NatureWorks, the world’s leading manufacturer of low-carbon Ingeo™️ PLA biopolymers, and IMA Coffee, global market leader in coffee handling, processing, and packaging, today announced that they have entered into a joint strategic partnership aimed at accelerating the market for high performing K-Cup compatible compostable single-serve coffee pods in North America. The multi-year partnership brings together NatureWorks’ decades of expertise with compostable materials, formulations, and processing technology with IMA’s industry-leading competencies and application-specific know-how encompassing all stages of coffee handling, processing, and packaging.
The pressure on the single serve coffee market to make more meaningful progress towards a more sustainable packaging solution has grown significantly in recent years. Consumers appreciate single-serve capsules for the convenient and quality brewing experience but see the packaging waste associated with a capsule as a detriment. Compostable capsules create the opportunity to not only address consumer concerns and divert the packaging away from landfills, but, perhaps more importantly, to recover the used coffee grounds, enabling their processing at a compost facility where they deliver valuable nutrients to the final compost.
Coffee capsules are complex structures where the capsule body, lidding, and filter must be precisely designed to deliver a consistently high-quality brewing experience. Before the capsules even reach consumers, it’s critical that these components perform well during assembly and filling as well as on the shelf and during brewing. By bringing together NatureWorks’ materials and applications knowledge with IMA’s machinery expertise, the partnership aims to deliver a turn-key compostable coffee pod solution to the entire coffee industry making it simple to have a great cup of coffee and dispose of the used pod in the most sustainable way possible.
“At NatureWorks, we’ve seen tremendous interest in compostable single-serve pods,” says Flavio Di Marcotullio, Global Industry Manager for NatureWorks. “Brandowners and roasters are responding to both consumer demands for more sustainable packaging and to circular economy directives that specify compostable packaging as a key enabler of recovering food waste for compost. To continue supporting this growth, we saw the opportunity to partner with IMA as they have long helped the single-serve coffee market implement innovative new packaging technologies and have a long-term commitment towards sustainable solutions.”
With this in mind, to give greater impetus to the topic and direct the production chain towards increasing environmental sustainability, in 2019 IMA launched IMA NoP – No Plastic Program. “NOP (No-Plastic Program) means we promote eco-friendly plastic substitutes for the packages manufactured on IMA machines. Through the research and testing of alternative processes and materials, together with our partners, we foster plastic-free and sustainable, compostable packaging solutions. IMA has also established the Open Lab where Material Technologists study, develop, and test compostable and recyclable materials to be used on our packaging equipment,” says Nicola Panzani, IMA Coffee Sales Manager and IMA Coffee Petroncini CEO.
IMA’s Open Lab is a network of technological laboratories and testing areas dedicated to the research on sustainable materials, technologies, and production optimization processes. “Thanks to the implementation of the most modern digital infrastructures,” continues Panzani, “together with think tank spaces, environments dedicated to new generation of ideas and the prototyping of materials, we aim to build a connection between knowledge and skills coming from machines, packaging manufacturers and customers.”