Tesco is trialling a new ‘pillow pack’ to replace the tray packaging for two of its fresh beef mince products, a move said to result in a 70% reduction in plastic.

Applying to Tesco’s 500g Beef Lean Steak Mince 5% fat and 500g Beef Mince 20% fat products, the packaging will roll out across more stores and lines if it garners a positive response from consumers. Its slightly inflated ‘pillow’ design is thought to keep the mince in ‘perfect’ condition without compressing it.

This design is smaller than the previous tray solution, thus requiring fewer lorries to transport them and optimising space on supermarket shelves to increase availability. At the same time, it contains the same amount of mince as the previous packaging.

Tesco also reports that the pack is recyclable with other soft plastic at front-of-store recycling units. This coincides with the retailer’s 4Rs packaging strategy in which plastic is removed where possible, otherwise it is reduced or recycled; the initiative has apparently removed around 2.2 billion pieces of plastic from Tesco’s UK business so far.

“As well as looking for great value when they shop, customers want to see less plastic packaging in their trolleys,” explained Dom Morrey, commercial director for Fresh at Tesco. “Pillow packs are a win-win: they keep the mince in perfect condition while requiring much less plastic.

“Removing or reducing unnecessary plastic is an important way that Tesco can reduce its environmental impact. We’re proud of what we have done so far but continue to look for ways to do more.”

In an opposing solution, Sainsbury’s replaced its own beef mince trays with vacuum packs back in February. Lidl recently implemented a similar transition, with both retailers seeking to preserve the amount of meat in the pack while reducing unnecessary plastic packaging.

However, some shoppers at Sainsbury’s described the new packaging as ‘awful’ – stating that it is harder to recycle and negatively impacts the texture of the meat.

In other news, Klöckner Pentaplast and Dow have developed a multilayered vacuum film for such fresh food applications as fresh meat and poultry. It is certified 100% recyclable as PE by cyclos-HTP and Interseroh.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy:

McDonald’s Director of Sustainability in Europe on the company’s approach to packaging sustainability

McKinsey on whether or not on-pack sustainability claims affect consumer spending

Perspectives from industry-leading experts on the EU’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive revisions

A deep dive into the most important packaging sustainability trends and solutions