More and more consumers are realizing that terms like “resource scarcity” and “climate change” are more than just words — these are real issues affecting the planet that packaging brands can help address.

The future of packaging will be need to be focused on meeting consumer demand for sustainability, says Tetra Pak’s VP of Marketing Chris Gretchko, who recently took some time to talk with Food Engineering about packaging trends and how brands can best react to the changes.

Protecting the taste

One thing that organic companies especially are concerned with is how packaging can protect a product’s color, texture, nutrition and ultimately taste, which is critical as consumers look for more flavor varieties and brands continue to expand their offerings.

“It’s an interesting phenomenon of the US marketplace that we are lucky enough to have access to a lot of great products, so if you’re going to be spending all this time creating a great product, you want to make sure that the person who is going to be eating it that you deliver on the best product ever [for them],” Gretchko says. “For startups and organics, it’s a major concern. Taste is why people come back, and what you put your product in can be really influential in how it ends up tasting. It makes sense that products change when they’re exposed to air, heat or light.”

A lot of organic products tend to be packaged in carton packaging, which protects them, but also aligns with the image organic products usually want to project.

“You’re seeing other things that might start going in this direction, such as wine in a carton,” Gretchko says. “Wine is a product that we spend a lot of time putting in a basement, we spend time with our wine because it’s a well-crafted, delicate wonderful product, and packaging that has got barriers for heat and light are great for wine.”

Consumer transparency around recycling

And it all ties back into creating packaging that’s also environmentally friendly. Cartons, like those made by Tetra Pak, represent some of the cleanest and what’s referred to as the best long-fiber remaining in the residential recycling stream.

And, carton recycling is catching on. In 2009, only 18 percent of American households were able to recycle cartons. Today, that number has increased to more than 58 percent. Recycling cartons is now possible in nearly 67.8 million U.S. households.

According to Nielsen, 63 percent of consumers say renewable packaging is a key driver in purchasing decisions. 

“It’s like most things, you’re going to have some people who are very much concerned and they are going to make their purchase based on it, and there are some people who don’t care at all,” Gretchko explains. “But just by virtue of the fact of how we recycle now, people are more aware of what’s recyclable and what’s not.”

And the next generation of consumers are all quite aware of recycling. They are more aware of which recycling logos have which stipulations and are more than willing to point it out to their parents.

“The conscience is our kids,” Gretchko says.

Tetra Pak’s carton packaging is made with renewable resources, which means it is something that can be replaced naturally and with the finite number of resources, renewable it resonating with people’s conscious.

For its part the company is trying to move into new sectors and make it easier for companies to choose renewable packaging.

“If you think about beverages, and if you think about things that are portable or on-the-go, it’s about making that experience in carton really an enjoyable experience, the look of it, the mouth feel. It’s a premium experience, because we and our partners have taken time to invest in caps that work really well, and it’s up to the brand to leverage the premium message.”

In the end, it’s all about what makes the most sense for brands and their consumers.

“It’s all part of the value proposition, and a part of that is, ‘Does it make sense?’” Gretchko says. “So brand owners are making decisions about the whole brand, and I think a lot of them are really thinking about all kinds of things that enable a green message.”

For more information: Chris Gretchko, VP of Marketing, Tetra Pak US & Canada,, (940) 565-8800,