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In this Q&A, managing director Liam Dowd talks with Rob Hargrove, EVP research, development, quality and innovation at Mondelēz International on packaging, deforestation and the impact of agri-tech
In the build-up to the 6th Annual Responsible Business Summit New York, I talked with one of our speakers, Rob Hargrove, about Mondelēz International’s reduction in packaging waste, some of the challenges along the way, the impact of agri-tech, plus opportunities for Mondelēz in the coming 12-18 months.
Q What is your role?
A I’m executive vice-president of research, development and quality for Mondelēz International; and am responsible for all product and packaging development, research, nutrition, quality, food safety, and scientific affairs activities worldwide.
By continually optimizing package design, we will continue to minimize our environmental impact
Q Packaging is receiving increasing attention in both Europe and US. I see that in 2016 Mondelēz eliminated over 46,300 metric tonnes of packaging, achieving two-thirds of its 2020 goal. Can you share how you achieve such great results?
A To help us achieve our global packaging reduction goal, we have hundreds of programs that contribute to packaging optimisation. Some highlights include:
- In chocolate packaging within our Asia, Middle East & Africa region, we have redesigned many shippers and placed secondary packs directly on the pallet, leading to a material saving of 1,297 MT of corrugated paper.
- Across Europe, we redesigned injection-moulded tubs for Cadbury’s Heroes to use 17% less plastic material. The improved design also reduces the number of trucks used for transportation of the empty tubs by over 30%.
- In North America: 23% thinner packaging for Oreo biscuits reduced the need for 1,496 MT of cartons annually.
By continually optimizing package design, we will continue to minimize our environmental impact. Our efforts are supported by innovations like our propriety Eco-Calculator tool, which enables us to understand and compare the environmental impact between different packaging options. For 2018, we’ve just finalized our internal milestones to ensure we stay on track for our 2020 goal to eliminate 65,000MT of packaging, worldwide.
Q What was the biggest challenge for this initiative and how was it overcome?
A Our approach is to ensure best balance of product protection and minimal packaging material throughout our supply chain. For example, in Latin America our primary and secondary packaging redesign for Tang powdered beverages led to the following material reductions: 5% in flexible films, 12% in cartons, 19% in corrugate, and 46% in trucks required to transport the finished product.
As we’ve optimized packaging in this way across an increasing proportion of our portfolio, it becomes harder to find quick wins. So, we need to adjust our ways of working to identify opportunities to reduce packaging material. I’m consistently impressed by the strong teamwork shown to keep us on track for our goal.
Q Where next? You’re well on the way to reaching the target, are you looking to set even more ambitious targets?
A It’s too early to say what target we’ll set beyond 2020, though packaging optimization will remain a key focus of our strategy. We’ll continue to optimize our packaging formats to reduce packaging material weight while minimizing food waste. Most of our packaging is already recycled, recyclable or recycle ready, so our focus turns to simplifying our material choices and using innovative packaging materials to maximize recycling in existing infrastructure. As we reported in our Impact for Growth 2016 Progress Report, our largest region, Europe, has over 75% its packaging as paper-based, glass or metal — all of which are either currently recycled or recyclable.
We can’t go at this issue alone – we’re proud to act alongside, and collaborate with, numerous coalitions
Additionally, around 70% of our paper-based packaging overall is from recycled sources. The remaining 25% of packaging is predominately thin flexible films, which are optimized to limit food waste and spoilage. Over 80% of these films use single material types, rather than complex multi-material laminates, and are already designed to be recycle ready, where facilities exist.
We can’t go at this issue alone – we’re proud to act alongside, and collaborate with, numerous coalitions to support the greater harmonisation of packaging formats across the consumer goods sector and improved infrastructure to improve recycling systems. For example, we participate in the Consumer Goods Forum’s work with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy project and the Trash Free Seas Alliance.
Q In the past few years there’s been an explosion of activity around agri-tech – blockchain, AI and automation, drones and satellite imaging all herald great opportunities – what do you see as an exciting area in this space for 2018?
A Within our partnership with the Global Forest Watch, we’re mapping individual cocoa farms and palm oil mills in our supply chain. This uses satellite data that tracks changes in tree cover to help us identify where there are risk areas, flag potential issues, and track progress. Our goal is to scale this effort to be sector-wide and encourage collaboration among our peer companies to work with Global Forest Watch’s GFW PRO platform.
