Dustin Wills to Lead Clemson University’s Sonoco FRESH Initiative

Carrots and spring onions from a garden.
jackmac34 / Pixabay

Dustin Wills has been named director of the Sonoco FRESH initiative in Clemson University’s Sonoco Institute of Packaging Design and Graphics.

Sonoco FRESH was established to address the global food waste problem through innovative packaging solutions, but will also look at opportunities throughout the supply chain, from harvesting to retail.

Wills brings a wealth of packaging experience to the university and is highly passionate about the reduction of food waste. Most recently, he was a luxury packaging consultant in the global spirits and beauty industries where he has developed numerous award-winning packaging programs.

“I’ve been in printing and packaging for over 20 years,” said Wills. “I wanted to take everything I’ve learned in my career and apply it toward something where I can make a difference in the world, like Sonoco FRESH. We have a great opportunity to make a positive impact here, and that’s my driving motivation.”

Between 30% and 40% of all food in the U.S. is wasted annually, totaling around $165 billion in waste. Ninety percent of that food is simply thrown away too soon. The overall impact of this issue is so great that in 2015, the EPA called for a 50% reduction in food waste by the year 2030.

“The volume and impact of food waste is one of the critical issues of our time,” said Wills. “Packaging has a very important role to play in food waste reduction and food safety. With the various resources we have available at Clemson, I know we can move the needle on this topic.”

“In recent years, we have seen a steady rise in global social consciousness related to the environment, and while much of the focus has been on packaging, specifically plastics, a major element being left out of the discussion is food waste,” said Laura Buen Abad, director of technology at Sonoco Products Company. Buen Abad leads transformational research and development and sustainable packaging development in global consumer packaging at Sonoco, which is based in Hartsville.

“Not only does food production consume considerable natural resources, the impact is compounded when we still have people around the world not getting the daily caloric intake they need to lead a healthy life while at the same time food waste is significantly contributing to global CO2 emissions,” she said.

“We believe packaging has a critical role to play. It can help reduce food waste while also increasing access to food by extending consumption life, preserving quality, protecting food during distribution and providing portion control options,” she said. “These are all the reasons we believe in the mission of Sonoco FRESH and its alignment with our own purpose: ‘Better Packaging, Better Life.’”

Clemson University has expertise in package design, materials, consumer perception, transportation, food science, agriculture and more. Sonoco has donated the initial funds to launch Sonoco FRESH and sponsor research for the first five years, but any company will have the opportunity to participate in developing innovative technologies that optimize the fresh food lifecycle through industry-funded research.

“We are very excited about the opportunity to expand our relationship with the university and to be partnering with Clemson on this initiative,” Buen Abad said. “We are also excited to welcome Dustin Wills to the team. Dustin brings a great combination of industry leadership and personal passion for this issue. We look forward to working with him as he helps connect Sonoco, the entire Clemson community and key stakeholders across the globe with this very important initiative.”

“I’m available anytime for anyone that is interested in making a positive impact on the environment,” Wills said. “It’s a big and complex topic and no one person or organization can fix it all. We are looking for passionate and talented people to join the initiative.”

Dustin Wills can be reached at [email protected] or 646-942-7927.

Prepared by Kayla Rogers, Sonoco Institute of Packaging Design and Graphics.