Chicago, Illinois-headquartered Conagra Brands has rolled out new products featuring bowls made from plant-based fibers for Healthy Choice Power Bowls, Hungry-Man Double Meat Bowls and P.F. Chang’s Ramen single-serve meals.
By using plant-based fibers instead of plastic, the carbon footprint of manufacturing the bowls is reduced by 50% to 70% across select product lines, according to Gabi Packaging Calculator analysis. The expansion will help to decrease Conagra’s carbon footprint by 34,117 metric tons, equivalent to avoiding the greenhouse gas emissions of driving around the planet 3,399 times or 84 million miles. This progress aligns with Conagra’s January 2020 announcement that it is striving to make 100% of its plastic packaging renewable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
The plant-based fiber bowl is designed by Gilbert, Arizona-based Footprint, a sustainable materials science technology firm that designs alternative solutions to single-use plastic. Conagra initially partnered with Footprint in 2017 to develop packaging for its Healthy Choice Power Bowls product line, which included a first-of-its-kind bowl made from plant-based fibers that could replace plastic alternatives. The versatile material is microwave safe, non-stick and cooler to the touch than traditional plastic packaging. Since introducing the packaging in 2017, Conagra has avoided the use of more than 3.5 million pounds of plastic packaging.
“Plant-based fiber packaging is critical to helping Conagra Brands progress toward making 100% of our current plastic packaging renewable, recyclable or compostable by 2025,” said Katya Hantel, the company’s senior director of sustainable development. “Innovative partners like Footprint have been invaluable in producing packaging that supports sustainable outcomes.”
These packaging solutions are driven by highly collaborative, customized inventions from materials scientists at Footprint, who worked closely with Conagra to meet the needs of the three distinct product lines. The team is led by Troy Swope and Yoke Chung, previous Intel engineers, who saw the opportunity to pioneer the use of plant-based materials based on ingredients that can stand up to the robust quality and safety that single-use plastic delivers to consumers while eliminating plastics from reaching the environment.
“We’ve been able to create solutions for Conagra that won’t sacrifice cost, quality or performance for the consumer,” said CEO Swope. “Our engineered fiber-based packaging solutions integrate with existing product manufacturing lines for a smooth transition away from single-use plastic. Conagra’s use of plant-based fiber is proof that any company of any size can make incredible change for the betterment of the planet.”
Conagra’s current efforts to improve the sustainability of its packaging are part of the company’s broader commitment to responsible sourcing, one of the four pillars of Conagra’s corporate social responsibility and ESG efforts.