Pot Noodle, the UK’s biggest instant hot snack brand, is trialling a new recyclable paper pot, made with FSC-certified paper. This is the most significant innovation to the brand’s iconic pot since it launched almost half a century ago.
The new paper pot has launched exclusively in retailer Tesco, with an initial stock of 500,000 of the brand’s most popular flavour, Chicken & Mushroom.
The trial will be used to gain shopper feedback and, if it’s successful, the aim is to switch the full Pot Noodle range to paper pots – a move which, once complete, could remove 4,000 tonnes of virgin plastic each year. Insights from the trial will support the scale-up of the innovation at the Pot Noodle factory.
Innovating with alternative materials – like paper – will play an important role in delivering our commitment to halve our use of virgin plastic, alongside other innovations such as refillable bottles, increasing our use of recycled plastic, and moving to ultra-concentrated formulas which use smaller bottles.
Overcoming a tricky technical challenge
The innovation process to develop and refine the paper pot – which took over three years – was led by our R&D teams at Hive, Unilever’s Global Foods Innovation Centre in the Netherlands, working closely with packaging experts in the UK.
The challenge was to identify the most effective way to reduce the plastic used in each pot, while also ensuring the packaging still holds its distinctive shape and delivers the same quality eating experience that fans of the brand – affectionately known as Noodlers – have come to love.
We’re always challenging ways to make our products and packaging better.Andre Burger, General Manager Foods (Nutrition), UK & Ireland
As Andre Burger, General Manager Foods (Nutrition) at Unilever UK & Ireland, says: “Pot Noodle has been a much-loved British brand for over 40 years, and while our great taste will never change, we’re always challenging ways to make our products and packaging better.
“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.”
The new pots can be recycled at home with other cardboard and paper and include on-pack recycling labels to provide clear guidance to UK shoppers on how to dispose of the packaging. A single layer of ultra-thin plastic film is used to provide barrier protection, which ensures ingredients remain fresh and protects the paper when water is added but doesn’t inhibit the recyclability of the pot.
This new pack marks the latest step in Pot Noodle’s strategy of driving innovation within the category, whether that’s flavours or formats. And it’s a strategy that’s proved successful. The brand has delivered consistent double-digit growth over the last three years.
Stirring it up
It’s not just our pots we’re investing in. Pot Noodle has continued its Stir It Up campaign, which supports young people entering the job market by offering alternative internships that align with their career passions.
Since its launch in 2018, the campaign has helped 450 people find internships, supported over 370 to come off benefits and secured permanent positions for more than 110 others. Already this year, it has received over 10,000 applications from people across the UK, attracting other big businesses – like Ubisoft, the Premier League, Channel 4 and Sony – to also place candidates.