Article appeared in issue 4, 2020

Making mega strides

A new innovative cheese pack from Ornua looks set to deliver significant savings in plastic waste

In September, Ornua Foods UK launched Megablock, an innovative new cheese packaging that delivers a saving of over 40% of plastic per pack, with a projected reduction of 83 tonnes of plastic annually. Ornua Foods UK, part of Ornua Group, produces and purchases cheese and butter products from the Ornua Group and a range of cheese suppliers in the UK and is the largest supplier of British and Irish cheese in the UK market.

The organisation's Pilgrims Choice brand, the UK’s No. 2 branded cheddar, has already migrated to the new pack format and its optimum-sized shelf-ready packaging contains more packs per case, achieving packaging saving of 110 tonnes with a reduction of 1,321 road miles and 1.75 tonnes of CO2.

This packaging innovation is a significant step forward in the company's quest to reduce the amount of plastic it uses in its cheese and the new range will be branded with the message of ‘Same weight…40% Less Plastic’ and reinforced by a £3 million fully integrated marketing campaign featuring out-of-home advertising and extensive digital and social media.

Commenting on the development of the new Megablock, Mike Harper, Ornua Foods UK’s marketing director said: “We set ourselves the challenge of creating a format that enabled us to pack the same amount of cheese, using less plastic, whilst improving the experience of consumers. In short, we wanted a packaging solution that was ‘Less Plastic More Fantastic’ and we believe the Megablock delivers on this. We’re on a mission to help the planet one block of cheese at a time, but we recognise the need to do more so we will be implementing further plastic reduction solutions across the Pilgrims Choice range in 2021.”

This new pack format is available to all Ornua Foods UK customers, with Tesco adopting it for its own-label cheddar ranges supplied by Ornua Foods. This move will save a further 95 tonnes of plastic as a part of Tesco’s 4R packaging programme - Remove, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

James Bull, head of packaging at Tesco said: “We have plans to remove all non-recyclable and excess packaging from our business and are working with a number of brands to achieve this. It’s great to see Ornua cut down on the amount of plastic being used in our stores and we encourage other brands to do the same.”

Aiming for circularity across its packaging solutions, Ornua is partnering with TerraCycle to support the recycling of plastic film used in cheese packaging and the Pilgrims Choice Recycling Programme will go live in late 2020. TerraCycle is committed to 'Eliminating the Idea of Waste' by recycling the 'non-recyclable' and diverting millions of pounds of waste from landfills and incinerators each month.

Learnings from this innovation will be implemented across the organisation, explains head of sustainability, Yvonne Cooney: “As Ornua moves to develop more ambitious climate and packaging targets into the future, collaboration with our customers, partners, and stakeholders will be crucial to understanding the challenges and identifying solutions. If we can identify a solution which is transferrable, we will aim to utilise this solution as much as possible. As we have learned from this packaging innovation for Pilgrims Choice, understanding what works for the consumer and customer is half the battle. Naturally, a reduction in packaging or an improvement in material will have a knock-on effect when it comes to reduction of associated emissions and this is a real positive.”


How it works

Changing the depth of the cheese block from 26mm (90/140) to 40mm (60/140) enables the delivery of the same weight of cheese, but the smaller surface area combined with the flow-wrap format results in 40% less plastic packaging; the equivalent weight of 11 African elephants. The new range comes in optimum-sized shelf-ready packaging containing more packs per case, resulting in 27 tonnes less cardboard packaging used. The plastic and cardboard reduction will see 110 tonnes less packaging used and 1,187 less reels of film delivered.