Surprising Facts About Easter Packaging
Never look at your favourite chocolates the same way again...
59% of UK adults believe Easter Packaging is excessive. And with between 80 and 90 million Easter eggs eaten each year, this is a growing issue. In fact, more than 8,000 tonnes of packaging waste is generated each Easter. But brands are now reducing packs sizes, removing plastics, and switching to sustainable materials.
Yet as this is the first Easter without any (significant) Coronavirus restrictions since 2019, this year could see Brits indulging in record amounts of chocolate and other treats.
But with a potential increase in sales, the almost inevitable grievances regarding excessive Easter packaging are likely to rear their head. This is especially pertinent this year, in light of the new plastic packaging tax that launches just before Easter (on April 1st).
But do these perceptions still hold true? And how much excess packaging is actually produced to house Easter eggs from our favourite chocolate brands?
Well, this guide aims to highlight a number of both serious and fun Easter packaging facts. These cover:
- Easter spending and packaging facts
- Steps brands are taking to improve their packaging
- Recycling guides and advice
- Some of the more weird and wonderful Easter facts
- And much else besides
We hope you enjoy reading them!
Quick Reference / Contents
01: Easter Packaging Facts
Facts and figures regarding Easter packaging in the UK
Here is a collection of striking packaging facts related to Easter eggs and the packaging they generate.
It also looks at consumer spending in the UK over the Easter period, and how this translates into the amount of packaging used.
Consumer activity / spending at Easter
It is estimated that between 80 and 90 million chocolate eggs are eaten each year in Britain (depending on which source you believe).
76% of people in the UK associate Easter with chocolate eggs.
When also factoring in other gifts, leisure activities, and travelling to see friends and family, it is estimated that Brits will spend approximately £1 billion over the Easter period.
Of this, around £299 million is spent on Easter egg chocolate each year in the UK.
An average UK child will therefore receive 8.8 eggs each!
As such, Easter chocolate sales make up 10 per cent of Britain’s annual spending on chocolate. It is in fact the biggest chocolate-selling period of the year after Christmas.
Breaking this down further, consumers in the UK splashed out an average of £27.66 in 2020, down by 8% from £30.14 in 2019 (the decrease largely due to restrictions and uncertainty surrounding the COVID 19 pandemic).
This equates to the total spend in 2020 being estimated at £902 million (a sizeable decrease of £198 million compared with pre-Covid 2019).
Men will reportedly spend more on Easter related items than women—£29.83 vs £25.77, respectively.
However, more women overall will purchase eggs and other Easter themed items, with 65% of women in the UK making seasonal purchases, compared to just 59% of men.
But what about the packaging?
Predictably, a majority of UK consumers feel Easter eggs have too much packaging.
In fact, almost two thirds – 59% – of British adults said that they thought Easter eggs are over-packaged and believe brands should take steps to reduce packaging.
This sentiment is arguably even stronger across Europe, with 62% of European consumers indicating they would actually be willing to pay higher prices for food products that contain less plastic packaging.
The plastic and cardboard packaging typically accounts for over a quarter of total product weight in many of the UK’s best-selling chocolate eggs.
This can mean that on average, only 38% of an Easter egg box (by volume) is taken up by the chocolate itself.
The charity Oxfam has also reported that, on average, 200g of chocolate egg will typically come with 54 grams of card and 2 grams of foil.
This also means that, if it is assumed that all chocolate eggs consumed in the UK were supplied in carton board / corrugated packaging, they would use a mind blowing 9,391.8 sq. miles of board.
A Which? Survey, conducted in 2018, suggested that Cadbury’s Twirl Large Easter Egg had the least packaging of the major brands (accounting for 18.8 % of the total weight).
In contrast, the Thornton’s’ Classic Large Egg was the most over-packaged. The cardboard box and plastic accounted for more than a third (36.4%) of the product’s weight.
All of this results in more than 8,000 tonnes of waste being generated from Easter egg packaging
02: Packaging Improvements
Steps businesses are taking to reduce packaging
But what are large brands and retailers doing to address these challenges (and the negative perception that come with them)?
Well, despite the bad press many brands get, here are some figures on how they are trying to address the issue.
Well known chocolate brands
Thornton’s have reduced their Easter packaging by 22% between 2017 and 2018. This is the equivalent of 73 tonnes of packaging waste.
Nestle also reported in February (2018) that it had reduced its packaging by around 30%. This reduces packaging waste by around 700 tonnes – an equivalent weight to 100 double-decker buses.
