Mars Wrigley strikes a deal to develop biodegradable candy wrappers


Dive Brief:

  • Biodegradable candy wrappers are the goal of a new two-year partnership between Mars Wrigley and Danimer Scientific, the companies announced. Mars plans to start creating biodegradable wrappers for Skittles. The company expects the new wrappers will be on shelves in late 2021 or early 2022.
  • Danimer Scientific has created a biodegradable packaging called Nodax polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), which is produced through natural fermentation processes using plant oils including soy and canola. The companies will work together to turn this material into a flexible package that meets the needs of the confectionery segment.
  • Many sustainability-minded food companies are looking at packaging improvements as a way to meet their goals. Several of these new packages are likely to hit shelves this year, including recyclable granola bar wrappers on General Mills’ Nature Valley brand, bottles made from 100% recycled plastic material for Coca-Cola and 100% plastic-free paper-based bottles by Diageo.

Dive Insight:

Following many corporate sustainability commitments dealing with packaging, Mars Wrigley is the latest company to announce its own plans. But unlike many of the new eco-friendly packaging plans different manufacturers have put forward, this one doesn’t require much effort on the part of the consumer to help the planet.

Mars Wrigley has decided to start this initiative small — literally — by making packaging that it said is more likely to become litter rather than be recycled. 

Danimer Scientific is no stranger to working with food and beverage companies. In recent years, it has partnered with several CPG companies to provide them with biodegradable plastic. It signed on to make Nestlé’s water bottles biodegradable in 2019. It’s working to make biodegradable plastic for Bacardi, which has pledged to make all of its bottles with the material by 2023. And Danimer Scientific is working with QSR supplier Eagle Beverage to make biodegradable plastic straws

It also is hiring the expertise to work on all of these projects. Last month, Danimer Scientific hired PepsiCo packaging veteran Brad Rodgers as its new vice president of technology development R&D.

According to Plastics Today, through existing contracts and agreements, the biodegradable plastics company was at capacity in its Kentucky manufacturing facility at the end of last year.

The packaging company quickly raised capital when it went public through a deal with a special purpose acquisition company on Dec. 30. The IPO raised about $380 million, which the company plans to spend on expanding its manufacturing capacity, according to Packaging Insights.

An analysis of Danimer Scientific by business and finance website Grizzle praised it as a wise investment. The company plans to sell its packaging material at roughly twice the price of petrochemical competitors — about $2 per pound, compared to $1 per pound for traditional plastic — but Grizzle analysts say consumers are willing to pay a premium for sustainable plastic packaging.

Danimer Scientific also is the only company that is close to having a product that’s available to go on the market, the analysts say, and the potential for growth is great.

Danimer Scientific CEO Stephen Croskrey told Packaging Insights in January that only 10% of plastic is recycled — and almost a third becomes litter. He sees that as Danimer’s biggest opportunity.

“Our specific focus is on single-use plastics, which is where we can add the most value because not only are we renewable but the material goes away,” he told the trade publication. “Snack food packaging, straws, cutlery, plates, take-home boxes, these are the kind of things that find their way into the environment and only used for a very short period of time, in some cases just minutes.”

Mars Wrigley has a goal of making 100% of its packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. The Skittles wrapper is a good start toward that goal. The technology also could easily expand to other plastic-wrapped confections in Mars Wrigley’s portfolio. Once Danimer Scientific has been able to perfect this wrapping, it could be adopted by other CPG companies that rely on flexible plastic packaging. 

The biggest hurdle this agreement seems to face at this point is whether Danimer Scientific will be able to meet its myriad of manufacturing and R&D commitments.