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Lightweighting vs reformulation: more similar than you think?

6th December 2017

Benchmarking is a useful tool across many industries, as businesses examine their processes and products in order to achieve best practice. In the packaging industry, lightweighting – the reduction of packaging weight by streamlining or changing material – can be a key metric for success, in order to reduce environmental impact and save on Producer Responsibility costs.

Another industry with some interesting lightweighting parallels can often be found within that packaging: the nutritional content of the food itself, where reformulation is the process of changing products’ ingredients to improve diets. This post examines some of the similarities and differences in lightweighting and reformulation in the two industries, and the challenges they face.

Reduced sugar ketchup

Similarities and differences

When benchmarking, the two issues have similar data structures, with weight of a packaging component being comparable to e.g. sugar content per 100g in a product. They also have similar concerns when lightweighting – the need to avoid compromising quality. Packaging must still protect and contain the product to minimise damage, while not compromising on appearance in order to appeal to customers (often known as rightweighting), and reformulated foods need to maintain their appearance and taste.

Inevitably, there are some differences. While both areas rely on science and engineering to innovate, food and drink reformulation can be more difficult due to the complexity of balancing ingredient quantities. While “quick wins” may be possible across a food range, such as by shifting sales habits, the multiple stages of the packaging supply chain can offer more opportunities for savings.

The greater good

In both cases, there is pressure from consumers to make improvements – pictures of comically over-packaged products often go viral, and healthy eating (particularly for children) is a common concern.

When tackling the challenges of lightweighting and reformulation, businesses often find that needing to compete with others for product appeal can hamper their efforts to make these needed changes. As well as sharing innovations, such as biodegradable packaging or sugar substitutes, an industry-wide approach can foster collaboration for the good of the environment and the public’s health.

Why nutrition?

The many similarities described above, and the introduction of initiatives such as Public Health England’s sugar reduction targets, have led to ecoVeritas’ interest in this field. As a data-focused company with extensive experience of packaging calculations and benchmarking, we are able to offer similar insights into the food and drink sector’s nutritional data. Call our office on +44 (0)1865 721375 for more details.