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Stefania Cosimi4 min

Sustainable Packaging: Dr. Schär’s Path to Seeding a Better World

Dr. Schär: inclusion and respect for the environment in the DNA

In the evocative setting of South Tyrol, in the heart of the Alps, a family-run company has embarked on an ambitious journey. Since its foundation in 1922, Dr. Schär has kept the promise to reconcile specific nutritional needs with the joy of life. It does so with an international perspective that, with strong roots in Italy, embraces over 100 countries today. The essence of Dr. Schär is based on two fundamental pillars: the tireless pursuit of specific and inclusive food solutions and the family-generational approach to business. These principles have instilled a unique sensitivity to consumer needs and a deep respect for the environment, recognising that the quality of products is intrinsically linked to our planet’s health and future generations’ wellbeing.  

Special nutrition towards a sustainable future

Preserving means taking concrete actions for the future. In recent years, the awareness of the impact of plastic on the environment – from polluting factors in its production to ineffective waste disposal – has prompted an urgent need to do something, both individually and, fortunately, in the industry. Yet, it must be acknowledged that plastic is an extremely useful and efficient packaging material because it is insulating, resistant, and – in the case of Dr. Schär – highly effective in isolating gluten-free foods, protecting them from contamination and keeping them fresh. Taking a step forward from the world we know and our comfort zones, we wondered if extending the quality of our products to packaging was possible. From these reflections, our packaging sustainability strategy was born based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This mid-term plan will lead us to a 25% reduction in plastic usage by the end of 2024. This will represent a significant step towards the ultimate goal: the transition for all our products to packaging materials that are completely recyclable, recycled, or compostable. We know we are in good company on this path: less than a year ago, the United Nations outlined how it would be possible to reduce plastic pollution by 80% by 2040 with drastic yet economically viable choices.  

Achievements already made and prospects for tomorrow

Dr. Schär’s first sustainability report, published in 2023 and examining the previous two years, reveals that in 2022 the use of materials derived from renewable sources in packaging increased by 5.23%. Today, over 20% of the packaging of products from all Dr. Schär brands is made with recyclable materials: a tangible sign that the company is actively moving towards sustainability. The recent international launch of a new sustainable packaging for Master Baker bread, known as Wholesome Loaf in the UK, represented a significant step in the packaging containment strategy. By reducing plastic by 38% on every single Master Baker unit and therefore 15% across the entire Schär range of products, this innovation shows how sustainability can coexist with convenience and food safety. The environmental result achieved by this reduction is extremely relevant, especially considering that the product’s shelf life has not changed, and in the gluten-free food industry sensitivity and attention to contamination are very high, prompting producers to carefully weigh every step towards limiting packaging. Furthermore, in the case of Dr. Schär, the precise choice of uncompromising quality that leads us not to use preservatives in products further emphasises the importance of packaging. However, in line with our sustainability purpose, Master Baker’s next step is to make packaging recyclable.  

Master Baker and panini rolls: quality and sustainability go hand in hand in Schär bread

Limiting the size and quantity of packaging brings the additional positive effect of reducing the carbon footprint due to the possibility of cutting the number of vehicles needed to transport the same amount of product. In our case, we are talking about 778 trucks and, therefore, 580,737 km less travel per year to deliver Master Baker to tables worldwide. Master Baker is not the first innovative and eco-friendly project in Schär bread. In 2021, a historic milestone was reached in developing sustainable food packaging, with the rollout of the world’s first packaging made of certified circular plastic for gluten-free bread. The new packaging of Schär panini rolls consists of 46% recycled plastic from chemically recycled mixed post-consumer plastics. Since this process is still not widespread, the quantity of this raw material available globally is limited. What Dr. Schär CEO Hannes Berger recently stated about packaging, that is an integral part of the consumer experience, is certainly true: it is the first touchpoint. For this reason, we want to make it as closely aligned with our quality standards and, therefore, increasingly sustainable. Also, we see it as a valuable lever for communicating our progress on the path to sustainability.  

A sustainable future is the only future

We cannot speak for the entire food industry, but as a global leader in the gluten-free and specific nutrition sector aiming for the highest quality, we make and will make every effort to keep our foods sustainable and compatible with a prosperous future. We contribute to a better world literally one pack at a time, or ‘one seed at a time’, as we like to express it, to emphasise our other great commitment: biodiversity and the protection and promotion of minor crops.  Dr Schär CMO Hansjörg Prast recently declared, ‘Sustainability – of our businesses, our lifestyle – is the only key to the survival of future generations in the world as we know it. It involves preserving resources, defusing climate change, protecting biodiversity, safeguarding health, and promoting social equity’. The margin of choice if we want to preserve our planet and ourselves is now quite limited: we must urgently adopt a different and more responsible way of operating as companies and acting as individuals in society. This necessary awareness should be a sufficient stimulus for implementing more conscious practices in our private lives and, more importantly, managing food industry businesses – and beyond. Visit Dr. Schär’s YouTube channel for more information.

Stefania Cosimi

After graduating with honours in International and Diplomatic Sciences at the Alma Mater Studiorum of Bologna, Stefania attended a master’s degree in Diplomatic Studies at the SIOI Institute in Rome. She was then employed in marketing with roles ranging from product to category management to communications. Since 2020, she has been Head of Global Public Affairs and Communication at Dr. Schär, a food company operating in gluten-free and special nutrition with 18 locations in 12 countries, where she is primarily responsible for PR strategy, crisis communication management and CSR.

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