A recent study has revealed that Easter candy sales in the US exceeded expectations in 2023, with Americans splurging a whopping $3.3bn on Easter candy alone.

This surge in sales is a testament to the booming confectionery industry in the US. However, it’s not just Easter that contributes to the industry’s success.

Other holidays like Valentine’s Day and Halloween have also seen a significant increase in candy sales, with consumers projected to spend more on chocolates and candies than ever before. 

Mounting packaging waste poses challenges for the confectionery Industry 

While the confectionery segment continues to flourish, it faces a growing concern: packaging waste.

Plastic packaging remains dominant in the confectionery industry, despite warnings about the low recycling rate of plastic in the US. Only 5% of plastic waste in the country is currently being recycled, making it one of the most wasteful materials on the market. 

Furthermore, candy brands often use mixed materials in their packaging to ensure product freshness and shelf life. This poses challenges for consumers when it comes to properly disposing of candy wrappers and packaged products in an environmentally sustainable manner. 

Big brands explore sustainable packaging solutions to tackle waste 

To address the confectionery industry’s mounting waste problem, major brands in the US are beginning to re-evaluate their packaging strategies and explore sustainable alternatives.

However, they face several obstacles when adopting alternative packaging solutions. 

Biodegradable options: are they effective? 

Some candy brands, like Skittles, have recently transitioned to biodegradable packaging. While this seems like a promising solution to reduce waste, there are certain issues that need to be addressed.

Unlike some countries, the US lacks federal legislation on biodegradable claims. However, progress is being made at the state level, with California passing a bill that requires compostable products to be certified by third-party organisations.

This legislation also bans misleading terms on plastic products. Despite the potential of biodegradable packaging, companies must continuously test and evaluate its effectiveness to ensure product quality and safety. 

The rise of recyclable packaging 

Exciting legislation, such as California’s state bill 343, is setting standards for recycling claims.

However, sustainable packaging often comes with trade-offs in terms of other important factors, such as high-speed conversion and optimised consumer functionality. Mars Wrigley, for example, has introduced mono-polymer material for M&M’s and a paper-based flow wrap for its Balisto bar.

Brands like Nestlé have embraced paper packaging for products like Smarties hard candies, recognising the material’s affordability and consumer perception of sustainability. Nevertheless, achieving the necessary barrier properties for alternative materials like paper remains a challenge that requires thorough testing. 

Enhanced labels to encourage proper recycling practices 

Improved packaging labels can play a vital role in reducing poor recycling practices. Clear and consistent labelling, such as the How2Recycle label, can inform consumers about the recyclability of products and their environmental impact.

Eco-friendly certifications like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) can also help consumers identify sustainable materials, encouraging them to choose these products more frequently. 

Lowering excess packaging through efficient management 

Optimising inventory management is a key strategy for reducing production costs and minimising waste.

Efficient forecasting of packaging needs can prevent over-ordering or under-ordering of materials, resulting in significant cost savings. Proper inventory management also frees up warehouse space and allows for more efficient transportation by consolidating orders and avoiding last-minute rush requests.

Switching to durable and reusable packaging alternatives reduces waste sent to landfills and enhances a business’s brand image, attracting environmentally conscious customers and setting the company apart from competitors. 

By adopting sustainable packaging practices, the confectionery industry can address its mounting waste problem while fostering a more circular economy and demonstrating a commitment to environmental responsibility.