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Sweet Transition: Whitakers first to trial innovative Sustainable Paper Packaging from SCREEN, SAPPI and Mercian Labels’ collaboration

In response to the growing global interest in sustainable packaging solutions, SCREEN, a pioneering inkjet digital printing expert, has collaborated with SAPPI, a leading paper packaging producer, and Mercian Labels, an award-winning digital label printing converter in the UK. Together, they embark on a collaborative project to introduce a recyclable barrier paper packaging solution for the renowned UK specialty chocolate manufacturer, Whitakers.

The flexible packaging industry is collectively seeking to improve its sustainability profile, influenced by both consumer expectations and European regulations. Notably, there is a growing interest in single-layer recyclable paper with barrier coatings, especially in the case of kraft/uncoated paper, thanks to its natural appearance and eco-friendly attributes. Recent consumer market studies underline the growing environmental consciousness, with 70% of European consumers actively seeking alternatives to plastic packaging1. In the UK in particular, a McKinsey survey also reveals that 63% of customers perceive paper packaging as a more sustainable and eco-friendly option2. This shift in consumer mindset has compelled brand owners to embrace paper packaging, recognising that it aligns with their corporate sustainability goals. 

Whitakers, celebrated for its exquisite chocolates, is trailing an innovative, more environmentally friendly, and fully recyclable paper packaging to satisfy the growing consumer demand for sustainable packaging solutions. The company is piloting a survey among its diverse customer base to gauge reactions to this sustainability initiative while ensuring that the delectable chocolates maintain the same shelf life and product freshness. Paper packaging perfectly aligns with Whitakers' brand ethical and sustainability values, reflecting its commitment to responsible business practices.

Commenting on this collaborative effort, Juan Cano (Business Development Director at SCREEN) states, "Our partnership with SAPPI and Mercian Labels represents a significant leap towards sustainable packaging. SCREEN's inkjet digital printing press Truepress PAC520P using water-based food compliant inks, stands out for its lower environmental impact, reduced waste, and quick job turnaround times. This agility enables to rapidly ramp up volumes in the early stages of market development, offering a compelling solution for converters and brand owners alike.”

Sibylle Hajostek, Market Manager Paper & Packaging Solutions at Sappi adds, "Sappi has been a pioneer in manufacturing flexible packaging papers and recognises the vast potential in the market for sustainable and recyclable packaging material. Selecting the right paper for the right product application is crucial and our expertise in barrier coating allows us to provide the right barrier properties for product protection. The UK market, in particular, has shown a significant demand for more sustainable packaging solutions, and we are excited to contribute to meeting these demands."

Dr Adrian Steele, Managing Director of Mercian Labels, a label converter with extensive experience in digital printing, sees a significant potential in diversifying into paper flexible packaging. He points out: "The move into paper flexible packaging is a natural evolution for us. Digital printing with eco-friendly inks brings flexibility to packaging design by abolishing MOQs and significantly reducing lead times. It allows for customisation, reduced waste from obsolescence, and, most importantly, aligns with Whitakers' commitment to sustainability. We have long seen the versatility and environmental benefits of digital printing in labels, so paper based flexible packaging an exciting market for us to explore."

This collaboration exemplifies the industry’s collective effort to make sustainable choices accessible and appealing to consumers by witnessing the convergence of water-based inkjet digital printing expertise (SCREEN), advanced barrier paper production (SAPPI), and packaging conversion innovation (Mercian Labels), for Whitakers' innovative chocolate paper packaging. As consumers and European legislation push for eco-friendly alternatives, this collaboration stands as a testament to the industry's commitment to meeting these demands.

This innovative sustainable paper packaging solution will be showcased at Packaging Innovations (NEC Birmingham, 21-22 February). Experience the future of sustainable chocolate packaging with SCREEN, SAPPI, and Mercian Labels’ collaboration for Whitakers and visit Mercian Labels’ stand at Packaging Innovations (Stand J82) to see Whitakers chocolate samples, wrapped in recyclable barrier paper packaging—an enticing blend of innovation, eco-friendliness, and deliciousness!


1Two Sides- European Packaging Preferences 2020                         

2McKinsey & Company - Sustainability in Packaging 2023