Stonyfield Farm has converted from using petroleum-based plastics to a plant-based material to form its multipack yogurt cups.

Stonyfield Farm has converted from using petroleum-based plastics to a plant-based material to form its multipack yogurt cups. It had been using polystyrene PS #6 plastic, which is derived from petroleum. The change, announced Oct. 13, affects the 200 million cups produced annually by the Londonderry, N.H.-based dairy processor. Neither the larger containers for yogurt nor the packaging used for the company’s other dairy products are affected by the change.

Stonyfield is using a plastic made of polylactic acid (PLA) extracted from corn. The bottom of each cup is stamped “This cup is made from plants.” Stonyfield converted to PLA earlier this year. Nancy Hirshberg, the company’s vice president of natural resources, told Dairy Foods that the cups are thinner but denser.

Use of the plant-based plastic reduces Stonyfield’s carbon footprint by 1,875 metric tons of CO2 annually which equals the emissions from 4,360 barrels of oil, according to an analysis by a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. If the entire dairy industry replaced polystyrene containers with plant-based plastics, carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced by 671,234 metric tons annually (equal to the emissions from 1.5 million barrels of oil). Stonyfield ranks 50th on Dairy Foods list of largest dairy processors.

The entire four-cup multipack, which includes labels and lids, is 81% bio-based and 19% petroleum-based, Stonyfield says.

“Hats off to them. Stonyfield really has done its homework,” Gail Barnes told Dairy Foods. She is vice president of technology and packaging at the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, Rosemont, Ill.

“I applaud the company for its life-cycle assessment approach which provides a solid foundation for making good decisions based on economics, environmental and social factors.”

NatureWorks, Minnetonka, Minn., a subsidiary of Cargill, makes the material, called Ingeo PLA. Clear Lam Packaging, Elk Grove Village, Ill., mixes colorings and other additives into the material to create rolls of plastic, which it ships to Stonyfield. The dairy processor then forms it into cups. Previously, Stonyfield was purchasing cups from a vendor that shipped to New Hampshire, but by producing its own cups, Stonyfield has eliminated a stop on the supply chain and further reduced its carbon footprint.

Stonyfield retrofitted existing form-filling equipment to accommodate the rolls of plastic. One effect of the new material is that it dulls the blades on the filler more quickly.

The dairy processor worked with The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Minneapolis. IATP’s  Working Landscape Certificate program seeks to reduce the environmental impact of corn and other crops grown for industrial purposes. The Working Landscape program pays two farmers who are producing corn to Stonyfield’s specifications, which include no genetically modified corn and prohibitions on certain pesticides and fertilizers. Because the approximately 500 acres of corn are produced in an offset program, Stonyfield can’t claim that the PLA comes specifically from these farms. It can, however, state that 500 acres were farmed according to sustainable principles.

Environmental benefits of PLA derive from the reduction in material needed rather than composting or recycling cups, Hirshberg says. The rim of the cup is too thick to be compostable, and composting would release more CO2. 

In theory, a recycling center could extract the PLA from the multipacks to create new PLA pellets, thus reducing the need to grow more corn to produce raw lactic acid. The infrastructure is not in place to make recycling a realistic option. Although there are two PLA recycling centers - one in Wisconsin and the other in Belgium - the Wisconsin facility cannot separate paper labels, adhesives and lidding from the PLA cups.

By the time that’s viable, Stonyfield might have moved on to another material. Hirshberg told Dairy Foods that PLA from corn is a “transitional” technology and that Stonyfield will continue to evaluate new green processes as they become available. Stonyfield is sharing what it has learned with the dairy industry.

Dairy Industry Targets Lactose-intolerant Consumers

The dairy industry has an opportunity to achieve 273 million gallons of incremental growth by targeting the lactose-intolerant consumer segment, according to a white paper produced by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, which is run by Dairy Management Inc., based in Rosemont, Ill. Through analysis and insights gleaned from several studies, including a survey of 10,000 Americans, the white paper, titled “Lactose Intolerance: Opportunity to Grow Volume for Dairy through Dispelling Myths and Meeting Consumer Needs,” provides the dairy industry with a roadmap to better understand and effectively reach consumers who avoid dairy due to real or perceived lactose intolerance, and ultimately to help bring them back to the category.

