President & General Manager, KFC Canada
Food Innovation Manager, KFC Canada
KFC’s commitment to sustainable packaging is setting an example for the industry and helping to protect our planet.
Protecting the planet is one of KFC’s core values, and over the last several years the company has made great strides in lessening its environmental footprint. A big part of this initiative has been the restaurant’s commitment to evolving its food packaging. Today, you won’t find a plastic straw in sight at a KFC restaurant, and the company has launched some truly innovative new products, like bamboo buckets and fibre based cutlery along with other sustainability-minded initiatives, including their recent commitment to move to 100 percent home compostable packaging by 2025.
A long history based on unique values
KFC’s leadership in making its food packaging more environmentally-friendly and sustainable has a big impact, especially as it’s one of the largest global restaurant chains.
Founded by Colonel Harland Sanders in 1952 down in Kentucky, KFC is now the world’s most popular chain of chicken restaurants. Today, KFC has more than 25,000 restaurants across 145 countries and territories around the world, including more than 600 locations right here in Canada.
To this day, the Colonel’s proprietary blend of 11 herbs and spices is still used to season KFC’s world-famous chicken, and it remains a closely-guarded secret. Colonel Sanders, the visionary behind Kentucky Fried Chicken, is still an important part of KFC’s brand and values. Throughout everything the Colonel did, he espoused his own unique brand of values, famously saying, “A man’s life is written by the way he lives it.” Here in Canada, the team at KFC has been writing its own unique chapter in the KFC story — and embodying the Colonel’s integrity and spirit of hard work remains at the core.
Protecting the planet is one of KFC’s core values and over the last several years the company has made great strides in lessening its environmental footprint.
Sustainability that’s grounded in a sense of responsibility
Reducing plastic packaging and waste is essential for conserving resources and energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and decreasing pollution. KFC understands this imperative and is at the forefront of sustainable packaging and practices in the fast food industry.
KFC has been leading the industry in sustainable packaging since 2019, when it removed all plastic straws and bags from its restaurants, eliminating 50 million plastic straws and 10 million plastic bags across the country and replacing them with fibre-based alternatives. KFC also now sources 100 percent of its fibre-based packaging from recycled sources.
“We’re on a continuous journey to lessen our environmental footprint and believe that, as one of the largest global restaurant brands, we can make a tremendous impact not only in our local communities but our global footprint as well,” says Nivera Wallani, President and General Manager of KFC Canada.
A commitment to reusable, recyclable, and compostable packaging
The KFC bucket is an iconic part of the brand’s heritage, and evolving it into a bamboo version was a major step forward in achieving their goal to eliminate non-recoverable or non-reusable plastic-based packaging by 2025. Bamboo is fast-growing, anti-bacterial, and 100 percent biodegradable — the perfect solution. KFC has removed 12 million plastic poutine containers from its operations by transitioning to bamboo.
“We want KFC’s packaging to be forward-thinking and inspiring, and to champion functionality, food safety, and eco-friendly solutions,” says Armando Carrillo, Innovation Manager at KFC Canada. “We’ve continued to accelerate our efforts and push the boundaries to bring more environmentally-sustainable packaging solutions to market, including our move to bamboo poutine buckets.”
Inspiring change and constantly innovating
KFC has also been testing fibre-based cutlery. In November 2020, select restaurants began testing a new fibre-based spork made from bamboo, corn, and sugarcane. The new cutlery naturally decomposes at room temperature and requires no additional treatment, nor does it leave any toxic by-products. The process of decomposition takes approximately 18 months. Once fully introduced into the KFC restaurant system, the compostable cutlery will eliminate 40 million pieces of plastic cutlery annually.
KFC also recently announced that by 2025, all consumer-facing packaging will be fully home compostable, and the first home compostable bucket will begin piloting this year. KFC’s new eco-friendly sandwich bag, currently rolling out across all restaurants nationally, is an excellent new addition to the company’s home compostable initiatives. It’s made with 100 percent sustainably-sourced paper and coated with a plant-based, certified home compostable, marine-degradable coating. This bold commitment will divert nearly 200 million pieces of packaging from Canadian landfills each year.
“We hope it encourages our peers in the industry to follow suit,” says Wallani. “One of our leading principles at KFC Canada is feeding people, not landfills. The move to 100 percent home compostable consumer packaging is a bold and ambitious step we’re taking to inspire positive change in the communities we operate in.”
Giving back with the Harvest program
Alongside its packaging, KFC also takes food waste extremely seriously and donates its surplus chicken to charities within its local communities through its Harvest program. The team at KFC was inspired to create its prepared food donation program when it learned that there’s enough wasted food in the world to feed two billion people, as estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
KFC works with suppliers to purchase only as much fresh food as it expects to sell to customers based on its projections, and any surplus food is donated to food banks, soup kitchens, and other non-profits across Canada through Harvest. The restaurant donates an average of 85,000 pounds of food annually. Since 2016, KFC restaurants have donated over 260,000 pounds of food to 241 unique charities across the country.
“KFC Canada is committed to fighting food waste through our Harvest program while helping nourish those in need of high-quality protein — one of the most in-demand foods at relief shelters and food banks across the country,” says Wallani. “Colonel Sanders famously said, ‘I’m proud that I’ve helped bring good chicken to the tables of millions of people.’ Through Harvest, we’re building on that achievement beyond our restaurants while also ensuring it doesn’t end up in landfills.”
Fostering a sustainability culture
There’s no doubt that KFC is a major player in sustainability. The company’s strong voice and stance on sustainability demonstrates to its team members and franchisees that it has a stake in the game and that it cares. The KFC team lives and breathes a heart-led culture, giving its teams the permissibility to live these values every day.
KFC also works hard to ensure that its in-store initiatives make living this approach easy. For example, it’s on a mission to digitize all back-of-house operations, meaning no more paper and waste, and doing everything electronically (which also helps with supply chain management), allowing its team members to focus on delivering the best possible customer experience. KFC has also removed all financial barriers for its franchisees by paying the up-front costs for their restaurants to onboard onto the Harvest program.
KFC is working hard to inspire its industry peers and make a tremendous impact. And it’s working.