Some of Australia’s most popular chocolate bars will be the first in the country to feature paper-based packaging.
In a sustainability milestone for Mars Wrigley — and Australia — Mars, Snickers and Milky Way bars, which are manufactured in Ballarat, will be sold in recyclable packaging from April next year.
The move will eliminate more than 360 tonnes of plastic from Australia’s value chain a year, Mars Wrigley R&D Director Chris Hutton said.
“We’ve been working on the project for nearly three years, undertaking trials and testing of different materials under different conditions,” he said.
“It’s been really pleasing to see how well the paper performs once we ‘cracked the code’.
“There’s no impact on the product quality, whether it's the freshness of the chocolate or the meltability.
“Not only that, but it looks really good, which is something that we hadn't anticipated.
“It’s an exciting added benefit of the change.”
The packaging comprises 86 per cent sustainably sourced paper that is largely Forest Stewardship Council-certified.
A thin plastic layer which provides barrier properties is also fully recyclable.
“We have already started development for the next iteration of this material to remove even that thin plastic layer and replace it with a non-plastic alternative,” Mr Hutton said.
“This will grow the impact even further.”
The texture of the packaging will remind consumers to recycle the wrapping.
“When you tear it, it has that paper-tear sound, and when you touch it, it feels papery,” Mr Hutton said.
“So, people have those clear cues that it’s paper and it can go in the recycling bin. We’ve also added the Australian recycling logo to ensure it's clear.”
Mars Wrigley invested $2.5million to bring the project to life, modifying equipment in its Ballarat factory to run the new packaging efficiently.
“Mars Wrigley has been in Ballarat for more than 40 years and we have a proud history of launching locally developed innovation that's unique to Australia or first in the world to Australia,” Mr Hutton said.
“So, while this milestone has been a collaborative effort — involving packaging suppliers and their suppliers, machinery suppliers, factory engineers in R&D and Mars Wrigley associates globally — we have developed and led it from our Ballarat manufacturing site, which is also our research and development hub.
“Being a regional centre, that’s something we're really proud of.”
The R&D team are keen to share their knowledge.
“We've been working closely with our global colleagues so they can take our learnings and reapply them in other markets that plan to launch the same type of technology,” Mr Hutton said.
“But solving the larger packaging sustainability challenge will take strong collaboration across industry, government bodies, NGOs, other groups in the value chain and suppliers.
“We're committed to this collaboration. There isn't one solution that fits all but our paper-based packaging for bars is one example of where we believe we're making a really important change that will have an immediate impact.”
By the end of 2023, the entire product range of Mars, Milky Way and Snickers bars will feature paper-based packaging, including fun-size bars that go into share packs.
“There is strong appetite from consumers in Australia for this type of innovation,” Mr Hutton said.
“That was a key part of why, as an Australian business, we pushed to be the global lead for the project.
“It's not just a first for Mars Wrigley, it’s a first for Australia.”
Mars Wrigley has been a member of Ai Group since 1978.
"As a proud Australian manufacturer, Mars Wrigley has been an active member of The Australian Industry Group for more than 40 years.
We deeply value this partnership and acknowledge the important leadership and advocacy role that Ai Group has in representing the interests of businesses like ours.
We also greatly appreciate the expertise and insights that Ai Group provides, especially around the trends, issues and decisions that impact industry and the future of the private sector in Australia.
We thank Ai Group for its tireless work and the service it provides in representing the voice of business nationally and for having a decisive impact on the issues that matter." — Erin Sing, Corporate Affairs & External Communications Manager, Mars Wrigley Australia
Wendy Larter is Ai Group's Communications Manager. She has more than 20 years’ experience as a reporter, features writer, contributor and sub-editor for newspapers and magazines including The Courier-Mail in Brisbane and Metro, News of the World, The Times and Elle in the UK.