Annie’s Homegrown, Blue Apron, WestRock & Revolution Plastics Win 2019 SPC Innovator Awards

April 16, 2019

Annual awards celebrate the teams and technology behind the biggest achievements in packaging sustainability throughout the year.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA — The Sustainable Packaging Coalition® has announced the winners of the annual SPC Innovator Awards. The awards recognize meaningful contributions and advancements toward more sustainable packaging in the following categories: Innovation in Responsible Sourcing, Innovation in Design Optimization, Innovation in Recovery, and Outstanding Person or Team. A panel of judges, made up of SPC staff members and outside industry experts, chose winners that demonstrate the creative and significant work that our industry does to advance sustainability in packaging.  

The winners were awarded on stage at the SPC Impact conference on April 4th in Seattle, Wa.

“The winners of the 2019 SPC Innovator Awards exemplify the types of advancements we believe will truly make a difference in achieving more sustainable packaging,” said Adam Gendell, Associate Director of the SPC. “We would like to congratulate each winner, all the finalists, and everyone who participated in the SPC Innovator Awards. Clearly, important advancements are being made on multiple fronts and we were delighted by the impressive caliber of all the submissions.”

Innovation in Responsible Sourcing winner:

Annie’s Homegrown

Annie’s Friends Cereal: 35% Post-Consumer Recycled Content HDPE Cereal Liner & Education Graphic

Annie’s Homegrown and supply chain partners Charter NEX and Envision Plastics worked together to develop a new cereal liner that uses at least 35% postconsumer recycled HDPE and is suitable for direct food contact. The Annie’s Friends cereal box includes special consumer-facing messaging around the use of recycled content.

Why it’s important:

Any company who successfully navigates the challenges surrounding the use of postconsumer recycled content in film applications deserves credit, and this is no exception. What makes this extraordinary, however, is the prominent marketing message, which broadens consumer engagement in recycling by reminding them that the use of recycled content is enabled by their participation in recycling. Although postconsumer recycled content is widely used in plastic packaging, proud marketing claims are far too rare, and Annie’s deserves credit for giving it the spotlight!

SPC Impact 2019 Innovator Awards. Innovation in Responsible Sourcing, Annie’s Friends Cereal. From left to right: Adam Gendell (SPC), Patrick Keenan (General Mills), Tim Reppe (General Mills), Tamsin Etefagh (General Mills), Scott Hammer (Charter NEX Films), James Rosenberger (Charter NEX Films) accepting the award.

“Annie’s is so proud to receive this award.  Bernie, our bunny brand ambassador communicates the benefits of all our delicious foods but it’s great when we can use him to educate our consumers on the benefits of recycling to create our innovative packaging containing recycled content.” – Annie’s Team.

Innovation in Design Optimization winner:

Blue Apron

Blue Apron used innovative design thinking to reconfigure its packaging system and enable gel packs to be placed on top of the meal kit ingredients, allowing a 20% reduction in the amount of gel packs used. A redesign of the outer corrugated shipper resulted in a similar reduction of 20%.

Why it’s important:

Meal kit packaging tends to require significant amounts of insulation, refrigerant gel packs, and corrugate in order to safely deliver ingredients. By going beyond conventional design optimization practices of downgauging and material substitution and using design thinking, Blue Apron was able to target two of the packaging system’s “hot spots” and make significant improvements. Blue Apron also deserves bonus points for using new drain safe refrigerant in gel packs, recycled PET in trays and lids, and recyclable polyethylene films!

“We are very honored to receive the Innovation in Design Optimization award from SPC,” said Gaurav Kale, Head of Engineering, Packaging at Blue Apron. “We are thankful to the judging panel and SPC for recognizing our work. We took guidance from the SPC team in 2015 to understand our packaging baseline and have continuously optimized our packaging through innovations in design. The life cycle metric driven work has enabled us to work on the high-impact areas. We are also excited to be a part of How2Recycle® and be the first meal kit company to join the program.

SPC Impact 2019 Innovator Awards. Innovation in Design Optimization, Blue Apron. Gaurav Kale accepting the award.

Innovation in Recovery winner:


Advancements in Foodservice Packaging Recycling

WestRock has undertaken a number of significant initiatives aimed at achieving wholesale change in the relationship between foodservice paper packaging and the recycling system. On the packaging design front, WestRock has developed and commercialized bleached and natural kraft substrates with novel coatings featuring improved repulpability, and they have also developed a new cup stock that was recognized as a winner in the NextGen Cup Challenge. On the recycling front, WestRock has conducted a comprehensive mill trial to demonstrate the compatibility of coated paper foodservice packaging with paper recycling, and they have begun accepting paper foodservice packaging in eight of their recycled paperboard mills and two of their owned material recovery facilities.

Why it’s important:

WestRock is in a unique position of serving as a major supplier of paper foodservice packaging and a major recycler of used paper packaging, and they are leveraging both their scale and role. Advancements in packaging design don’t always equate to increases in recycling, and changes in recycling program acceptance don’t always spur packaging design improvements, so WestRock has attacked the challenges surrounding paper foodservice packaging from upstream and downstream angles, truly “walking the walk” by changing their own recycling systems to demonstrate compatibility with the products they manufacture.


“A large portion of paper-based foodservice packages are discarded in the U.S. each year, as historically, this packaging has not been widely accepted in recycling programs,” said Patrick Lindner, president of WestRock’s Consumer Packaging business. “WestRock’s acceptance of foodservice packaging at its mills as well as our research and development work on new, more recyclable and compostable packaging designs exemplifies our commitment to finding ways to make packaging more sustainable.”

SPC Impact 2019 Innovator Awards. Advancements in Foodservice Packaging Recycling, WestRock. From top left:  Dan Dickerson, Chris Davidson, Mike Mueller. From bottom left: Carey Yang, Maddie Parrish. 

Outstanding Person or Team winner:

Revolution Plastics

Delta Plastics + Command Packaging + Encore Packaging

Revolution is a new company formed by Delta Plastics, Encore Recycling, and Command Packaging, bringing together expertise in agricultural film recycling with expertise in plastic film, bag, and irrigation tubing manufacturing.

Why it’s important:

This combination of recycling and manufacturing capabilities puts Revolution in a unique position of being able to tie together both ends of plastic life cycles and make meaningful strides in achieving circularity. Plastic film recycling and manufacturing new films with recycled content are both critical in the current landscape of plastics and recycling, and Revolution is well poised to play an important role.

“Our company’s mission is to Believe in Better Plastics by continually looking at ways we can close the loop in all we do through our innovative manufacturing, collections and recycling process,” said Sean Whiteley & Cherish Changala, Revolution team.  “We appreciate and thank the Sustainable Packaging Coalition for recognizing us with this award as Command Packaging and Encore Recycling became part of our team and efforts to help solve the issue of agricultural plastic going into landfills.”

SPC Impact 2019 Innovator Awards. Outstanding Person or Team, Revolution Plastics.