Innovative tea packaging for a plastic-free world

Innovative tea packaging for a plastic-free world


Contents of the article



Consumers are increasingly focused on making healthy food and beverage choices, with the aim of improving their well-being. Global data confirms the value of organic goods sold via all channels (including restaurants and hospitality establishments) in 2018 exceeded €3.5 billion, with 8% growth over 2017.[1]

The reasons behind this success are mainly due to the fact that organic goods respond to an issue consumer are particularly aware of: a desire for good health, as mentioned, without sacrificing the quality of the products bought or neglecting the environment.

Teas and herbs on the rise for health and functional benefits

People are no longer satisfied with English Breakfast or Chamomile: they are on the lookout for health and functional benefits in their teas and herbal infusions.

Tea consumption is growing, especially for diversified products such as high-quality herbal, fruit and flavour-infused teas to meet the needs of increasingly-demanding consumers.

According to FAO[2], the consumption and global production of tea is expected to grow in the next decade, spurred by robust demand in emerging and developing countries.

FAO reports that tea consumption has benefitted from increased awareness of its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and slimming properties.[3]

Global tea demand is boosted by new target consumers: young people are going crazy for Tea! Urban youth in large tea-producing countries as China and India have emerged as the fastest-growing target segment.

Next-generation consumers are willing to pay a premium for high-quality tea, and they are also curious to know more about the products they consume, e.g. their quality, sourcing and contribution to sustainable development. Middle class and mid-upper class youths seek out fashionable products to integrate with their lifestyles, including award-winning, high-quality tea, to be enjoyed in specialized tea shops and in restaurants, hotels and upper-range cafés.

Sustainable packaging as a driver for environmental care

The attention paid to healthy food goes hand in hand with respect for the environment, two closely-linked issues. Consumers are increasingly resolute in their choice of brands that adopt sustainable, transparent practices: this has an impact on product packaging also. In response, the packaging industry is evolving to meet the new needs of the market. Today, packaging goes beyond protecting and transporting an item; it must adapt to different distribution channels, enhance the consumption experience and be eco-friendly.

According to a Nielsen study[4], consumers around the world are progressively opting for brands committed to positive social and environmental change. The study revealed that 66% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable goods, while 51% of millennials carefully check packaging for messaging related to the sustainability of the product and its packaging.

For consumer goods manufacturers, packaging is a great way to connect with the consumer and strengthen brand equity. Even the use of recognizable logos and certifications, such as those specific to recycling, e.g. PEFC (the Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes) or EcoLabel, conveys these principles.

How to enjoy an eco-friendly cup

The high quality of tea, preferably organic and GMO-free, is combined with the need of producers to use primary packaging that, on the one hand, protect the flavour and wholesomeness of the product and, on the other hand, are respectful of the environment.

Consumers are engaged in a far-reaching debate on plastic in relation to the toxicity of materials, especially at high temperatures. But the plastic-free issue doesn’t cover just human health: it also has to do with the proliferation of plastic waste that is not recycled, ending up in our oceans. Remember, less than 30% of all plastic that enters the market is collected for recycling.

On top of plastic, some tea bags are closed with metal staples which are not environmentally friendly and could be harmful for consumers.

Such elements have led some governments, India first and foremost [via a Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) measure] to ban the sale of tea and herbal tea bags with metal staples starting 1 July 2019.[5] Beyond specific national regulations, the diffusion of risks in relation to metal staples has driven to a consumer preference for packaging and tea bags without them, with an eye towards all-encompassing food and environmental safety.

Conscious tea bag producers have studied alternative ways to traditional packaging for their teas, using new materials along with new packaging techniques – from nylon to natural fibres for heat-sealed bags to knotted tea bags with organically sourced cotton threads.

Among all the new materials which can be used for tea bags, PLA is worthy of special mention.[6] Technically, this polylactic acid is a polymer derived from plants, corn in particular, in addition to wheat and beets, rich in natural sugar (dextrose).

The conversion process of dextrose to lactic acid makes it possible to create resins similar to plastic, but with notable advantages in terms of sustainability and safeguarding human health. Made with renewable natural resources, PLA is thus a compostable material to be used for more sustainable packaging.

ACMA: ensuring a sustainable future in tea

ACMA’s approach to tea packaging can be summed up as innovation and efficiency, without forgetting tradition, thanks to a wide portfolio of solutions that satisfy a wide range of requirements.

Being close to today customers’ concerns, ACMA is able to handle plant-derived and organic materials for several bag styles, from single to double chamber ones.

ACMA solutions go beyond single tea bags to ensure customers with a wide range of secondary packaging alternative, from carton boxes to flexible multi-envelope. ACMA is able to perform carton closures which are temper-proofed and avoid the use of cellophane over the box.

ACMA solutions in the tea bag sector have been designed to use compostable, biodegradable materials for primary and secondary packaging in order to guarantee products with extremely low environmental impact.




[1]Analysis by the SANA Organic Survey conducted by Nomisma
[2] INTERGOVERNMENTAL GROUP ON TEA - TWENTY-THIRD SESSION - Hangzhou, the People’s Republic of China, 17-20 May 2018
[3] Ibid.
[4] Sustainable selections: How Socially Responsible Companies are Turning a Profit, Nielsen, 2015
[5]From "India Bans Staples in Tea Bags" -
[6] Poly(lactic acid), polylactic acid or polylactide (PLA)



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