Fazer Bakery Finland: developes bread bag out of oat hulls

Helsinki / FI. (fg) Sustainability, innovation and a culture of experimenting are at the core of the strategy of Finland’s Fazer Group, which celebrates its 130 anniversary this year. The company is constantly innovating future’s food solutions. Now, Fazer is taking bread-eaters one step closer to a more environmentally friendly daily life with a bread bag made partially from oat hulls, which are derived as a side stream of the oat milling process. This packaging innovation is unique also on a global level, and it has required years of work.

Fazer has noticed that modern consumers are increasingly concerned about the way products are packaged. In recent years, Finns have started to demand more ecological packaging.

«Packaging is a hot topic among Finns, particularly the recyclability of packages. Consumers see the overall image of the product in a whole new way, and packaging material is no longer irrelevant,» says Piia Soininen-Tengvall, Senior Manager, Packaging Development + Design at Fazer Bakery Finland.

Fazer has been developing the oat-hull bag together with companies, researchers and educational institutions operating in the industry for years. Of the material, 25 percent is oat hulls, and the package can be recycled as cardboard.

The project is part of Fazer’s sustainable packaging programme that consists of three areas: reducing the amount of used packaging material, improving the recyclability of packaging and developing entirely new types of ecological packaging solutions, of which this bread bag made of oat hulls is one example.

«Initially, the oat-hull bread bag felt almost impossible to produce. Using oat hulls as the raw material for food packaging is challenging because the product must remain fresh. The bag must be resistant to vapour in order to protect bread from going to waste. Finally, a suitable solution was found from eleven development versions. It was a real breakthrough when we received the test results from accredited laboratories declaring the oat-hull paper suitable for food contact,» Soininen-Tengvall says.

Fazer wants to use every single part of oat grains

The oat hulls used in the packaging innovation come from Fazer’s own oat mill in Lahti.

«This innovation is only the beginning for us. Oats can be used for so many purposes and in different ways. Currently, we are discussing how oat hulls could be used more widely in the production of paper and packaging. The oat crop is harvested annually, which means that oats present incredibly valuable opportunities. We don’t want to waste one husk of oats,» says Jarkko Arrajoki, Managing Director of Fazer Mills Finland.

Interest towards oats has increased significantly over the past 20 years. The growth in the demand of plant-based products, longer shelf lives and scientifically proven health effects have accelerated the use of oats even further. As a result, Fazer Mills has doubled its oats production in Finland and Sweden. Fazer’s xylitol factory currently under construction in Lahti, Finland, has already raised strong international interest. The xylitol, too, will be made of oat hulls.

«We are a unique oat expert and producer in Finland. We use all parts of the oat grain, and we have almost 200 oat products in our selection. The oat hulls created as a side stream of the production have previously been used in energy production or as animal feed. Also our latest innovation, the oat-hull bag, is circular economy at its best,» continues Arrajoki.