Nestlé’s Smarties becomes the first global confectionery brand to switch to recyclable paper packaging

In a major move, Nestlé announced that its popular Smarties brand is now using recyclable paper packaging for its confectionery products worldwide. This represents a transition of 90% of the Smarties range, as 10% was previously already packed in recyclable paper packaging. 

Smarties is the first global confectionery brand to switch to recyclable paper packaging, removing approximately 250 million plastic packs sold globally every year.

The company hosted an indepth presentation to global media detailing the planning behind the commitment, including the painstaking efforts made to retool factories and the difficulties of obtaining premium food-grade recyclables.

The company has pledged that no Nestlé packaging end up in landfill by 2025. Nestlé’s  Rob Cameron, Global Head of Affairs; Alexander von Maillot, Global Head of Confectionery at Nestlé; and Bruce Funnell, Head of Packaging at Nestlé NPTC Confectionery, spoke about spearheading the transformation.

Nestlé began introducing Smarties sharing block packed in recyclable paper in the UK last year.

On its journey to 100% recyclable or reusable packaging by 2025, Nestlé’s iconic Smarties brand recently became the first global confectionery brand to switch to recyclable paper packaging.

Alexander von Maillot commented: “Shifting Smarties packaging to recyclable paper is one of our key sustainable packaging initiatives in the confectionery category.

     “It is a further step in realizing Nestlé’s ambition to make all of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025 and to reduce its use of virgin plastics by one third in the same period.”

The new Smarties paper packaging is sourced sustainably and is made of a coated paper, paper labels or carton board. Information about how to properly dispose of Smarties paper packaging is also included on its labels to raise consumer awareness.

Travel Retail

In travel retail specifically Nestlé International Travel Retail (NITR) has led the way with Smarties’ sustainability ambitions, introducing a new version of its Travel Retail Exclusive Music Creator in May of last year. With a new carton box replacing single use-plastic packaging in 2021, the full Smarties range will change to recyclable paper packaging as follows:

Giant Tube: plastic lid replacement with cardboard closing and shape change to giant hexatube;

Toppers: Giant tube change to new giant hexatube (same weight) with paper sticker; 

Plastic bag/pouch: complete change to sturdy paper with protective qualities.

“We at NITR are extremely proud to be part of Nestlé’s global ambition to be a leader in sustainability,” says NITR general manager Stewart Dryburgh.

Factory upgrades

Nestlé invested significantly to upgrade its factories globally, including in Hamburg, Germany, one of the company’s largest factories for confectionery products.

Louise Barrett, Head of the Nestlé Confectionery Product Technology Centre in York, said: “Developing safe and convenient paper-based solutions for Smarties has required the pioneering of new materials and testing by Nestlé packaging experts at our R&D Center for confectionery in York, UK and the Swiss-based Institute of Packaging Sciences. We adapted our existing manufacturing lines to allow for the careful handling that is required for paper, while also ensuring recyclability across all new formats.”

Rob Cameron, speaking of Nestle’s journey towards a waste-free future, said that the company is moving quickly to meet its goals. To date, 87% of its packaging is either recyclable or reusable (65% for plastics); it had reduced its use of packaging materials by 142 metric tons by the end of 2019.

Nestlé is taking a five-pillar strategic approach to create this sustainable environment, he said- which he summarized as reduce, reuse & refill, use alternative materials, invest in infrastructure to support this goal, and work toward behavior change in its own operations, as well as with consumers, retail partners and suppliers.

Alexander von Maillot, speaking of Nestlé’s efforts with Smarties, explained the scope of the effort, since 276 million packs of the brand are sold globally every year. The change to paper packaging removes more than 150 million plastic packs, equaling over 400 million metric tons of plastic.

In addition to changing the packaging, he also described how Nestlé must communicate this change as part of its education efforts to change behaviors.

Bruce Funnell discussed specifically the myriad changes and millions of dollars of investment that went into retro-fitting the Hamburg factory that produces Smarties, underlining how much of a priority sustainable packaging is for Nestlé.

The transformation of the Smarties packaging is only one of the brands’ ‘SMART Initiatives’, which aim to support sustainability and enhance the overall product experience across the full product range.

To learn more about Nestle’s initiative with Smarties, go to