WASHINGTON, DC — Consumers are increasingly supporting businesses with strong social and environmental values, making sustainability a critical component for commercial bakeries to compete. Packaging presents a big opportunity for companies to adopt sustainability claims and stick to them.

During its webinar today, the American Bakers Association (ABA) brought together experts from the baking industry, packaging industry and the US Plastics Pact, an initiative that unites businesses, non-profit organizations and other institutions in the effort to prevent plastic pollution through a circular economy, to explore the top tips and trends that bakeries should know.


The first action item? Taking inventory of the materials your company uses in its packaging. Last month the US Plastics Pact released its Problematic and Unnecessary Materials list, which includes 11 materials that food manufacturers can aim to avoid, from polystyrene to nonrecyclable label inks.

Emily Tipaldo, US Plastic Pact’s executive director, says each of these “activators” — which report their progress on their sustainability goals annually — are pledging to phase out their use of these materials. Tipaldo suggests companies join initiatives like this, as participation can help build community, maintain accountability and provide opportunities for collaboration with other food producers.

“If you’re trying to get started or trying to hit a goal, maybe you're running into challenges, but there are likely others who are running into similar challenges. It could be worth getting together or comparing notes to overcome that.” —Emily Tipaldo | executive director | US Plastics Pact


“If you’re trying to get started or trying to hit a goal, maybe you’re running into challenges, but there are likely others who are running into similar challenges,” Tipaldo said. “It could be worth getting together or comparing notes to overcome that.”

Kwik Lok, a top supplier of packaging solutions for the baking industry, is a member of the US Plastics Pact. Ron Cardey, Kwik Lok’s senior VP of customer engagement and a webinar panelist, believes these kinds of conversations are critical for meeting sustainability goals.

“Collaboration is key between producers, retailers and suppliers. When we work together, we’ll ultimately have better solutions,” Cardey said. “But we have to recognize that whatever solution we come up with today, will very likely be different just a few years down the road. Technology is rapidly changing in this area.”

That’s why Cardey suggests companies take a hard look at their own needs and goals … and their customers’. This audit can include questions like: What are your corporate goals? What are you trying to accomplish: carbon reduction, plastic reduction, a combination of both? What are your customers looking for?

When it comes to making sustainability claims, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s Green Guides serve as a great starting place for understanding the requirements or documentation for supporting them. But Veronica Ataya, a panelist and the director of marketing and innovation for St. Johns Packaging, a leading bakery packaging supplier, says this area can be tricky to navigate.


“You may see claims that something is compostable or biodegradable or recyclable. In fact, most of the bread bags in the market are recyclable and made with polyethylene. However, they are only recyclable through store drop-off programs; it doesn’t mean that in the US you’ll be able to recycle that bag curbside. So making a claim that your bag is recyclable might just confuse consumers and create issues with contamination when it gets to the material recycling facility,” Ataya said. “So it comes down to collaborating with suppliers to really understand: Do you have what is needed to support this claim? And is your brand then going to make that commitment on the marketing side and share that with the consumer?”

Tipaldo says the marketing side of sustainable packaging is often the fun part. It’s important for companies to tell the story of their sustainability journey — not just the achievements, but also the challenges — which will help them remain transparent about their supply chain and accountable to their goals and customers.

“We’re on a journey here — we’re not there yet — but if this is really something that’s important, then it will be reflected throughout your business,” she said. “It really is not a quantum innovation. It’s nothing more than being one step removed from where you’re at today.”