John West replaces plastic shrink wrap in sustainable multipack packaging for tuna

The new packaging solution replaces the traditional plastic shrink wrap with a so-called smart strip. Consumers can simply twist and pull a can to detach it from the other cans

The British manufacturer of long-life tuna products John West faced the challenge of replacing plastic packaging for its main products without generating more waste in the supply chain. This was the only way the company could achieve its sustainable packaging targets. Working closely with the Schubert Group, CCL Label and Touch Design, John West is now launching non-refrigerated fish products in Ecotwist packaging onto the UK market.

Ecotwist is a patent-pending packaging solution. It replaces conventional plastic shrink wrap with a so-called smart strip. The new design supports John West's goal of producing 100 percent of its products in sustainable packaging by 2025. The new Smartstrip is characterized by its simplicity: With the new type of packaging, consumers can simply twist and peel the top can to detach it from the stack of cans. This saves the fish processor around 65 tons of plastic shrink wrap or 300 tons of cardboard every year. The solution has been independently certified as fully recyclable. Consumers can easily dispose of the packaging via the UK recycling system.

Close cooperation between the partner companies

Touch Design developed the Twist principle in close collaboration with the team at John West. James Pryor, Managing Partner at Touch, explains: “We tested around 20 sustainable packaging concepts. The John West brief was to create a ‘Multipack 2.0’ with minimal packaging to remove the plastic shrink and meet John West’s sustainable packaging targets whilst keeping the integrity of a multi-pack. Other packaging ideas would have required more material or added weight to each can, which John West wanted to avoid. We refined Ecotwist to be the simplest and most elegant solution.” 

CCL Label had to find the right balance to make the aluminum Smartstrips strong enough to be stacked and transported and easy to open for all ages. Wayne Firth, UK Sales and Marketing Director at CCL Label, adds: “Twisting and pulling a can off had to be a sensory experience. The Smartstrip needed to feel right, sound right, and look right. The labels we developed had to incorporate a lot of characteristics and the right amount of adhesiveness, which we ensured by subjecting the can towers to rigorous tests to ensure durability and ease of use.”

Schubert develops packaging line for John West

The Schubert Group developed a packaging line specially designed for John West that integrates all the requirements of the Touch Design concept and the aluminum strip from CCL Label into an industrial solution. Cyrille Zimmermann, Project Manager at Schubert, explains: “We designed, built and commissioned a groundbreaking new packaging technology that no one else has in this category anywhere in the world, giving John West a significant competitive edge to further differentiate itself in sustainable packaging.”

The British company launched the Ecotwist project three years ago with the aim of completely removing plastic shrink wrap from its products and replacing it with a fully recyclable solution. During the course of the project, John West formulated further requirements to improve Ecotwist. Vikki Babb, International Marketing Director at John West, says: “We redesigned our cans to look more contemporary with added height, full lithography and an easy-open lid. We made the cans lighter and now pack the same amount of tuna into a lighter-weight can, saving over 400 tons of steel annually. We also reduced the other contents like sunflower oil, spring water, or brine that consumers typically discard, to save an additional 1,500 tonnes of waste a year. These changes lower our greenhouse gas emissions and move large volumes of our products into fully recyclable packaging to deliver against our sustainability commitments.”

John West's Ecotwist minimal multipack packaging is a finalist in the Packaging Europe Sustainability Awards, which will be presented in Amsterdam on November 11 and 12.