It all started in the 1940s, with the search for a better way to package milk.
Something that could protect what was inside—and the people who drank it—by keeping it safe and stable, even when refrigeration wasn’t available. Something efficient, with a minimized impact on the environment.
“Doing something that nobody else had done before is actually quite hard.”
What we set out to do had never been done, and it took a decade of development to create the first paper-based package that could do what we had in mind. Even the way we planned to fill it (and keep it safe, healthy, and free of bacteria in the process) presented a puzzle that eventually became one of our hallmarks.
Our aseptic cartons were considered one of the most important food innovations of the 20th century.
It was an enormous challenge. But it’s how we created the first Tetra Pak carton package, the distinctive tetrahedron-shaped packaging that inspired our name with its simple, efficient design.
For over half a century, we’ve been creating carton packaging that can safely and sustainably hold liquid food—including milk, of course—to meet the needs of hundreds of millions of people every day.
Today, we’re able to get food to people everywhere, protecting them by protecting what’s inside, with only minimal impact on our environment.
At Tetra Pak, we protect what’s good.
We still abide by our founding philosophy, the idea that packaging should save more—food and resources—than it costs. It's a way of thought that matters even more today than when we started
out—and one which will matter even more tomorrow.
All over the world, people are hard at work in small ways on the things that matter to all of us most, from the environment around us to the food that fuels us.
They’re changing how we raise, consume, and think about food, how we care for ourselves and our resources, and they’re sharing the kind of ideas that will change our future for the better.
They’re doing it at the grassroots, quietly and without fanfare.
We’re sharing their stories.
At Groundwork, we’re giving them the attention they deserve: yours. We’re sharing their stories so you can, too.
It’s just one small way you can make an impact. Because when it comes to innovation, inspiration, and changing the world, sometimes one good idea, shared, is all it takes.
Spread the word.
Know someone who’s doing their part to change our world from the ground up?
When Dr. Ruben Rausing invented a new way to package milk, he probably didn’t realize he’d just changed the world.
It didn’t take long to figure out that these cartons were perfect for packaging more than milk. Today, airtight, shelf-stable Tetra Pak® cartons are used around the world to keep juice, water, soup, olive oil, nutritional shakes, vegetables, and more safe and sound.
Tetra Pak cartons use multiple layers of materials to ensure nothing gets in or out of the package. The cartons are made mostly of paperboard, with thin layers of plastic and aluminum working together to keep light, oxygen, and bacteria out, meaning no contamination and no preservatives needed. Ever.
By protecting the integrity of the product, the carton preserves both the taste of the food and all the essential nutrients stored inside.
In fact, Tetra Pak cartons have a better package-to-product ratio than an egg. By using just the right amount of material, Tetra Pak can ensure maximum product protection while using minimal resources.
Protecting our environment, our food sources, and our natural resources is an essential part of preserving our shared future. That’s why Tetra Pak is committed to using renewable materials—natural resources that replenish over time—and meeting environmentally friendly manufacturing standards.
100% of the paperboard in Tetra Pak cartons is Forest Stewardship Council Chain of Custody certified, meaning all of it can be traced back to responsibly managed forests.
And after they’ve been recycled, the cartons can be turned into tissue, paper products, and green building materials.
Human beings have been practicing agriculture for over 10,000 years. We’re producing food on a mass scale, and our global supply chain ensures that products from all around the world are trucked into our local grocery stores every single day.
At this point, we’d like to think we’ve got everything under control.
But what if all that were to change for good?
According to recent reports, one in five of our plant species is in danger of extinction, putting our sources of food and medication in jeopardy.
The news might come as a surprise, but it didn’t exactly sneak up on us. It’s been happening for a while, and—spoiler alert—we have something to do with it.
Are we what’s endangering our foods?
Man-made climate change has started to threaten the natural environments needed to produce some of what we eat. As a side effect of our continued industrial growth, the loss of plant habitats and the deforestation for timber now represent two of the biggest threats to plant life.
But the issue goes back further than that. As long as we’ve been upright, our eating habits have been linked to the fate of our food, including the extinction of animals like the mammoth and the auk. More recently, those habits have helped create a noticeable lack of biodiversity in favor of our favorite fruits and vegetables.
A century of selective
farming practices has led
to a dangerous lack of
biodiversity in our foods.
Our likes and dislikes are a big part of the problem.
While climate change has been dominating the headlines, it’s only the most recent man-made factor to consider. We’ve actually been hard at work on one of the biggest food scarcity culprits for over 100 years: the homogenization of crops. By us. On purpose.
Some crop varieties and breeds of animals have been chosen specifically to carry on qualities like taste, color, or size. As those desirable varieties are bred and crossbred, though, varieties with other qualities get abandoned—and now, some of them are gone for good.
By the numbers, it’s a sobering picture:
In fact, while there are over 30,000 edible plants and 30 animals domesticated for food, 75% of the world’s food now comes from just 12 types of plants and five animals. And with our history of over-consumption, more currently endangered plants and animals–such as the dwindling bluefin tuna–could go the way of the mammoth.
Our selective farming practices and eating habits through the years have already driven many foods into extinction. And with the rapid advancement of climate change, some of our daily staples may be next.
The Ansault Pear, known
for its rich, sweet flavor and buttery flesh, went extinct around the 1920s.
The Ansault Pear, known for its rich, sweet flavor and buttery flesh, went extinct around the 1920s. In fact, a majority of pear varieties have disappeared: Of the 2,683 pear varieties available in 1904, 87.7% are extinct.
