With the national launch of Swiss Chalet’s sustainable packaging, we wanted to share more behind this initiative and how the products came to life. Giving us a behind the scenes look and answering all of our questions are Nasim Soltanpour, Director of Marketing, Swiss Chalet and Jenny Chen, Strategic Sourcing Manager. Read on for Q & A with both Nasim and Jenny and learn more, better yet, order your Chalet Faves and check out the packaging for yourself!
As the cost of climate change reaches irreversible highs, business as usual is not good enough. Now is the time for action. There is no corner of the globe that is exempt from the consequences of climate change and as Canada’s largest full-service restaurant company, we want to use our scale for good. We have made a plan to grow and operate our business sustainably and have outlined our goals in Recipe’s 2020 CSR report. One of these steps is to implement sustainable packaging across our brands. We have achieved this goal at Swiss Chalet, and are excited to share this success story as it drives us to continue making sustainable changes.
We’re committed that by the end of 2022, 100% of our guest packaging will come from renewable, recyclable and recycled sources and that 100% of our paper-based packaging containers will come from certified sources committed to the conservation of forests. Transitioning Swiss Chalet packaging from plastic to paper-based packaging is one major step in the right direction as we work to achieve our sustainability goals.
The journey to sustainable packaging began even before Covid because as a company, we are committed to doing the right thing for our people, communities and planet. This specific initiative at Swiss Chalet began in 2018. Covid only amplified the need for a more sustainable solution, with restaurants using more packaging than ever before by shifting primarily to take out and delivery services. Despite delays caused by the pandemic and the heightened pressures on takeout packaging, we remained committed to our sustainability journey and launched new paper packaging nationally to Swiss Chalet locations in October 2021.
The cartons are made from 100% recycled paperboard and are printed with aqueous-based ink as opposed to traditional oil-based.
All fibers used in the new packaging come from SFI-certified sustainable sources that are committed to the conservation of forests. The packaging is produced domestically in Canada in a GFSI certified food safe facility.
At the end of its life, all the packaging materials can be recycled by guests and are accepted in municipal recycling programs. Additionally, the use of trays and greaseproof paperboard ensures that contamination of packaging is minimized, protecting recyclability. However, if the packaging does become fully soiled, it can be composted.
By transitioning from plastic to fiber-based packaging, Swiss Chalet will effectively be removing over 31 million units of plastic packaging a year from the system. This is a monumental change that required a tremendous amount of collaboration since the start of this initiative.
Swiss Chalet’s desire to have a holistic approach in design was achieved in collaboration with the packaging product company, WestRock. Representatives from WestRock’s Sales, Marketing, Design and Fiber Sustainability departments worked closely with Swiss Chalet’s Executive Chef, Operations, Marketing, and Sourcing teams. The design phase included multiple rounds of style enhancements, testing and alterations before landing on the final products for national launch.
Kitchen and operational in-restaurant tests were also conducted during the design process to ensure that the packaging was functional in action and performed as it should.
There are several purposeful design elements in the new paper packaging that enhances the user experience for both Swiss Chalet Associates and Guests.
Swiss Chalet used to use plastic containers with clear plastic lids, which could be seen through to check for order accuracy. When designing the paper packaging, we still wanted to ensure accurate orders, but did not want to introduce mixed materials into the recycling stream. Instead, we designed menu checklists that are printed on the top of the carton to act as a visual reminder for associates, helping to minimize the chance of an error in a guest’s order.
In addition, the new packaging also includes small vents to allow for moisture to escape, keeping food crisp.
There are also new tamper-evident locking mechanisms that make it harder to reopen without compromising the seal once closed.
We’ve heard very positive Guest sentiment around not only the look of the new packaging, but also the sustainability and functionality of it. We've had a number of Guest social posts and commentary that support this.
“Congratulations on your new cardboard packaging for take-out Swiss Chalet orders! They are so much more environmentally friendly than the plastic ones. Hope other restaurants follow your example.”
The new packaging is also getting recognition globally and has been nominated as a finalist in the Sustainability category for the PAC Global Awards!
1. Guests love the sustainable initiative, however they are not willing to compromise on food experience. With that in mind, we will continue to find ways to be more environmentally friendly in our packaging while ensuring the guest experience is consistent - like making sure meals stay hot!
2. Ensure that our Associates are reminded to follow packing protocols while testing more ways to arrange/compartmentalize the food in the package.
3. We will want to continue exploring options for future evolution that will not only be Guest friendly, but also more Associate friendly.
4. The supply chain issues caused by Covid are also affecting the availability of paper products, so we are continuously looking for ways to mitigate this.
5. Lastly, it is important to recognize that we are on a journey to reduce our environmental footprint and that there will always be ways to further optimize paper packaging. One important lesson learned is that sometimes you just need to take the first step.
• Eliminate or reduce single-use items (SUI), especially plastic, wherever possible
• Replace plastic packaging with more sustainable options wherever possible
• Increase the recyclability of packaging and SUIs to divert packaging from landfill
• Increase recycled content in our packaging to support the circular economy by creating demand for recycled materials
• Seek out packaging products made from materials that we know can be diverted from landfill because the necessary recycling or processing facilities currently exist across Canada
• Work with vendors to improve the quality and affordability of more sustainable packaging products
• Ensure packaging specifications continue to align with evolving municipal, provincial and federal bylaws and legislation
• Advocate across all levels of government for more harmonized approaches to legislation on SUIs