That may we’ll be true, but this bubble might be about to pop.
Pringles hit the headlines last week following an exposé by The UK Recycling Association stating that this popular pack is the worst example of packaging making it virtually impossible to recycle. The issue concerns the use of multiple materials, which end up in landfill.
His Royal Highness Prince of Wales is passionate about such issues and has joined forces with yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur to launch a multimillion-pound competition to encourage the reduction of plastics in the world’s oceans. This initiative might just be the encouragement needed to kickstart engineers, designers and companies into action to find better packaging solutions for products like Pringles.
Pringles is an American brand of potato and wheat-based stackable snack owned by Kellogg’s . Over £5 billion of Pringles are sold in more than 140 countries with 2% global snack market share. The snack was originally developed by P&G, who launched the product in 1967 and then sold the brand to Kellogg’s in 2012 for £2 billion.
P&G first developed the product in 1966, but it was the chemist Fredric J. Baur who came up with the idea for the iconic tall cylinder. Baur was even buried in one of his tubes in May 2008 after making this request clear to his somewhat bemused family!
Because potato crisps and similar products are subject to taxes in the UK, P&G argued in court that Pringles were a “savoury snack” because of the other non-potato ingredients. In 2009 the Duties Tribunal ruled that, other ingredients notwithstanding, Pringles are “made from potato flour and one cannot say that it is not made from potato flour, and the proportion of potato flour is significant being over 40 percent.” After a series of reversals, the ruling was upheld and P&G had to pay HMRC £123 million in duties.
Why are Pringles so popular?
Accordingly to my son they’re totally addictive. The eye-catching, friendly looking graphics of Julius Pringle – the colourful moustached character – seem to help. They’re also a retailer’s dream product because they distribute, store and display easily. In the early days P&G actually struggled to generate interest, but by any measure they’ve become a much loved snack.
Once called “Pringles Newfangled Potato Chips”. According to adverts in the 1970’s what made the snacks so special was…. “Everything! They come crackling fresh, unbroken and stay that way – even after they’re open! They fit in cupboards—without squashing!”.
Does it matter the Pringles tubes don’t recycle?
No, if you’re looking for a tube to contain your ashes or perform another useful function. Some people pack their clothes in them when travelling which is a pretty novel idea. Others collect them and store pencils and other objects. They’re also a favourite for art and craft projects.
However, in these frugal times making a pack in such a complex way from a wide array of materials does not make economic or environmental sense. Given the scale of how many tubes are rolling off the production line every second, Kellogg’s might have to have a rethink and find a more sustainable design.
I think this is a good example of why food brands should not become complacent and try where possible to think about the future and what consumers actually want and need. Packaging and product must be one and if retaining brand equity is important to you, getting this right is vital.
Ian Bates CEO REELbrands