The Old Cornish Cauliflower, which disappeared around the 1950s, was resistant to ringspot disease.
The Old Cornish Cauliflower, which disappeared around the 1950s, was resistant to ringspot disease. It was supplanted by newer, foreign cauliflower types, and since its extinction, ringspot can be found on virtually every cauliflower in Cornwall.
The Gros Michel Banana was the world’s most popular banana before its commercial extinction in 1965.
The Gros Michel Banana was the world’s most popular banana before its commercial extinction in 1965. The Gros Michel was widely regarded as a better-tasting, longer-lasting, and more resilient banana, until it was ruined by Panama disease.
It's true: our favorite guilty pleasure may be at risk thanks to climate change.
It’s true: Our favorite guilty pleasure may be at risk thanks to climate change. More than half of the world’s chocolate comes from Ghana and Ivory Coast, but by 2050 that land may be unsuitable for growing cocoa beans.
The threatened Arabica coffee beans make up 75-80% of the world’s coffee production.
The threatened Arabica coffee beans make up 75-80% of the world’s coffee production. Due to rising temperatures, up to 80% of the land in Brazil and Central America where Arabica beans are grown will be unsuitable by 2050.
The average American eats 3.5 pounds of peanut butter
a year. But that could be changing soon.
The average American eats 3.5 pounds of peanut butter a year. But that could be changing soon. Studies have shown that several varieties of the peanut plant could go extinct by 2055, as droughts and rising temperatures affect their habitat.
Bad news for wine lovers: in the next 100 years, several French wine regions may lose their grapes.
Bad news for wine lovers: In the next 100 years, several French wine regions may lose their grapes. Many varieties of grapes are struggling to tolerate climate change, and by 2100 many notable French wine regions could be incapable of growing grapes.
Maple syrup, a North American breakfast staple since the 1600s, is vulnerable to climate change.
Maple syrup, a North American breakfast staple since the 1600s, is vulnerable to climate change. The maple tree’s native habitat is shrinking, and due to rising temperatures it now takes twice as much sap to make a gallon of syrup as it did in 1970.
Colony collapse disorder could have a tremendous impact on our favorite foods.
Colony collapse disorder could have a tremendous impact on our favorite foods. With bees dying off in unprecedented numbers, we could lose foods made with the natural sweetness of honey, as well as a whole range of foods from plants bees pollinate.
The worst drought in 1,200 years is drastically affecting California’s avocado growth.
The worst drought in 1,200 years is drastically affecting California’s avocado growth. California produces 95% of the avocados grown in the U.S., but the scarcity and high cost of water are driving some farmers to let their avocado fields die.
(But it’s not all on us.)
While selective breeding is a factor, natural causes, like plant diseases, have also shaped the way food rises and falls over time.
In the early 1900s, a severe blight infected and killed almost all of the American chestnut trees. And in 1965, the then-dominant Gros Michel banana, considered to have been better-tasting and longer-lasting than the Cavendish variety we know today, succumbed to Panama disease and was declared commercially extinct.
To make matters worse, we sometimes abandon the varieties that could have withstood disease (like the Old Cornish Cauliflower, one of the few varieties able to naturally resist ringspot) in favor of those that couldn’t.
What happens when a food does go extinct?
Losing any part of our ecosystem for good is, in a word, complicated. Local ecological and economical impact would be immediate; an extinct plant could cause a ripple effect across the entire ecosystem and all along the food chain.
An extinct plant could cause
a ripple effect across the
entire ecosystem and all
along the food chain.
Take honey bees, for example. We know they’re experiencing a colony collapse disorder that’s wiping out their populations at an unprecedented rate.
But a world without honey bees means more than just the loss of honey and products made with it. It jeopardizes the plants they pollinate (like apples, cranberries, broccoli, almonds, blueberries, cherries, and countless others).
All told, in the US alone, bee pollination contributes to a $15 million influx in agricultural production that we can’t afford to lose—economically or emotionally.
There are cultural costs to consider, too: When a food goes extinct, the world loses a taste it can never experience again. The famed Taliaferro apples that Thomas Jefferson grew at Monticello and described as “the best cider apple existing” are believed to be extinct, leaving historians, biologists, and cider aficionados at a permanent loss.
So what’s the plan?
Understanding what’s endangering our food (and realizing where and how we’re part of the problem) means we can do something about it.
One of the largest initiatives committed to preserving our crops is the Svalbard Global Seed Bank. Affectionately known as humanity’s “doomsday vault,” the Svalbard Global Seed Bank is securely located under an ice shelf between Norway and the North Pole, where it stores, catalogs, and preserves plant seeds from around the world.
On a smaller but equally important scale, organizations such as Slow Food and its Ark of Taste project are also working to protect local foods and demonstrate how important food diversity is to our culture, our ecosystems, and our future.
Repopulation and revitalization efforts are also hugely important, and more and more plants are being saved and replanted all the time. A group of students in Green Bay, Wisconsin, recently brought an 850-year-old extinct squash back to life by replanting seeds found at an archaeological site.See how an underground seed vault is securing food diversity for generations to come.
What can we do right now?
At the end of the day, food is food, and sometimes eating it is the best thing to do (especially when it’s so easy to see the impact of our demands on what we’re supplied). To help defend against varietal loss, one man has even cultivated a list of rare ingredients and recipes, urging local chefs and residents to bring these foods back into their cooking rotation, which in turn will encourage more planting.
Tonight, try diversifying your dinner plate. Your planet (and your taste buds) will thank you.