By expanding the availability and variety of lactose-free milk and milk products beyond in-home consumption and educating consumers that, in most cases, they can keep dairy in their diet one way or another while minimizing symptoms, the dairy industry can offer this market segment the taste and nutrition they crave in ways that meet their specific needs. These efforts will not only help increase demand for lactose-free milk, but also for other more easily digested dairy products such as natural cheeses, including Mozzarella or Cheddar cheese and yogurt.

According to the white paper, healthy and wealthy consumers make up 20% of the lactose-intolerant segment. People in this group tend to be college-educated, employed and health-conscious. They are considered milk-friendly, but don’t drink a lot - preferring 1% to whole milk - and only 44% consider milk to be a healthy choice. Reinforcing the benefits of dairy would be a strong approach for this group. Lactose-free milk and dairy recipes may appeal to them.

Family milk lovers constitute 20% of the lactose-intolerant segment, the white paper says. This group includes family milk consumption “gatekeepers,”, most of who are women. They associate milk with health, enjoyment and taste, and shy away from lactose-free due to cost and its different taste. Messages showing lactose-free milk as a whole-family solution may resonate with this group.

Meanwhile, avoiders represent 20% of lactose-intolerant consumers. More likely to suffer from gastrointestinal disorders, obesity and high cholesterol, this group is the least likely to have tried lactose-free foods. They are open to dairy solutions, and good-tasting lactose-free milk and milk products may succeed with these consumers.

Lastly, aware and managing consumers represent just 14% of the lactose-intolerant segment. As the oldest market segment, nearly one-fourth is retired. They are the most likely to have their lactose intolerance diagnosed by a physician and to drink lactose-free milk. Their awareness and symptom management allows them to enjoy dairy, but they also are experimenting with alternatives such as soy. There is room to increase loyalty with this group.

To receive a copy of the white paper, visit or

Washington Watch EPA Addresses IDFA Concerns on Oil Spill Regulations

The Environmental Protection Agency announced final extension plans for its oil spill regulations, giving milk and milk product containers an indefinite extension from the rule and bringing members of the International Dairy Foods Association closer to a desired exemption for those containers. In response to IDFA’s continued requests for clarification, EPA specifically stated that the extension will apply equally to milk product containers, associated piping and appurtenances, as well as milk containers, which received an extension earlier this year.

The term “milk products” includes cheese, cream, yogurt and ice cream mix, as well as other dairy-related products.

“IDFA is pleased that EPA is taking action on our long-standing concern about the unnecessary inclusion of milk and milk product containers in the SPCC [Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure] rule, and that it clarified that the extension applies to milk product containers as well as milk containers,” said Clay Detlefsen, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs. “We continue to urge that these containers be permanently excluded from the final regulation because milk and milk products are not oil, and they do not present a risk of creating an oil spill to waters of the United States.”

While most facilities subject to the rule received a one-year extension to the Nov. 10, 2011 compliance date for EPA’s SPCC rule, the application of the rule to all milk and milk product containers will be extended until one year after a final rule is issued. EPA originally had proposed an exemption for dairy in January 2009.

$155M in Compliance Costs

While nothing is certain, the final rule could exempt milk and milk product containers or just be limited to milk containers. This extension signals that EPA is open to a broader exemption for dairy.

“EPA estimates that the exemption could save the dairy industry $155 million in avoided compliance costs, which means that if we do not get full relief from future inclusion it will cost the dairy industry $155 million,” Detlefsen said.

IDFA has worked with the EPA on oil-related environmental issues since Congress enacted the Edible Oil Regulatory Reform Act in 1995, which required federal agencies to distinguish how government regulations apply to non- petroleum classes of oil. Due to long-standing concerns about ambiguities in the rule, IDFA has been asking for an interpretation that milk is not oil, or in the alternative, a dairy exemption since 2005.

In 2009, EPA proposed to amend the SPCC requirements to codify that milk silos, tanks and other equipment are exempt. EPA also specifically asked whether they should extend the proposed exemption to other dairy product containers. This year, when EPA proposed an extension to the rule’s deadlines, the agency omitted any reference to milk products, which limited the extension to milk containers only.    

The purpose of the SPCC regulations, which have been in place since Dec. 11, 1973, is to establish requirements for facilities to prevent a discharge of oil into navigable waters or adjoining shorelines.