When Minka arrived at our company six years ago, her focus was naturally on packaging, as it was a significant part of the product in terms of aesthetics and costs. Minka, along with our sourcing manager, began to take a better look at what opportunities there were to make our packaging more sustainable. She is working for our well known Finnish brand Kekkilä which is celebrating its 100-years anniversary in 2024!
How it started
They visited all of our plastic suppliers and started gathering information, challenging them to find more sustainable packaging methods. They also visited Fortum’s plastic waste processing plant where plastic packaging from Finnish households is recycled. Ultimately, they decided that the most sustainable approach was to maximize recycling and aim for 100% recyclability. They chose not to use bioplastics due to concerns about the responsibility of the bio-based raw materials, which mainly come from Brazil, and partly due to cost. They even explored the possibilities of biodegradable plastic, but decided against it as the shelf life of products is crucial.
Minka recalls when they first requested recycled raw materials from their biggest suppliers, and they were met with disbelief that it was impossible. They also requested that their plastic be made 100% recyclable. This issue was resolved more easily, resulting in the plastic being gray on the inside instead of black. This is because infrared readers are used in the processing of plastic waste to identify the quality of the plastic, which is not possible if the color is black. This was tested together with their supplier and Fortum, and finally, they had it: 100% recyclable plastic!
The next step was to get recycled plastic for their packaging films. They started testing by adding 10%, then a year later 20%, and after another year even more. Today, Minka can proudly say that the standard packaging film at Kekkilä is 50% recycled.
From 50% to 98% recycled plastic
There is even the special Sustainable+ product line where up to 98% recycled materials is achieved. The team has shown the courage to renew and be agile. This made them the first to transfer the entire packaging culture of garden products to the new packaging. Thanks to, of course, also our fantastic people at the Parkano factory, who have been working with Minka and the team in this project.
It is good to understand that packaging has many important functions. In retail business, your product’s package is your biggest advertising. It promotes the product and your brand. It’s the look, the feel, the practicality, everything that is printed on it, and the sustainability of it. We deliver several million consumer packages to our retailers in Finland alone, and the packaging is an important part of the product’s costs. It is also important for the production, because the quality of the packaging influences the smoothness and efficiency of production processes.
A good package must have everything:
- The best look and feel for brand and product promotion
- The best durability in terms of product shelf life and handling
- The best functionality in efficient production
- Be as sustainable as possible
- Be as low cost as possible
Other updates to the packaging
When she worked on making the packaging more sustainable, Minka simultaneously worked on a wider brand renewal project for the Kekkilä brand, with the team. It was possible to combine this with the optimization of the packaging. Changes were made to the size and thickness of the package keeping the “4R rule” in the EU waste regulation in mind;
For the bucket line, the team also found 100% recycled packaging materials, suitable for their organic line. The size of the bucket was optimized to be stacked onto a pallet, reducing the impact of transportation of the product.
We are proud to have experts such as Minka in our team, translating our Sustainability roadmap into practice.
Minka has been with the company for six years. As the Head of Portfolio at Kekkilä Garden, she has been responsible for the retail product range under the Kekkilä brand. She has been in the gardening business for 30 years now, and joined Kekkilä from the customer side, the largest garden retailer chain in the Nordics. There, she worked as a Nordic category manager for 5 years and before that, she was a sales and marketing manager for 10 years. Minka is a trained gardener and a passionate home gardener. She has a kitchen garden, a small greenhouse, a large ornamental garden, and many green plants at her home. She can be described as a heavy user of all kinds of gardening products. At Kekkilä, it has been a real pleasure for her to be able to combine work and hobby. For example, she is able to bring many of her own gardening experiences to our new products.