Even as far back as 2012, Nestle became the first major confectioner to introduce 100% recyclable packaging across its entire range. They also took the step of replacing all plastics with FSC approved carboard and compostable film. This resulted in a 30% reduction in packaging – equivalent to 48 tonnes.
Nestle also removed plastic from 20 million Easter eggs to aid recycling.
And finally, Nestle also redesigned packaging to make it more compact. This in turn saved 48,000 road miles in transporting their Easter eggs in 2018.
Cadbury, one of the most popular chocolate brands in the UK (and the world), also removed more than 6.4 million plastic windows from its eggs (5.4 tonnes worth). They have also committed to using 100% sustainably sourced cardboard.
The makers of favourites including Dairy Milk, Bourneville, Crunchie and more, have also reduced the amount of plastic casing in small and medium sized Easter eggs. This saves around 202 tonnes of plastic – the same as approximately 4.8 million PET bottles.
Of the large retailers, Waitrose announced it would halve the amount of single-use plastic in its own-brand Easter eggs, with the majority also using recyclable materials.
Asda also indicated that it reduced 98% of the plastic used in its Extra Special Easter egg range (as much as 16 tonnes), and. changed the shape of its eggs to better fit the new cardboard packaging.
German discounter Aldi has also committed to remove all plastic packaging from its Easter egg range by switching to pulp trays. This eliminates 24 million pieces of non-recyclable plastic – equivalent to a staggering 900 tonnes.
Marks and Spencer, Mars and Sainsbury’s are also among the other companies that have made changes to their Easter Egg Packaging.
03: Easter Recycling Guides & Advice
How to ensure your Easter packaging is properly recycled
Despite the efforts of retailers – and growing demands for sustainability from consumers – it is still important to try and ascertain the scale of the waste generated at Easter.
This section provides a number of facts and figures, alongside some tips on recycling any packaging you purchase / receive.
Packaging waste generated at Easter
It is estimated that the (approximately) 80 million chocolate eggs sold in the UK at Easter, generate around 4,370 tonnes of card and 160 tonnes of foil waste.
Despite the packs being mainly recyclable however, the UK’s Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) estimates that the UK will discard around 3,000 tonnes of packaging each year (although this is based on sales in 2016).
This 3,000 tonnes of waste would take 400 large lorries to transport to landfill or (hopefully) recycling centres.
And if this 3,000 tonnes of waste were recycled, it would save 1,170,000kWh of energy. This is enough to boil 182,813 (hens) eggs!
In total, the UK produces approximately 11.5m tonnes of packaging waste every year (with a high percentage of this being food and drink packaging).
What this means however, is that Easter egg packaging actually contributes a very small percentage of the overall UK domestic (i.e. household) packaging at only 0.266%.
It should also be highlighted that, similarly to Christmas, anywhere between 10 million and 20 million greetings cards will be sent and received around Easter time (adding the mountain of waste / recycling).
How to recycle your easter egg packaging
Thankfully, almost all of the packaging from the eggs found in major retailers is now recyclable. The only packaging that can generally not be recycled is individual chocolate bar wrappers and plastic windows.
The foil wrapped around chocolate eggs is also commonly recycled.
It is advised that the best way to recycle Easter egg foil is to scrunch it up into a fist-sized ball, before placing it into your recycling bin / container. This ensures small bits of foil don’t get lost during the recycling process.
However, if the foil has chocolate on it, you are advised to rinse it off first. If it is still too dirty, then it is better placed in the waste bin (to avoid contaminating the load).
Of course, carton board / corrugated boxes for the outer packaging can be placed in your recycle box (being as it is the most widely recycled form of packaging in the UK). Collapsing them first can help to leave room in your bin for more recycling.
And finally, most plastic that is still typically found in Easter egg packaging is PET 1. This can be recycled by 99% of local authorities, being the same plastic that drinks bottles are manufactured from.
04: Chocolate / Easter Consumption Facts
Interesting and fun facts on UK chocolate consumption at Easter
Enough about the packaging. What about the important part – the chocolate!
Here are some facts regarding chocolate consumption in the UK throughout Easter and beyond.
Easter egg consumption in the UK
65% of people think of chocolate first when asked about Easter
This also means that Easter chocolate sales make up 10 per cent of Britain’s annual spending on chocolate.
This equates to 90 million chocolate eggs being eaten. Laid side by side, they would stretch from the UK to Sri Lanka!
