Packaging Today magazine editor Matthew Rogerson sat-down with Nestle Purina EMEA CEO Bernard Meunier to discuss the topic of sustainability
From its membership of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy to its work in bio-based materials, Swiss food and drink company Nestle has been making strides towards becoming more sustainable. Packaging Today magazine editor Matthew Rogerson sat-down with Bernard Meunier, the long-standing CEO of the company’s pet food subsidiary Purina in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa (EMENA), to discuss what his side of the business is doing to deal with the problem of packaging waste.
In June, I had the opportunity to catch up with Bernard Meunier, CEO of EMENA for Purina. The initial focus of the conversation was the release of Purina’s latest “Purina in Society Report”, which follows the company’s purpose and drive towards creating richer lives for both pets and their owners.
Specifically there are 10 commitments to improve the health and well-being of pets, people and the planet. It is a fascinating market, as the consumers of the products are not the purchasers of the goods, and pets have such a beneficial impact on their owners lives, productivity and happiness, and fortunately, in Mr Meunier they have a champion and fellow pet owner to anticipate and appreciate their needs.
Purina EMENA CEO on how the brand fits into Nestle’s overall sustainability targets
In a slight pivot I began to ask questions about sustainability, to understand how Purina fit into Nestle’s corporate sustainability agenda, and where they had their own autonomous fulfilment.
“When it comes to planet, one of our key aims is to reduce plastics, plastic waste and packaging landfill waste. Our ‘Purina in Society’ report helps us establish what the core issues are for pet owners, which are unique to the consumer goods market.
“For example a material study in our first edition identified the most important requirements from a materials perspective, such as responsible environmental packaging needs, making products that enhance pet and owners’ lives and are simple to use and easy to dispose of properly once finished.”
Meunier continued to explain that transparency is a major focus in the pet food market; what is in a product, where it comes from, how it goes to the owner to use. As there are finite resources on the planet, it’s important that the pets are not shortchanged on food quality, while their owners are not having to pull food resources from human consumption for their pets.
Nestle Purina has reduced complexity in packaging, making it easier to be collected, says EMEA CEO
When it comes to the environment and packaging there are global Nestle corporate commitments to have 100% reusable and recyclable packaging by 2025 which Purina are focused on delivering on, and will in turn support their commitments to happy healthy pets and owners.
I asked who is in charge of sustainability in the company and his response was simple, “Everyone in the company has a part to play and is motivated to do better for the planet, its people and animals. Purina’s sustainable strategy is less waste, emissions and landfill.
“It is important to consider that we share resources, and there is competition with human food needs for instance with protein, which is why we are looking for alternatives that reduce this overlap. Our packaging types are not altogether different from other areas of the parent company; we use aluminum, cardboard, plastics and laminate pouches. The last of these requires support to become more recyclable but we continually improve.”
I followed this statement by inquiring about some of the successes of the company in the field of sustainable packaging and he responded by saying Purina has removed 3,452 tonnes of packaging materials.
They are also constantly sourcing ways to improve recyclability, reclaim materials and reduce waste, and focused on how to dispose of laminate “if we reduce the complexity of the materials used in our packaging and the number of different types this allows for easier streaming by consumers at home, better collection and waste management and makes recycling or reuse much more efficient” notes Meunier.
‘Sustainability cannot be solved by a single person or product’
Working to reduce the volume in materials being used also helps sustainable packaging efforts; and how to reduce the thickness of the material without affecting package integrity limits the amount of packaging and potential waste entering the recycling stream.
“If we improve the quality and volume of what we are putting into our waste, and improve the sorting abilities of recycled material, we can take a big step towards a circular loop for our packaging.”
It is possible to do this, and he provides the example of Denmark where all drinks are in returnable containers. Reverse vending machines are another way to retain packaging bottles.
“We want easy to stream, infinitely recyclable materials, and a reduction or indeed removal of single use plastics. The key is simple, standard waste that is easy to collect, sort and reuse or recycle” notes Meunier, and to achieve this requires collaboration “sustainability is a massive challenge that cannot be “solved” by a single person or product” as he puts it.
Common solutions must be found and cooperation is key, along with inter sector support and working with the entire value chain, from the material producer and chemical supply companies right through to the final consumer and retailers; everyone has a part to play.
“We are part of multiple projects and partnerships, from REFLEX, and NaturALL Bottle Alliance to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and many more, anything that can help us achieve our goals and improve streaming, waste management, collection.”
As we ended I had a final question which I thought was important; what his favourite part about his role was, and I am glad I was able to ask as it was unexpected in its simplicity and resonance. “We have a core belief here that pets and people are better together.
“This leads to a purpose; enriching pets lives and those of the people that love them. To come to work with such a powerful purpose, as a pet owner myself I can actually make a difference in the lives of owners and their pets. That is, to me, an incredible source of joy and determination to make sure our company honours this responsibility.”