Niels Hougaard, Managing Director of Tetra Pak Arabia discusses the company’s new “Go Nature. Go Carton” sustainability initiative, Expo 2020 participation, food safety and more.

Tetra Pak is on a mission to deliver the world’s most sustainable food packaging. The company aims to create cartons from plant-based materials that are fully renewable, fully recyclable and carbon-neutral. Through its latest campaign “Go nature. Go carton.”; Tetra Pak communicates its goal of meeting the needs of the food industry and consumers while delivering the world’s most sustainable food packaging with reduced environmental and climate impact. 

The company is using its sponsorship of the Swedish pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai as a platform to educate consumers, children and adults, on the importance of riding the sustainability wave. We got the chance to discuss their vision in detail with Niels Hougaard, Managing Director of Tetra Pak Arabia:

Q1. How did the pandemic affect the consumer behaviour when related to food?

“The food and beverage industry tackles one of the most basic human needs: nutrition. The pandemic has pushed the industry to innovate solutions that address the increased demand for food safety among consumers, while carrying on the global sustainability journey.  In fact, consumer behavioral change is the core drive of how the industry operated during the pandemic and beyond. 

According to the latest edition of Tetra Pak Index, the pandemic has rewired today’s consumers, forcing them to rethink their priorities and behaviours, as they seek a more resilient and sustainable future. Worries about the environment are stronger than ever. Pollution and plastic litter in the ocean are the joint top environmental worry (at 83%). Global warming closely follows, cited by over three quarters (78%) of consumers. This is ahead of food waste (77%) and food accessibility (71%).

Food safety and security are also top priorities for the public as the pandemic has shone a spotlight on health and highlighted weak points in our food systems. Two-thirds (65%) believe that being healthy is being safe, this heightened awareness creating demand spaces for immunity-boosting food products.

As a purpose-led company and a global industry leader, at Tetra Pak, we believe the world’s food systems need to transform to meet future needs of society, improving food security while reducing the impact on natural resources. We, therefore, aim to focus on three key areas: increasing access to safe, nutritious food; reducing food loss and waste; and building more sustainable value chains.

Q2: What is the most sustainable form of food packaging in the market?

The ideal food package is a package that takes into consideration the basic needs of people, while keeping food safe and the planet unharmed. At Tetra Pak, our approach to sustainability is shaped by our brand promise: PROTECTS WHAT’S GOOD™. We bring this promise to life by committing to protect food, to protect people and to protect our planet.

Our ambition is to deliver the world’s most sustainable food package and we are committed to a low-carbon circular economy. To that end, we are accelerating our efforts as we pursue our vision of the ideal beverage carton: a fully renewable and recyclable package. On average, more than 70 percent of our packaging material is made from long, strong paper fibres that can be recycled several times. The thin layer of polymers – or plastics – in our beverage cartons can be blended with other polymers and turned into new products, such as roofing tiles, crates, carton boxes and more.

We are also contributing to a low-carbon society by striving to minimise impact across our entire value chain. We are protecting biodiversity, and establishing water stewardship, by working with our suppliers and through third-party verification. In addition, we are working to optimise our own operations and, through our solutions and services, those of our customers. And finally, we are promoting recycling and circularity, through our own activities and through partnerships worldwide.

Q3: How is Tetra Pak contributing to sustainability in our region?

Tetra Pak has been present in the Middle East for over four decades, supplying to 25 countries in the Middle East, Europe and Asia including the majority of demand in Saudi Arabia. Sustainability as it embodies our brand promise – PROTECTS WHAT’S GOOD™ – pushes us to seek for opportunities across the entire recycling value chain, together with other stakeholders across the industry, to improve the way carton packaging gets collected, sorted and recycled. The goal is to scale the recycling of paper-based cartons, helping to make them the world’s most sustainable food package.

We recently signed two industry-first joint initiatives. the first with Obeikan Paper Industries (OPI), a Riyadh-based paper mill that produces 180 thousand tons of duplex board annually, to recycle used beverage cartons in Saudi Arabia and manufacture new products. the second with regional recycling leader, Saudi Top Plastic (STP) Factory, in order to recycle ‘Polyethylene and Aluminum Polymers’ resulting from the collection and recycling of used cartons.

Q4: What are your main activities in Expo 2020 Dubai? Why are you participating in the event?

We have partnered with the Swedish Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai with water our recyclable packages and also furniture made out of recycled Tetra Pak packages. With our digital campaign, we’ve encouraged the Expo visitors to take simple actions for a sustainable future such as using less water, decreasing waste, recycling and reusing more, and opting for carton packages. Through a video featured on its website, dedicated to Expo 2020 Dubai, we invite adults to take action and make a promise for a sustainable future. So far, the campaign reached 14 million people in the region.

Q5: How is our region performance in terms of sustainability compared to other parts of the world?

We are on the right track to achieving remarkable sustainability achievements. In 2017, the UAE launched ‘Energy Strategy 2050’, aiming to increase the contribution of clean energy in the total energy mix from 25 per cent to 50 per cent by 2050 and reduce the carbon footprint of power generation by 70 percent, thus saving AED 700 billion by 2050. Since then, the UAE Government has been promoting vast changes in the decarbonizing process of the supply chain, logistics and transportation in collaboration with financial and industry factors such as local banks and commercial ports authorities.

In KSA, sustainability has been at the heart of Vision 2030 since its inception. The Kingdom is now ushering in a new era as it aims to reach Net Zero by 2060. Regional supply chain stakeholders are on the lookout for innovative implementations in different parts of the chain, from autonomous vehicles, emission monitoring drones, solar warehouses and more due to consumer demand and cost optimization needs. “

Tetra Pak At Expo 2020 Dubai

Tetra Pak has partnered with Sweden Pavilion in Expo 2020 in Dubai to showcase examples the company’s efforts to develop the world’s most sustainable carton food packaging, featuring water in our packages and furniture made from our recycled packages.