The most popular chocolate egg globally is the Cadbury’s Creme Egg, which was originally launched in 1971.
The Cadburys factory at Bourneville which produces them, can make 1.5 million Creme Eggs every day. 500 million are made annually with around 305 exported for overseas markets.
Amazingly, if you piled all the Creme eggs manufactured each year on top of each other, they would be taller than Mt. Everest.
Children’s Easter eating habits
Children are estimated to eat an average of 8 chocolate eggs during the Easter period.
Usually, these will be eaten within 4 days!
Considering that a typical chocolate egg will have around 1,000 calories, that translates to 8,000 calories per child! Or, put another way, about the same as their total recommend calorie intake… for an entire week!
Surveys have indicated that parents spend roughly £25 per child at Easter. However, add in the £31 average spend from grandparents, friends and other family members, and each child will have roughly £56 spent on them.
27% of parents also admit to eating their children’s chocolate at Easter.
This figure rises to 80.5% in the USA (maybe they are just more honest)!
And finally, 76% of people will bite the ears off a chocolate bunny first
Chocolate eating throughout the rest of the year
The UK is joint 4th in the world league of chocolate eating (based on weight per capita) behind only Switzerland, Germany and Austria.
On average, this means that each person in Britain eats almost 9.5 kg of chocolate per year.
Fairtrade Chocolate sales accounts for around 12% of chocolate confectionary sales in the UK – equivalent to £542m each year.
The Ivory Coast in West Africa is the world’s largest producer of cocoa, supplying 43 per cent of the total.
The organisation “Make Chocolate Fair” believes there could be up to 2 million children working on cocoa plantations in both Ghana and Ivory Coast. Around a quarter of these are likely to be in exploitative conditions.
05: Weird & Wonderful Chocolate Facts!
Historical - and unusual - facts on Chocolate
We couldn’t have an article on Easter eggs and not include some of these interesting, historical and bizarre facts on one of the nations favourite treats!
Chocolate facts and figures
The first chocolate factory in Britain started production back in 1657.
The first solid chocolate bar was developed by JS Fry & Sons, going on sale in 1847.
The Cadbury Brothers produced their first bar of chocolate two years later in 1849.
However, milk chocolate as we know today was not available until after 1875 – with Swiss chocolatier Daniel Peter developing the recipe.
1875 was a good year for chocolate – it was also the year the first Cadbury eggs were made.
Around £299 million is spent on Easter egg chocolate each year in the UK – around 10% of the annual total.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Tosca (Italy) created the largest chocolate Easter egg ever. It weighed 7,200 kg and had a circumference of 19.6 m.
Thorntons made the world’s largest chocolate bar to celebrate their 100th birthday. It was around 6 tonnes in weight – the equivalent to 75,000 of their standard size bars.
The most expensive Easter egg on sale in 2016 was by Brighton Chocolatiers Choccywoccydodah. It cost £25,000!
And finally, consumers reported seeing Cadburys Creme eggs and Mini eggs in some supermarkets as early as 19th December.
06: Other Easter Facts
Other interesting and unusual facts and figures regarding Easter
Not content with detailing Chocolate and its packaging (although these are of course the two most important considerations!), this next section looks at a range of other unusual Easter facts, traditions, and statistics.
Little known Easter facts
Although it is widely viewed as a Christian tradition, there is evidence that the giving of eggs originated from medieval Europe (and were given as a symbol of fertility and rebirth).
Again delving back into history, the Easter bunny is believed to have originated in Germany during the Middle Ages. The first story of a rabbit (later named the “Easter Bunny”) hiding eggs in a garden was published in 1680, whilst Dutch settlers are believed to have taken the tradition the United States in the 1700s.
Another US tradition is “The White House Easter Egg Roll” event. This has been celebrated by the President of the United States and their families since 1878, after President Rutherford B. Hayes was approached by children who asked about a possible Easter egg roll. He loved the idea and it’s since become an annual White House event
Sticking with the US, Florida hosted the largest ever Easter egg hunt in 2007. A whopping 9,753 children participated, searching for 501,000 eggs.
Of course, you must remember that chocolate can be harmful to pets. It contains a chemical called ‘Theobromine’ which is toxic to dogs, cats and horses.
So, moving away from chocolate for just a moment, it is worth highlighting that around 20 million packs of hot cross buns are sold in the UK each year.
In fact, total sales of hot cross buns were suggested to be £153.1 million in 2019!
