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11/23/2020

Rethinking packaging – How light can a bottle be?

Our new NIVEA Naturally Good Body Lotion comes with a revolutionary packaging. It needs 50% less plastic than our other body lotion bottles. How can this be? We spoke to Cristin Wirth and Britta Mager, our packaging experts at Beiersdorf, who were part of the international and cross-functional project team, to find out more.

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Britta Mager, Packaging Brand Expert

What is the packaging innovation behind the new NIVEA Naturally Good Body Lotion?

Britta: We reduced the amount of plastic we use to an absolute maximum. The packaging of the new NIVEA Naturally Good Body Lotion is made from 50 percent less plastic than our current body lotion packaging. This is an incredible plastic saving and as you can imagine, this makes the product a lot more sustainable. Due to the high amount of plastic that we eliminated the packaging is now much thinner and more flexible. This brings about the additional benefit that the use of the product has been improved in terms of convenience: you can squeeze the bottle and roll it up – this way you get the last portions of body lotion out much easier than before. To realize these huge material savings and yet keep the packaging stable enough for transportation, is the packaging innovation we talk about.  

50% material reduction, that sounds big – how did you manage?

Cristin: In the case of NIVEA Naturally Good Body Lotion, we focused on "reducing" by minimizing the thickness of the bottle wall and developing a smaller and lighter cap. We have taken up the challenge of reducing the amount of plastic required for packaging as much as possible, while ensuring the stability of the bottle, the safe protection of the formula from external influences, such as UV-rays and the ease of use for our consumers. We had to do quite a few line trials, transportation tests, labelling tests and so on to make sure this very thin bottle is stable enough. The team on site at our production plant really did a great job in this context! Also, once you roll up the bottle, of course the label shouldn’t come off, so also here, we had to find the right material – which is flexible enough for the roll-up and at the same time allows for recyclability. By reducing the amount of material used, we realized enormous CO2 savings.

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How does the roll-up and squeeze function work?

Britta: In the beginning, the bottle is used normally, just like any other NIVEA body lotion. If necessary, the bottle can be turned upside down so that the lotion runs to the opening, same as usual. The “easy to roll-up” bottle then comes into play when you approach the last portions of lotion left in the bottle. There is a notch at the bottom of the bottle, if you press it together, the bottom becomes completely flat. Now, you can roll it up from bottom to top tightly. Then, the product can be squeezed out easily for a convenient rest emptying.  As a result, the packaging is not only more sustainable due to the reduced amount of plastic, but also less of our product formula is wasted.

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What do you define as a sustainable packaging?

Cristin: Well, at Beiersdorf, we think around the “4R’s” when it comes to improving our packaging and making them more sustainable. This relates to “Reduce, Recycle, Reuse and Replace”. In this case, we have focused on “reduce” and as you can see, achieved a great result with a 50% reduction in plastic. Other achievements in the context of sustainable packaging are for example the refill machine, which our colleagues are currently testing in selected dm drugstores in Germany – delivering progress in the area of “reuse”.

The switch to recycled plastic material that comes from post-consumer-waste sources for our plastic bottles is also an important area of work. With our “recycle” efforts we avoid the usage of new fossil-based plastic and drive a circular approach: Circular means we use material that is already in the consumption loop. A nice example are the NIVEA Shower and Shampoo bottles, they are just now being put onto the retail shelves in Germany.

Last, but not least, as sustainable packaging is of course also a packaging where plastic can be eliminated and replaced by an alternative material that is more environmentally friendly. A good example of this are the recently launched NIVEA shampoo bars, which come to market in a paper-based packaging.

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You speak about post-consumer-waste. Do you have any tips for proper recycling?

Britta: The new bottle of NIVEA Naturally Good Body Lotion is recyclable. So, depending on your local recycling infrastructure, you can contribute it after use to the recycling stream. What you can do in addition is to separate the bottle from the cap – we have developed an easy to screw cap to support this – this is a general tip, applicable to all kinds of packaging.   It allows sorting lines to identify each piece of plastic separately and in the case that different kinds of plastic have been used for the different parts of the packaging, recycling is easier and more effective, because the waste-streams can be properly separated. In the case of the NIVEA Naturally Good Body Lotion it is not necessary to remove the label from the bottle, as it is made of the same material as the bottle itself – to make it easy for consumers and our recycling infrastructures.

Is there anything else to tell?

Cristin and Britta: We would like to take this opportunity to thank the entire project team once again for their contributions to this great achievement. Only the excellent teamwork with all the different functions made it possible to realize this innovative project so successfully.  

Thank you Cristin and Britta for your insights into this amazing project.

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Katrin Selzer

About the editor: Katrin Selzer

Katrin has been working at Beiersdorf since 2003. After various positions in marketing, strategy, digital and PR, she is since September 2018 Senior Communication Manager and responsible for the topic of sustainability. For Katrin, sustainability has a high personal relevance, since it changes the world for the better – and she contributes by communicating about it. Her communication is very passionate and she tries to also push the topic forward. In her private life, she is constantly seeking new ways and means to live a more sustainable lifestyle and inspire others with it.