Correction: This article originally said Yop had also launched a new chocolate variant in white PET plastic. This was incorrect. The bottle is in fact made of PEHD (High Density Polyethelene), which is the most commonly recycled plastic


When it comes to sustainability, as with comedy, timing is everything.

Take Yoplait. Yesterday (16 August), it announced plans to move the packaging of its teen-focused Yop drinking yoghurts from harder-to-recycle white PET over to easier-to-recycle clear PET plastic.

A commendable move, certainly. But one rendered less so by the fact Yoplait was seemingly strong-armed into the change by comedian Joe Lycett.

At the beginning of July, Lycett performed a TV stunt whereby he faked a ‘walk-out’ on Channel 4 daytime show Steph’s Packed Lunch.

He stormed off set having been gently accused of hypocrisy by host Steph McGovern after railing against the poor recyclability of white plastic only for a later segment to show him pictured with a Yop bottle in the background.

Posting on social media a day later, he explained the stunt had been planned and the intention was to generate media coverage to highlight the problems with white plastic – something Lycett certainly delivered as the tabloids had a field day with the incident.

It took Yoplait until yesterday, six weeks after it was called out, to announce plans to move Yop bottles over to clear plastic from 2022. However, the company stressed the change had been planned well before Lycett kicked up a storm.

These circumstances won’t go unnoticed by the sustainability-savvy gen Z shoppers the product is targeted at.

Not least because this Thursday, Lycett’s TV show returns for a third series and promises to feature RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star Tia Kofi performing ‘Yop! Megamix’.

Ouch. But while Yoplait has borne the brunt of this particular saga, other food and drink brands should also take note.

We now live in an era where companies will be held to account not only by journalists but also by celebrities.

And often, these stars will have a better reach among younger consumers than brands could dream of, no matter the size of their marketing budgets. Therefore, it pays to engage with them, and fast.

Joe Lycett, who has one million Instagram followers and almost as many on Twitter, has been a consumer champion since the very beginning of his career, but even more so since his primetime Channel 4 show, Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back, launched in 2019. 

In one of his more well-known stunts, Lycett formally changed his name to Hugo Boss and staged a catwalk show outside the fashion house’s flagship Regent Street store, to highlight the cease-and-desist letters it was sending to small businesses and charities using the word ‘boss’ in their names.

But Lycett is not alone in taking a stand. At this summer’s European Championships, footballer Cristiano Ronaldo shunned Coca-Cola, urging people to drink water instead. Paul Pogba subsequently removed a bottle of Heineken from a press conference – albeit for religious reasons.

Stunts like this generate huge media coverage. So, it’s essentially a win-win for stars to stick up for what they believe in. Especially if it resonates strongly with their fanbase.

And, as Yoplait’s run in with Joe Lycett demonstrates, nothing resonates more strongly with consumers at the moment than the war on plastic.

As consumer education around plastic waste grows, it’s no longer good enough for something to simply be recyclable. It now has to easily recyclable; ie able to be deposited at the kerbside and to be efficiently turned into a new object.

If brands and manufacturers want to keep ahead of the game and keep shoppers on side, they’ll have to act fast. Because sustainability is no joke, and authenticity is everything.