According to the UN, if global food waste was a country, it would be the third largest country in the world. The UK produces 9.5 million tonnes of food waste every year. Whether it’s going past its shelf-life before it can be eaten or there is confusion over when things are safe to eat, food waste is a substantial loss and a significant contributor to greenhouse gases. To tackle this issue and prolong the freshness of your products, businesses are creating innovative packaging solutions.
Here, we will explore three companies leading the way with food packaging of the future.
1. Waddington Europe: raised based cushion technology
Waddington Europe, a leading producer of plastic packaging, is paving the way for the future of the industry. In recent months, the manufacturing and distributing company has created innovative cushioned fruit packaging made from recycled rPET (or polyethylene terephthalate) plastic. These punnets contain state-of-the-art MONOAIR cushion technology, removing the need for extra bubble wrap padding.
This design has multiple benefits. The raised base protects delicate fruits and vegetables from bruising during transit, prolonging the shelf life of whichever product is stored inside. As well as this, removing the bubble wrap padding and adhesive glue means the packaging can be recycled back into the circular economy as a food-grade product.
MONOAIR cushion technology represents the future of packaging. Not only does the raised base cushion protect the products, but the mono-material design increases the possibility of reducing and recycling. In this example, both the quality of the product and its effect on the environment are considered, leading the way for packaging producers around the world.
2. Zebra: intelligent food packaging
In addition to innovative design features such as the cushion technology, intelligent packaging is destined to shape the future of the industry. The packaging provides customers with information about their food, such as when it was made, how long it will last, and which nutrients it contains. In turn, intelligent packaging can help consumers make informed decisions about what they eat and put into their bodies.
Zebra, a food and beverage technology solutions company, has created Fresh-Check, a gadget that communicates the freshness of a product. The blue oval has a clear centre when the food is cool and becomes the same colour as the outer layer when the product should be consumed. On the other hand, the centre turns darker than the outer oval when the food product is no longer fresh and should not be consumed.
Intelligent packaging could also be used to track the journey of food products, straight from the farm to the table. This would provide information about the conditions under which it was grown or raised, such as being free-range or organic.
3. Rutgers School of Public Health: biodegradable coating
To push the limitations of packaging as consumers know it, scientists at Rutgers School of Public Health have created a biodegradable coating that preserves foods. These plant-based fibres imitate plastic packaging, protecting foods during transit while prolonging their shelf life.
Biodegradable coating is still in the early stages of development, so it won’t be taking over the packaging market any time soon. In fact, Philip Demokritou, director of the Nanoscience and Advanced Materials Research Centre, doesn’t have plans to phase out sustainable plastic packaging materials, such as recyclable rPET. Instead, he hopes to see the end of non-recyclable packaging.
From recyclable plastic packaging to new technologies such as biodegradable coatings, the future of packaging looks hopeful. These new innovations and products can work towards reducing food waste as well as eliminating the use of unnecessary single-use food packaging. They can also help ensure that food packaging always offers value, especially in the case of plastic packaging, and that it stays in the circular economy.
Only then can we reduce environmental pollution in this nation and around the world, one less item in landfill at a time.