Greencore pledges 100% sustainable packaging by 2025

Pre-packed sandwich giant signs up plastics pact in bid to reduce waste footprint

Greencore chief executive Patrick Coveney. The company acquired salad and chilled snack Freshtime for £56 million in September Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Greencore chief executive Patrick Coveney. The company acquired salad and chilled snack Freshtime for £56 million in September Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Convenience food giant Greencore has pledged to make 100 per cent of its packaging sustainable by 2025 in a bid to address its waste footprint. The move would reduce the Dublin-headquartered company’s reliance on virgin plastic by several hundred tonnes a year.

“The goal that we’re working towards is to have 100 per cent of all the plastics that we use either reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025,”chief executive Patrick Coveney said.

The UK’s largest sandwich maker recently signed up to the so-called Plastics Pact, which commits it to a number of sustainability goals, including having 70 per cent of its plastic coming from recycled plastic while eliminating “problematic or unnecessary” single use packaging.

“Over the last number of years, we’ve phased out almost all of the plastic skillets that we would have had in sandwiches in favour of a card-based solution,” Mr Coveney said.

“There’s reasonable momentum in terms of what we’re doing, but I wouldn’t say we’re where we need to be,” Mr Coveney said. Greencore is the latest big corporate to sign up to more stringent sustainability targets.

Mr Coveney was speaking after the company published full-year results showing revenue fell by 3.5 per cent to £1.45 billion in the year to the end of September.

The decline reflected the company’s decision to sell-off its US business last year, a move that Mr Coveney described as a “strategic reset” for the group. The company said revenue from its continuing businesses rose by 2.6 per cent during the 12-month period.

Food-to-go

Greencore’s “food-to-go” category, which accounts for two-thirds of turnover, grew by 3.3 per cent while other convenience categories rose by 1.2 per cent, it said. “Over the past 12 months, we have fundamentally reset our business, anchored by a clear strategy to drive shareholder value by expanding our category and channel capabilities within the diverse, growing and attractive UK food to go market,” Mr Coveney said.

“The evidence of this can be seen in the launch of multiple commercial and innovation projects with key customers, and in the recent acquisition of Freshtime,” he said. The company acquired salad and chilled snack Freshtime for £56 million in September.

Mr Coveney said he expected more acquisitions to follow, with the company growing through a combination of acquisitions and organic growth.

“We’ve obviously got less debt and less leverage than we’ve had in the past so we don’t expect to be capital-constrained to go after good opportunities,” he said. “The task is to make sure anything we look at is a good strategic fit.”

The company sold its US arm to rival Hearthside Foods last year, returning £509 million to investors in the process.

“As a result of this reset strategy, we anticipate another year of profitable growth in full-year 2020,” Mr Coveney said.

Greencore reported 6 per cent growth in adjusted earnings per share for the full financial year to 16 pence while proposing a dividend per share of 6.2 pence, up from from just over 5.5 pence last year.