An agreement between Huhtamaki and McDonald’s UK & Ireland to supply 400 million paper straws sparked a huge £12m investment project for Huhtamaki in Northern Ireland.
Huhtamaki senior management saw the agreement as an ideal opportunity to tackle unemployment in an area of Northern Ireland which had experienced significant challenges in manufacturing employment in recent years and, as a result, many other McDonald’s markets and other QSR’s (Burger King, Subway, Starbucks etc) and foodservice operators have since opted to channel their demand through Huhtamaki Antrim.
What Huhtamaki did
The leadership team at Huhtamaki select and implement innovation projects in partnership with key stakeholders, and have developed a local strategy aimed at growing the business both within existing product categories and into new product categories.
Through discussions with customers, Huhtamaki generates a pipeline of NPD initiatives which are constantly reviewed in relation to potential investment. If the business case supports the company’s strategy on sustainability & innovation, promotes local employment and has customer buy-in then it has a higher rate of securing the necessary funding to execute the plan.
The paper straw project in Northern Ireland has led employees, key stakeholders, customers and consumers from some of the world’s largest food chains to positively influence public behaviour towards single use plastics and sustainability and to make a positive contribution to the local environment.
Huhtamaki uses its position in the local business community to share its story with other organisations and groups to influence their approach to a more sustainable lifestyle, to emphasis and to promote investment in sustainable business.
The business’ environmental policy highlights the need to engage suppliers to comply with stringent standards of quality, safety, hygiene, and environmental excellence. Huhtamaki actively audits suppliers to ensure these standards are being adhered to.
Impacts and Outcomes
- In 2020, Huhtamaki launched its 2030 sustainability ambition and related goals, considering the impact it has throughout the value chain in terms of the environment, social responsibility, and
- 100% market share on the island of Ireland and approximately 50% market share of GB McDonald’s volumes.
- Huhtamaki is in the top 100 manufacturers in NI list for 2020 and has created 100 skilled jobs in Antrim
- Removed 520 tonnes of plastic from UK & Ireland waste stream per annum and 450 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year from the atmosphere by sourcing plastic straw production for the UK and Ireland in Northern Ireland – previously based in France.
- The company has provided a means to allow customers to become eco-friendlier with their food packaging waste
- Helped to put Northern Ireland manufacturing on the map for other countries, governments, industries as an example for global benchmark innovation to promote sustainability
- Provides a great example to other organisations in Northern Ireland to be greener and that investing in environmentally led processes will open new opportunities with existing and potential customers
- Introduced a “new industry” into Northern Ireland manufacturing as paper straws have never been manufactured on any significant scale previously in the province, resists temptation for distributors, QSR’s and retail groups from importing straws from China, thus enabling a greener circular economy within Northern Ireland
- Huhtamaki’s sustainability agenda and our results are published in its CR report, available at www.huhtamaki.com
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The Judges said
The Judges agreed that sustainable food packing company Huhtamaki’s entry was the deserved winner in the Responsible Product/Service Award category.
Huhtamaki demonstrated a clear connection between its product – paper straws – and the positive business, social and environmental impacts that the business and product has brought to Northern Ireland and on a global scale, by helping to remove CO2 emissions from the atmosphere.
The company is not only responsible for a huge reduction in waste and single-use plastics, but has also brought much needed employment opportunities to the Antrim area.
Huhtamaki showcased how the manufacturing skills in Northern Ireland can be used to create a global benchmark for innovation centred around sustainability.
The Judges felt the entry was inspiring, showing how environment-led products can also make a profit, and they were excited about what the future holds for Huhtamaki.