Unilever has announced that its instant noodle brand Pot Noodle is trialling moving from plastic to paper for its packaging.
Unilever is testing the new packaging with retailer Tesco, with an initial stock of 500,000 of the brand’s most popular flavour, Chicken & Mushroom.
The innovation process to develop and refine the paper pot took over three years and was led by its R&D teams at Hive, Unilever’s Global Foods Innovation Centre in the Netherlands, working closely with packaging experts in the UK.
According to Unilever, the challenge was to identify the most effective way to reduce the plastic used in each pot, while also ensuring the packaging still holds its distinctive shape and delivers the same quality eating experience.
The trial will help gain shopper feedback and, if successful, the company will switch the full Pot Noodle range to paper pots – a move which, once complete, could remove 4,000 tonnes of virgin plastic each year.
Insights from the trial will also support the scale-up of the innovation at the Pot Noodle factory.
Innovating with alternative materials – like paper – will play an important role in delivering its commitment to halve its use of virgin plastic, the company noted.
The new pots can be recycled at home with other cardboard and paper and include on-pack recycling labels to provide clear guidance to UK shoppers on how to dispose of the packaging.
A single layer of ultra-thin plastic film is used to provide barrier protection, which ensures ingredients remain fresh and protect the paper when water is added but doesn’t inhibit the recyclability of the pot.
“From material development and testing through to new manufacturing processes and capabilities, big packaging innovations require the investment of time and expertise across many teams and partners," said Andre Burger, general manager foods (Nutrition), UK & Ireland.
"There have been plenty of challenges along the way, but we are committed to reducing the plastic in our packaging and to a paper-based future for our pots, without compromising on the Pot Noodle experience our shoppers know and love," Burger added.