Unilever trials paper for Pot Noodle

Pot Noodle: paper pot has taken years to develop
Pot Noodle: paper pot has taken years to develop

Unilever has teamed up with Tesco to trial a new paper pot for its hugely popular Pot Noodle brand.

The noodle range currently uses plastic pots, with the lid and pot described as “widely recyclable”.

Unilever said its packaging and manufacturing teams had spent more than three years working to develop and refine a suitable paper-based alternative, and described the move as “the biggest innovation to the brand’s iconic pot since it first launched 40 years ago”.

The pot needs to withstand boiling or very hot water for the time required for noodle steeping and then eating.

The initial trial involves 500,000 pots of the most popular Pot Noodle flavour, chicken and mushroom.

According to research by Nielsen Pot Noodle is the UK’s biggest ‘instant hot snack’ brand, with millions of pots sold each year. Statista also cites research that puts Pot Noodle in the top spot in its category, with more than 6m consumers.

The paper pot being trialled is 90% paper and FSC-certified. It has “a single layer of ultra-thin plastic film” to provide barrier protection.

Unilever said this did not impact the recyclability of the pot. The soft plastic of the flavour sachet is recyclable in-store at some retailers.

Andre Burger, general manager for foods (nutrition) at Unilever UK & Ireland, commented: “From material development and testing through to new manufacturing processes and capabilities, big packaging innovations require the investment of time and expertise across many teams and partners.

“There have been plenty of challenges along the way, but we are committed to reducing the plastic in our packaging and to a paper-based future for our pots, without compromising on the Pot Noodle experience our shoppers know and love. We are now excited to learn from this initial trial with the ambition of bringing our paper pots to more shoppers across the UK soon.”

Unilever has introduced new capabilities at the Pot Noodle factory in Crumlin, South Wales, to manage the switch from plastic to paper for the trial.

Based on the subsequent results from shopper feedback and insights the intention is to scale-up the use of paper pots in the future.

Unilever ice cream brand Carte D’Or has already switched its entire range from plastic packs to recyclable paper tubs in the UK, a saving of 900 tonnes of plastic per annum.

The group’s Unilever Compass sustainability project includes a number of packaging-related goals, including switching to 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable plastic packaging by 2025, and collecting and processing more plastic than the group sells, also by 2025.

In 2022 the firm helped to collect and process around 58% of its global plastic packaging footprint.