The British soft drink and fruit drink concentrate brand, Ribena, has recently announced that it has ditched all plastic straws from its carton-packaged products, and that it will replace them with paper straws instead, thus cutting 16 tons of plastic per year. However, the company will continue to sell the paper straws in plastic wrappers, until it discovers a more sustainable way of protecting the straws without compromising on hygiene and sturdiness.

The parent company, Suntory Beverage and Food GB&I, has announced that it is designing 100% recyclable paper straws for each of its products in carton packaging. The paper straws were successfully trialed in Tesco in the spring of 2020 before being rolled-out fully. Since the supermarket trial, the company has worked on strengthening the bendable paper straw, so that it can piece through the carton without problems.

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Sustainability is relevant even in COVID-times, and it will remain an important topic for consumers in the future too. Brands and manufacturers are playing an increasingly important role in consumers lives; as consumers seek ways to reduce their own environmental impact, they demand practical solutions from brands that can be incorporated into their lifestyles. In fact, according to GlobalData’s 2021 Q1 global consumer survey, 28% of UK consumers would like to hear news about a brand’s sustainability initiatives after the COVID-19 pandemic period is over, with the percentage being highest among young people aged 16-24 (40%) who are also more likely to consume drinks through a straw.

Furthermore, according to the same survey, environmentally-friendly packaging materials are an essential or key driver of product purchases for 29% of UK respondents.  Notably, the response is highest among British people aged 35-44 (36%), followed by consumers aged 45-54 (31%) and 16-24 (30%). It is interesting to note that younger generations are increasingly holding companies more accountable, particularly compared to earlier generations when company information was less accessible; however, low income and purchasing power tends to limit the fulfilment of these values, particularly as environmentally-friendly options are often marked up in price.

The announcement comes before the ban on all plastic on-pack straws comes into force in the UK in July 2021. The new initiative is among many of Lucozade Ribena’s strategies to become more sustainable. For instance, in September 2019, Lucozade Ribena made public its plan to reach 100% sustainable plastic bottles within a decade, moving away from virgin plastic created from fossil fuels. Sustainability initiatives could elevate the company in consumers’ eyes despite the uncertain COVID-focused times. However, Ribena will need to fully commit to reducing its plastic use and replace the plastic wrappers too, to make a bigger difference and attract a wider environmentally-conscious audience. Ribena is due to fully roll out the paper straws by April 2021.