As a global food company, the opportunity to innovate in ways that help mitigate our environmental footprint and contribute to more sustainable environment is key to the long-term impact of our sustainable agriculture programs. We estimate that deforestation within our supply chain represents the largest single part of our carbon footprint. We currently address deforestation in key raw materials through our programs, like Cocoa Life and our Palm Oil Action Plan.
We are proud of our efforts to tackle climate change and deforestation, among other key issues that are tied to our business and global supply chains. We’re a founding member of the Cocoa and Forest Initiative, a public private collaboration to eliminate deforestation linked to cocoa farming in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.
Rob Hargrove of Mondalēz International: 'We will continue to minimize our environmental impact.'
Q At Responsible Business Summit New York you will share how Mondelēz engages its customers to help inform future innovations and advocate your vision. Many companies are struggling with this engagement. How are you achieving successful engagements with your customers and what are the key lessons learned?
A Our company’s purpose is rooted in helping people snack in balance and enjoy life with products that are safely and sustainably sourced, produced, and delivered. Ultimately, our goal is to use our global scale and focus where we can make the biggest difference. This includes reducing our environmental footprint, empowering farmers, and supporting the communities where our snacks are sourced, produced, and sold.
Our signature programs, Cocoa Life and Harmony, embody this idea and strive to make a positive impact on the farms, communities, and environment where our main raw materials are grown. We’re motivated by our progress in these two categories and have ambitions to ultimately source, grow, and harvest our cocoa and wheat sustainably. Rather than implementing short-term solutions, we’re investing in sustainable cocoa and wheat sectors through partnerships with local governments, NGOs, and farmers themselves to drive change across the entire supply chain.
We’re on a mission to change the way wheat is grown and harvested to ensure a sustainable system
Cocoa Life – our company’s holistic, third-party verified program – focuses on five key areas fuelled by the cross-cutting themes of women’s empowerment, elimination of child labour, and climate change resilience. We were the first company to go beyond third-party certification by taking direct accountability for building a sustainable cocoa supply.
As the largest biscuit producer in the world, we’re on a mission to not only bake the best product, but to change the way wheat is grown and harvested to ensure a sustainable system. Three-quarters of our biscuits in western Europe are made with Harmony wheat and in France, where the program originated, this figure is as high as 95%. Our ambition is to ultimately source all of our cocoa sustainably through Cocoa Life, and to expand Harmony to reach 100 percent of our European biscuit brands, with the exception of East Europe.
By bringing these programs to our brands, such as Cadbury Dairy Milk, Cote d’Or and Marabou chocolate and LU biscuits, we connect customers and consumers with the farmers growing our key ingredients.
Mondalez is addressing the impact of raw materials, like cocoa. (Credit: Sebastian Duda/Shutterstock)
Q And finally, what do you see as being the big issues to watch for in the coming 12-18 months?
A We are very attuned to the current debate around plastic waste and the role of packaging. We’re addressing this through our packaging strategy with the goal to ensure food safety and prevent food waste to mitigate overall waste globally.
One other trend we are following closely is the rapidly growing demand for well-being snacks. Consumers all over the world are aware of the connection between what they eat and their health. As such, they’re seeking great-tasting snacks that offer good nutrition with fewer, more familiar ingredients.
For a large consumer facing company, well-being is an important part of our growth strategy. Everything we do starts with the consumer. We know people want to eat better but they also want their sweet treat. So, we’re addressing areas that are important to consumers and where we can have the greatest impact. We’re dedicating 70 percent of our new product innovations to well-being platforms. Our Innovation teams are leading extensive renovation of our portfolio, as well as a robust pipeline of new offerings.
Our latest innovation, Véa that we launched in the US last summer, is our latest offering in this space. The recipes are on-trend: no artificial ingredients, colours or flavours, no trans fats, Non GMO Project Verified. And we worked with chefs around the world to design these new snacks with authentic regional flavours. We’re also investing in a global network of Technical Centres to help drive innovation. We just recently announced our new tech centre in Singapore, as part of our $65 million investment in nine advanced technical hubs located around the globe.
Mondalez International packaging agri-tech Palm Oil Cocoa Life