Speaking to FoodNavigator-Asia, Tareq Ahmed Al Wahedi, Agthia Group CEO said these trends would be at the heart of the firm’s innovation strategy.
“Firstly, we want to reduce the amount of packaging that is currently used. One way of doing that is moving from single use packaging to multi use.”
Agthia produce both single and multi-use packaging for water, frozen food, dairy, and baked goods etc.
Wahedi said the company has been pushing consumers to choose multi-use.
“For instance, we have introduced five-gallon PET water bottle to encourage home users to use bigger bottles rather than single multiple bottles.
“This way, it uses less plastic for the same amount of water, and because it is bulky, it is easier to collect and recycle than the smaller pieces of single-use plastic.”
“Secondly, packaging should extend the shelf life of food to manage the amount of food that is being wasted today,” he added.
“There are many ways to do that, but we want to do it with minimal impact to the environment, using material that is biodegradable or recyclable, but also acting as a good barrier against oxygen and other compounds that can degrade food.
“Lastly, the packaging should be sustainable. Ultimately, we want to reach 100% recyclable packaging material.”
At Agthia, 99% of packaging is recyclable and 100% of secondary packaging across all its categories are biodegradable.
According to Wahedi, the company wants to go one step further, by using recycled materials in its packaging.
“Currently in UAE, regulations prevent us from using recycled materials in our packaged goods. But we are working with the government to change that.”
The company is aiming to achieve zero landfill waste by 2020 and made a commitment to use 10% of PET from recycled sources.
The new centre will innovate packaging solutions on Agthia’s different product lines and minimise the company’s carbon footprint.
Wahedi said: “As one of the leading F&B companies in the region, we feel a responsibility on us to lead.”
He also insisted the new packaging solutions needed to be tailored to the local market.
“For instance, the weather in UAE is unique. Our packaging gets exposed to higher temperatures compared to elsewhere in the world.
“That is why it is important for us to lead this innovation, and not just rely on importing the technology.”
What the future holds
He also mounted a defence of plastic, adding: “Today, there is huge backlash on plastic, but plastic was able to make life better.
“40 to 50 years ago, if you think about how food was transported from one country to another, or one continent to another, it was not possible at all until plastic was available.
“Plastic is not the problem, consumer habits are. We should make recycling habits part of our daily routine, just like brushing our teeth.”
On the other spectrum, he wants to tell the packaging industry, “It's not my fight, or your fight.”
“All of us share the responsibility of providing sustainable packaging. We need to collaborate and standardise our packaging, to make a positive impact.”
The company also recently announced its first half financial results in August, reporting 5.4% growth in revenue (AED 1.06 billion), compared to the same period last year.
The growth was attributed to Agthia’s strong market share in its beverage and water portfolio.
The company is planning to expand with new facilities and acquisitions into Iraq and Saudi Arabia markets.