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Plastic peanut butter jars cut packaging at Sainsbury’s

7 COMMENTS – Retail giant Sainsbury’s has replaced the glass used in its peanut butter jars with plastic, slashing packaging by 83%.

peanut butter

This latest development aims to help Sainsbury’s cut its total packaging by a third by 2015.

According to the supermarket giant, the new jars “are just as functional as the previous ones”, and the reduced weight means not only do they have a lower environmental impact, they also require less fuel to transport.


Sainsbury’s head of packaging Stuart Lendrum said: “We have the most ambitious packaging reduction in the industry and meeting it will require hundreds of initiatives such as this.

“Our work on peanut butter is a great example of how you can reduce packaging without sacrificing its effectiveness. In fact, the new jars will be less prone to breaking making them even better than the previous ones.

“Excess packaging is one of the top concerns among customers, so it is a real priority for us. It is vital that we strike the correct balance between ensuring packaging is functional and reducing the volume we use.”

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Sainsbury’s said that it had cut its packaging levels by 12m kilos over the past year, meaning around 7% of packaging has been removed from Sainsbury’s own-brand products through new packaging design. According to the supermarket, this equates to an 11% reduction over the past two years.

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  1. It’s great that companies are committed to reducing packaging. However, this initiative would also save Sainsbury’s substantial amounts from their bottom line. Unfortunately, consumers never seem to get the benefit of these value engineering projects employed by FMCG companies. Furthermore It is unlikely that Sainsbury’s will be reducing the price of their Peanut Butter, despite material savings costs and lower energy costs throughout the supply chain, thus increasing their gross margin.
    Question: Do you think Supermarkets and other large retail chains would be so committed to Packaging Reduction if it led to increased cost?

  2. Totally misleading ! Your report that Sainsbury’s has reduced the packaging on its peanut butter by 83% by replacing glass with plastic drastically oversimplifies the facts to draw a very one-sided conclusion on environmental benefit.
    Let’s balance things out with some facts. Glass is 100% and infinitely recyclable. It can be recycled in a bottle-to-bottle system, with no need for down-cycling and without any loss of quality. One tonne of recycled glass equates to saving 1.2 tonnes of virgin materials, about 30% of energy as well as to reducing CO2 emissions of about 7%. Glass also has a strong case on reusability grounds: no other material can be reused up to 40 times. New technologies have enabled the industry to develop containers up to 30% lighter than twenty years ago without compromising their performance or aesthetic characteristics.
    And there are more facts that show that the public accepts these benefits. According to a survey carried out in September 2010 by the global market research company TNS in 19 European countries, an overwhelming majority (88%) of European consumers prefer glass packaging over other packaging materials to contribute to a healthy lifestyle. They trust glass to protect nutritional quality of food and drinks, and against any chemicals. Consumers recognize the health and environmental advantages of glass and they are ready to choose glass as their first option over other packaging materials.
    Of course Sainsbury’s can choose whatever material they like for their product, but to justify their choice on such spurious grounds is unworthy of this great retailer. Come on Sainsbury’s – as a loyal customer I expect more of you.

    • Totally agree with you Nigel, a ‘commitment to reduce materials’ doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be more beneficial to the planet/environment. Smacks of a huge cost saving / profit increasing exercise, painted green. I thought better of Sainsburys.
      How about a return policy on their glass jars?? Just need to be sterilised and ready to refill again – they could standardise the type of jar throughout all their own-brand product, easily distributing back to different suppliers. The nearest store to a particular supplier could supply with the returns.

  3. I am a devotee of JS Basics Crunchy Peanut Butter, my family get through a couple of jars a week. Since Tesco switched their Value PB co-manufacturer from the same one JS use to one with plastic lids, the product has been over-processed and unpleasant. JS Basics is now the only Crunchy Peanut Butter we like. Please don’t switch to a producer who overprocesses the nuts and compromises the product!

    As to packaging, glass jars with metal lids are fully recycleable. Plastic jars and lids are totally NON recycleable in most boroughs and LAs in UK today. Please ensure recycling facilities exist and are available wherever you sell this new packaging BEFORE switching over from the current JS Basics Peanut Butter.

    Thanks for listening :-)

  4. So ‘nuts’ to recycling then!
    And what about the reduction in shelf-life?

    Its such a shame that decisions like these continue to be justified on the basis of weight reduction, whilst ignoring broader aspects of environmental impact and true sustainanility!

  5. While Sainsbury’s must be applauded for its commitment to cutting carbon, the danger of this initiative is that it goes for a quick win rather than a longer term, more sustainable solution. Some boxes are getting ticked it seems, but at the expense of the broader environmental context. Creating a truly sustainable supply chain is of course fiendishly difficult – but why replace a material that is 100% recyclable and reusable? In a world of voracious consumption and dwindling resources, glass used to its full potential is one material that can help us leave a lighter footprint on the earth. Other benefits of glass are also being missed in the switch to plastic. With 8.3m tonnes of food being wasted every year, glass containers have a vital role to play in ensuring our food stays fresher for longer, as glass is inert with no added chemicals to worry about. And what about customer choice? As indicated by the earlier post here by Mr Arnold, consumer preference surely gives another a powerful reason to pause before abandoning glass? Research by TNS reports that 88% of European consumers prefer glass packaging. By all means, offer alternatives on the shelf, but don’t forget that sometimes the best enduring environmental solution is already right in front of you.

  6. Glass makes commercial sense too: readers of this news piece will be interested in the article on page 21 of the 24th Sept issue of The Grocer. ‘Green green class is clear winner as material costs fall’.

    ps: apologies to Mr Archibald for getting your name wrong in our previous post!

  7. Hi All,

    Just to share my views on all what said so far. I found ‘surprising’ glass is referred by Sainsbury’s only as heavy packaging material to get rid of, while it has been used so far as reference material to directly communicate about the high quality, taste, and image of its products to consumers.

    About weight: as Nigel pointed out here above technological innovations have brought to a weight reduction of 30% in the last 20 years!

    What about consumer’s health? Glass is safe for consumers health, and it best guarantees taste and quality preservation of food, drinks, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, etc. etc.: just because it is naturally inert and impermeable to external agents: Glass has nothing to hide.

    What about price to consumers? Have you ever made a price comparison amongst the same products packed in glass Vs other materials (e.g.: plastics)? You will find out that often those packed in glass are cheaper, while benefiting from a “premium” packaging.

    Costs are also stable. The glass production in Europe is stable. In 2010, glass production in Europe increased by 3.5%. Production costs are stable and not directly dependent from hectic dips of oil prices: glass is not made from oil, but from natural resources abundant in nature – sand, soda ash, limestone – and recycled glass (a glass bottle can be made of recycled glass up to 95%!). Glass is not down cycled, burnt, exported to exotic countries or just left floating on the oceans.

    It is the first choice of three quarters of consumers in Europe and ‘Friends of Glass’ are all over Europe and the world. What about the other materials?

    Sorry, but it’s not just peanuts!