal solution. We hope what we’ve achieved inspires other businesses to keep pursuing positive change.” 
Yoke Chung, Co-founder and Chief Technology & Innovation Officer for Footprint added, “Footprint’s commitment to a more sustainable planet is showcased through our partnership with Upfield. The introduction of a ground-breaking solution, in collaboration with Upfield establishes a pioneering industry standard. This marks the introduction of the first oil-resistant paper tub for plant-based spreads. We are proud to collaborate with Upfield on this transformative endeavour, as it resonates with our shared objective of assisting customers in realizing their sustainability goals. This collaborative effort underscores the transformative influence of innovation in fostering positive environmental change to shape a brighter future for everyone.”  

About Upfield Upfield is a global leader in plant-based food, operating in four categories – butters and spreads, creams, liquids and cheeses. Over the last four years, Upfield has been on a journey to separate, stabilise, transform, and turn around our platform which today is unique in the plant-based space – combining scale of historical reach and scale of future growth ambition. We are built on the foundation of our power brands, which achieve high Brand Power Index versus wider consumer goods brands in all our key markets. Our brands are built upon our heritage of 150 years of knowledge of plant-based foods, deep R&D expertise, with 15 manufacturing sites across five continents and an end-to-end supply chain ensuring best service and delivery for our customers and consumers. Upfield’s processes, products and people combine to create a business where our portfolio and purpose are completely aligned.?  

About Footprint Footprint is a global materials science and technology company with a clear vision to create a healthier planet and healthier people. Our mission is to provide solutions to eliminate single-use plastics in our food chain. Footprint’s engineers use plant-based fiber technology to design, develop, and manufacture bio-based products. Footprint is rapidly expanding into new categories with customized and patented solutions for customers. While working with leading global consumer brands, Footprint’s products have already led to a worldwide reduction of millions of pounds of plastic waste from entering the environment. 

Footprint was founded in 2014 and employs approximately 2,000 people with operations in the U.S., Mexico, Europe, and Asia. Footprint was named to Fast Company’s “Brands that Matter” list in 2022, CNBC’s “Disruptor 50” list in 2021, and Fortune’s “Change the World” list in 2020.  

MCC Labels provides the label for the paper tub and Pagès the equipment (robot system) to apply the label. 

About MCC Verstraete MCC Verstraete has over 30 years of experience in offset-printing labels for injection molding, blow molding and thermoforming. In-depth understanding of materials, innovation and sustainability have made MCC Verstraete a world leader, producing over 60 million in mold labels every single day for numerous segments within the packaging industry. The drive for innovation recently led to 2 new product categories: next to polypropylene in mold labels, MCC Verstraete offers Molded Fiber LabelingTM and PP heat-seal die-cut lidding. MCC Verstraete has production sites in Belgium, Australia and the US. Together with MCC Korsini (Turkey) and Karydakis IML SA (Greece), MCC Verstraete forms the IML Business Unit within Multi-Color Corporation. 

About Pagès Group Pagès Group is a worldwide company with more than 40 years of expertise in decoration solutions and downstream automation for the packaging industry. The group has subsidiaries in France, in the Netherlands, the USA, Canada and China. As of today, more than 3000 automation systems have been installed in more than 45 countries. Among others, we developed Molded Fiber Labeling (MFL™), a world premiere decoration technology to decorate fiber molded containers for a sustainable and stunning packaging.?

About EMSUR EMSUR is the business unit of Grupo Lantero that provides flexible packaging solutions mainly for the food and beverage sector, home and personal care products, with lamination and printing in both rotogravure and flexography.  

It currently has production sites in Europe and America, which allows to develop its activity in more than 80 countries across America, Europe, Africa and Asia. Emsur produces almost 600 million square metres of sleeves, lids, banners, labels, die-cuts, pouches and other flexible products per year.  

Innovation, developed through the Innotech team and facilities, is one of their key pillars.

Publication date: 31/01/2024

Author: Yago Destro de Oliveira

Bio-based News


This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 837761.