Partnering with startups to reimagine packaging

Partnering with startups to reimagine packaging


Sustainability is at the core of everything we do, but to break new ground in sustainability we cannot work alone. To develop innovative, cost effective solutions and bring them to market as fast as possible, we need to bring together a variety of perspectives and adopt 360-degree thinking, since game-changing ideas can come from anywhere.

We therefore join forces with customers, suppliers, and partners from across our ecosystem - and beyond - to develop and deliver solutions that contribute to a better future. One area we give particular focus is collaborating with startups, through pilot projects, investment, and more.


Partnering with startups through AD Stretch

To foster open innovation, our AD Stretch accelerator program was born in 2022. The program begins with a simple yet powerful premise: collaborate with startups with promising ideas, driven teams, and the potential to disrupt industries. Together we’re creating new sustainable solutions, new business opportunities, and shared growth.

Through the program, we invite startups to offer solutions to specific business challenges, such as enabling packaging reuse. From the submissions, we select a small number of startups with whom to develop and execute pilot projects, and ultimately bring new solutions to market. 

In just 18 months, the AD Stretch accelerator program has grown from launch mode to a thriving program that has fielded over 500 applications from over 35 countries and created pilot programs for 14 startup businesses.

The program is not only an opportunity for startups to find real-world applications for their solutions, but also gain insights that will help them long term. "Being part of AD Stretch has opened doors to many markets much faster than we could have done ourselves,” says Chris Braine, CEO and co-founder of program participant Cellr. “The project's champions and mentors were instrumental in Cellr successfully running pilots across different segments. We learned what it takes to stand on a global stage with a purpose. Scaling up with a brand like Avery Dennison is a game changer, and we are very excited to see where this journey goes next."


Partnering with startups to reimagine packaging

Cellr’s Chris Braine speaks at an AD Stretch event

According to Shruti George, Vice President, Strategic Innovation Platforms at Avery Dennison Materials Group, “The synergy of our company's technical knowledge, business experience, and mature distribution network with the uninhibited instincts of startups to innovate creates a dynamo for generating new solutions, speeding up the innovation process, and enhancing our own innovation culture.”


Developing flexible reusable packaging with Moree

One AD Stretch participant with whom we’re running a pilot project is Moree. This UK-based startup offers food brands flexible reusable packaging for dry foods, convenient returns for end users, and a platform that tracks packaging, rewards customers for their returns, and provides valuable data on plastic, carbon, and cost savings. 

When Moree joined AD Stretch, their packaging design was circular except for the labels. Together with The Modern Milkman (more on this below) we co-developed a pilot to test a reusable, flexible film for bread and other baked goods. During the pilot, we developed a fully circular label that could resist Moree’s washing cycle and tested RFID tags in the package to improve supply chain traceability.  

“Labeling is critical to making packaging a success, but we lacked capabilities and knowledge in this area,” says Clare Brass, co-founder and chief product officer of Moree. “AD Stretch has allowed us to access expertise that Avery Dennison has and we don’t. Getting advice from a bigger company has been helpful. I don’t know how we could have gotten to where we are without them.”


Partnering with startups to reimagine packaging

Examples of Moree’s reusable food packaging


Reducing packaging waste with Modern Milkman

Avery Dennison also has an active venture fund. One of our recent investments is with The Modern Milkman, a sustainable grocery delivery startup based out of the UK that aims to reduce its packaging waste by implementing reusable food packaging.

By replacing disposable plastic milk cartons with reusable glass bottles delivered to users’ homes, The Modern Milkman is on a mission to reduce plastic waste. The company has 15 hubs and a network of suppliers across England and has prevented over 85 million plastic bottles from polluting our planet. 

Our support extends beyond financial support to encompass a wide range of packaging solutions drawn from our entire product portfolio. This includes labels that resist washing and intelligent labels that track the entire journey of their glass bottles and ultimately improve delivery efficiency and return rates. We are collaboratively testing a range of reuse models and exploring additional food packaging types while fostering connections with other startups in the reusable packaging space.

The Modern Milkman’s CEO and founder, Simon Mellin, says, “Collaborating with a technology leader like Avery Dennison is helping us revolutionize convenient grocery shopping, help customers to be more sustainable, and fulfill our mission to reduce packaging waste.”


Partnering with startups to reimagine packaging

The Modern Milkman’s reusable bottles replace disposable packaging


Building a reusable food packaging system with Circolution

In addition to investment through our ventures and accelerator programs, we also work with startups to develop pilots which allow them to put their ideas into action and test their products or services in real-world scenarios. For example, we’re working with German startup Circolution and key value chain partners such as Nestlé to build a reusable packaging system for foods like coffee, cocoa, and more.

Circolution produces reusable stainless steel food containers which are compatible with existing deposit machines in supermarkets. Their “Anita” reusable steel packaging can be filled up to 80 times before it has to be recycled. These 80 stainless steel cup lifecycles can save 36 kg of glass and 5 kg of plastic packaging.

We’re supporting Circolution with labels that provide outstanding performance throughout a product's use life, yet can be completely removed from the container during washing. This is possible using plain water, at room temperature, with no chemicals or additives - critical to making reuse as sustainable as possible.

Partnering with startups to reimagine packaging

Circolution’s Anita reusable steel packaging


Pushing our own boundaries

One of the most exciting things about working with startups is the way it’s changing our company. We’ve found that open innovation encourages our employees to experiment, creating opportunities for collaboration beyond our boundaries.

“We’re doing things that until recently people never thought they’d see Avery Dennison do,” says Shruti. “We’re pushing the boundaries of what is comfortable for us in a pretty big way. These new projects are important and are going to change how we do business.”

Learn more

Applications are now open for our third cohort of AD Stretch startups; you can find out more about the program and sign up here.