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Frito-Lay and Quaker Go All In on Compostables

A new Greenhouse Learning Lab enables PepsiCo’s food divisions fast-track compostable packaging materials by enabling them to field test, measure, and analyze the materials on-site.

Frito-Lay North America and The Quaker Oats Company recently unveiled its Greenhouse Learning Center at its R&D headquarters in Plano, Tex., during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Frito-Lay North America and The Quaker Oats Company recently unveiled its Greenhouse Learning Center at its R&D headquarters in Plano, Tex., during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Just a week after an official ribbon-cutting ceremony, Frito-Lay North America invited a select group of media to tour what it says is a first-of-its kind facility globally for PepsiCo that will enable on-site testing and analysis of compostable packaging materials. According Frito-Lay, the new Greenhouse Learning Center, located at the company’s R&D headquarters in Plano, Tex., represents a key milestone in achieving PepsiCo’s PepsiCo Positive (pep+) packaging goal to design 100% of its packaging to be recyclable, compostable, biodegradable, or reusable by 2025.

Providing background on Pep+, David Allen, vice president, chief sustainability officer for PepsiCo Foods North America, said that the program, launched just over a year ago, is a fundamental transformation in PepsiCo’s business. “It’s about putting sustainability at the center of how we create growth and value for the organization and do that in a way that makes sure we’re operating within planetary boundaries, and we’re making a positive impact on the planet and the people,” he said.

Technical Director, PepsiCo R&D Senior Fellow Sridevi Narayan-Sarathy led a recent media tour of the Greenhouse Learning Center, where the R&D team is field testing, measuring, and analyzing compostable packaging materials on-site to speed the rate of innovation.Technical Director, PepsiCo R&D Senior Fellow Sridevi Narayan-Sarathy led a recent media tour of the Greenhouse Learning Center, where the R&D team is field testing, measuring, and analyzing compostable packaging materials on-site to speed the rate of innovation.One of pep+’s three pillars is creating a positive value chain, which is where the company’s efforts around circularity and its sustainable packaging vision sit. Guided by Science Based Targets initiatives (SBTi), PepsiCo is working across all divisions and packaging formats “to build better packaging for a better world,” shared Allen.

Frito-Lay’s compostable packaging journey

Frito-Lay North America, the $23 billion convenient foods division of PepsiCo., Inc., relies heavily on flexible film packaging for its snack brands, which include such well known products as Lay’s and Ruffles potato chips, Doritos and Tostitos tortilla chips and branded dips, Fritos corn chips, and SunChips multigrain snacks, among others. One route Frito-Lay and its sister company, The Quaker Oats Company, have been pursuing to meet PepsiCo’s pep+ packaging goals is compostable packaging, with the ultimate vision of engineering home-compostable packaging.

At the event, Yolanda Malone, vice president Global Foods Packaging, PepsiCo, pointed out the challenges Frito-Lay has faced in transforming its multilayer, petroleum-based plastic flexible snack packaging—there are nine layers in all, providing print, lamination, and barrier functionality—to a more sustainable material. “We have a really well-honed, functioning package today,” Malone said. “But in order for us to achieve our aspirations to make our packaging 100% recyclable, compostable, biodegradable, or reusable, we have to make some changes.”


Read article   Read this article on Frito-Lay’s second-generation, industrially compostable bag for Off The Eaten Path.


In 2010, ahead of its time, Frito-Lay launched a 100% industrially compostable bag for its SunChips snack brand, but consumer pushback on the noise the bag created sent the company back to the drawing board. “There was a lot of feedback, but we continued our journey,” said Malone. “And so from 2017 through today, we’ve launched our Off The Eaten Path, second-generation compostable bag” (sans the loud crinkling sound).

Building on learnings from the launch the OTEP next-generation commercially compostable packaging, Frito-Lay has introduced other options made from 85% renewable plant materials that produce approximately 60% lower greenhouse gas emissions than traditional snack bags. Moving forward, the company is focusing its efforts on engineering home-compostable and biodegradable packaging, and one of the tools in its arsenal, said Malone, is the new Greenhouse Learning Center.

Greenhouse fast-tracks compostable materials

The Greenhouse Learning Center is an impressive, fully outfitted facility custom designed for Frito-Lay and Quaker’s R&D packaging team. Here the team will test the biodegradation properties of compostable packages in different environments to accelerate learnings, validate lab results through simultaneous, real-time experiments as packaging formulations are improved, and iterate packaging solutions more quickly.

According to Technical Director, PepsiCo R&D Senior Fellow Sridevi Narayan-Sarathy, who led the tour of the center, it can take up to six months to get results from outside testing facilities on the composability of a new material or package. At the center, the R&D team will be able to quickly evaluate—in as little as three months or less—whether a material has the potential for industrial or home compostability. It will enable products to move from testing to certification-ready at least two to three times faster to fast-track new packaging.

One of the processes being used to test materials at the learning center is hot composting, which simulates the high-heat conditions found with industrial composting.One of the processes being used to test materials at the learning center is hot composting, which simulates the high-heat conditions found with industrial composting.One of the composting processes being tested in hot composting, which simulates industrial composting. In this process, microbial activity within the compost pile is optimized with regular turning of the pile to create heat, resulting in finished compost in a much shorter period of time. Another process it is looking at is cold composting, where material is continually added to a compost pile without turning the material. Home composting is also being examined through the use of a composting bin.

Also at the center, the R&D team is examining how compostable materials impact the soil and plants, such as dill, basil, and cilantro—which are then being used by the site’s cafeteria chefs—as well as canola and corn, which can be used as feedstock for the production of biopolymers.

According to Frito-Lay, the Greenhouse Learning Center was established not only to advance the learning of its own R&D team, but also the industry at large. “Our sustainable packaging vision is to build a world where packaging need never become waste,” said Denise Lefebvre, senior vice president of R&D for PepsiCo, at the media event. “We’re actively changing our own compostable snack packaging technologies. By sharing these technologies, we’re inviting the industry to make these changes as well. We are prioritizing, investing in, and expediting projects to build a more circular, inclusive economy.”


Read article   Read about a new compostable packaging degradation pilot recently launched by the Composting Consortium, of which PepsiCo is a member.


The center also aims to actively change industry standards by educating partners and stakeholders on the benefits of transitioning to compostable packaging, demonstrate circularity with biodegradable materials, and provide training to co-ops and visitors.

Said Allen, “We look forward to leveraging key findings from the Greenhouse Learning Center, alongside our scale, reach, and expertise across North America and globally, to drive progress across our organization and the entire industry. We must work together to inspire positive change for the planet and people, and Frito-Lay and Quaker are proud to be leading the way.” PW

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