Food In Canada

Packaging: Sustainability takes centre stage for a sweet future in confectionery packaging

By Carol Zweep   

Packaging Sustainability Confectionery Mars Mondelez Nestle

The confectionery industry is highly competitive, and product differentiation through packaging is essential to attract and retain customers. However, in recent years, there has been a growing trend toward wellness and sustainability, which is leading to changes in packaging.

Confectionery is often given as a gift or to celebrate special occasions, thus requiring premiumization. Product differentiation can be achieved through unique container shapes, designs and textures, as well as the use of attractive graphics.

Packaging design and materials are evolving to reflect the changing consumer demands for wellness and healthy lifestyles. Smaller portions are being offered to cater to consumers who want to indulge in moderation, and the packaging emphasizes using ingredients that are ‘clean’, natural, organic, and fair-trade.

With greater awareness of the impacts of plastic packaging waste on wildlife and the environment, it is not surprising the top trend for confectionery is sustainable packaging. Consumers are looking for eco-friendly packaging, and brand owners are responding. Alternative to traditional petroleum-based plastics is compostable/biodegradable and plant-based plastics. Also, the use of recyclable material and the integration of recycled content is increasing. Packaging reduction or light weighting are other means of reducing waste. Reusable and refillable packaging options are increasingly being offered as well.


Sustainability goals

Many large confectionery companies have set sustainability goals for their packaging. One of Nestle’s sustainability goals is to have 95 per cent of its packaging designed for recycling and reduce virgin plastic use by one-third by 2025. For example, Nestle UK has changed the foil wrappers for their Quality Street candy line to recyclable paper wrappers. Kit Kat packaging in Japan has replaced plastic wrap with sustainable matte paper that can also be made into origami. The Smarties brand now uses recyclable paper.

Mars also aims to contribute to a circular economy. They have replaced virgin plastic with a mix of recycled plastic in their Kind snack bar packaging.

Mondelez is driving toward net zero waste packaging with initiatives like reducing the box volume of Napolitain biscuits, removing hard-to-recycle PVC plastic windows from Cadbury Favourites boxes, and introducing a cardboard-only pack format for Cadbury Easter Inclusion Shell.

One must consider the implication of material and design changes to packaging. Does the new material have the same handling properties, heat seal properties, moisture, and oxygen barrier? Intensive work is put into the development of new materials and coatings. In some cases, changes in printing and the adaption of existing packaging equipment may be required. Product safety and quality are paramount. To this end, extensive prototype testing is performed along with evaluation throughout the supply chain. The product’s package integrity and shelf life must be evaluated to reflect real-life scenarios such as transportation and warehousing in various environments and retail and consumer handling.


The increasing demand for sustainable, eco-friendly packaging materials and innovative packaging designs will drive the future of confectionery packaging. Brands will continue to develop new packaging materials that are biodegradable, compostable, or plant-based while exploring new packaging formats that can be recycled or reused.

Edible packaging is one potential innovation area for consumable wrapping or coatings around confectionery. It eliminates package waste and could provide additional functionality such as antimicrobials, vitamins, antioxidants, and nutrients. Incorporating nanotechnology into edible packaging could enhance its functionality. Smart packaging is another innovation area, which can provide real-time information about the product’s freshness, safety, and quality. This could include technologies such as RFID tags, QR codes, or NFC chips that allow consumers to track the product’s journey from farm to table.

By incorporating sustainable packaging, companies can meet changing consumer demands as well as contribute to a healthier planet.  

Carol Zweep is food consulting manager for NSF. Contact her at

This column was originally published in the April/May 2023 issue of Food in Canada.

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