Besides eating copious amounts of chocolate and treats, many people will spend time with families and friends over the Easter holidays. However, in Germany, it is technically illegal to dance on Good Friday (out of respect for the religious holiday).
Even more unusually, in Norway it is traditional to read crime stories over Easter weekend! This unusual custom is believed to date back to 1923, when two authors promoted their new crime novel by taking out an advert on the front page of a popular Norwegian newspaper.
07: Excessive Easter Packaging
Backlash against environmentally unfriendly packaging and waste
So, taking into account the more serious of these facts, is the perception of Easter packaging really warranted?
Well, as detailed earlier, the growing consumer backlash against the perceived environmental impact of excessive Easter packaging on gifts – particularly chocolate eggs – has meant the largest brands have been modifying their approach.
Less materials overall, a reduced use of plastics and cellophane and smaller overall footprints have needed to be balanced against the potential impact the packaging must provide.
Brand standout and presentation are still seen as the key drivers for consumers when choosing an Easter egg – particularly as the majority are purchased as gifts.
The Forgotten aspects of Easter Packaging
Despite the media focus on the “product packaging” seen at Easter, there are other aspects of packaging throughout the supply chain that tend to be forgotten about.
Firstly, it is of critical importance that the products reach the retail outlets in pristine condition, so suitable transit packaging is required.
Interior fixtures and fitting which can give the outer packaging strength, shape and rigidity are also often overlooked, even though they are integral to the packaging.
Besides this, cardboard POS and FSDUs are also widely used at this time of year, helping brands to win impulse purchases and stand out from the crowd.
What about the Plastic Packaging Tax?
Immediately before Easter this year (on April 1st, 2022), HMRC are introducing a new plastic packaging tax. This will see all manufacturers or importers of plastic packaging become subject to a tax of £200 per tonne of plastic used – unless it contains at least 30% recycled content.
This could obviously have a significant impact on the packaging large confectioners choose to use, with many switching to fully paper based packaging to avoid the new tax.
The new tax has been introduced to not only encourage this (i.e. moving away from single use plastics where possible), but also to encourage investment in the infrastructure that will allow for increased recycling of plastic materials.
And whilst there are certain areas / industry where the added costs incurred by the tax would be passed on to consumers, the competitive nature of the chocolate market means that as far as Easter egg packaging is concerned, manufacturers will likely absorb the costs themselves.
08: Corrugated Easter Packaging
Sustainable and eco-friendly Easter Packaging materials
Whilst GWP Packaging can produce low or high-volume Easter egg packaging for large brands or niche manufacturers, our core expertise lies in the creation of corrugated transit solutions. In fact, a team of experienced designers have produced countless transit packs to transport delicate and perishable food products, ensuring the items reach the consumers exactly as promised.
GWP have also manufactured a wide range of free-standing display units (FSDUs) and Point of Sale (POS) units for use in competitive retail environments.
This has included “shelf ready” packaging that retailers can simply open and put on the shelf (reducing eliminating time spent unpacking and merchandising).
Brands GWP have worked with include Bendicks, Tesco, Russell & Atwell (who recently appeared on the BBC show Dragon’s Den) and a number of smaller independent food producers.
Why corrugated packaging is environmentally friendly
In spite of a number of common misconceptions, corrugated packaging is actually one of the most environmentally friendly forms of packaging – if managed correctly.
To start with, most people assume that the world’s forests are being destroyed to make paper. In truth however, the material for corrugated board come from sustainably managed forests that would not exist if it was not for the materials they provide. This obviously includes those managed by FSC® (Forestry Standards Commission).
Both wood and paper have become commodities and their market value actually leads to new forests being planted rather than destroyed. Therefore, for every tree cut down three to four are replanted. It is also estimated that there are 25% more trees in the developed World today than there were in 1901.
As well as this, corrugated cardboard has a recycling rate of 84% in the UK – being the highest recycling rate of any type of packaging.
This means that every four months an area the size of Greater London is saved from landfill by recycling corrugated cardboard alone. Cardboard can actually be recycled seven times before its fibre becomes too weak for further use and the 16% of corrugated material that is not recycled, is fully biodegradable.
Let us help with Easter Packaging (or any other kind)…
Whilst you are selecting your Easter eggs from the supermarket, or enjoying some well-deserved chocolate over the bank holiday, please don’t forget the impact of the packaging (and how you can recycle it).
Alternatively, if you are a business and you have a packaging requirement this Easter – or indeed any time of the year – please contact us using the details below.