Sustainable Packaging Trends in the Food Industry

Packaging is a large part of the food industry. It plays a vital role in protecting the product from damage and extending shelf life. Historically, the design of packaging in the food industry stopped there. In the 21st century, the concept of sustainable packaging has been thrown in the mix. Thus designers today must design food packaging to not only meet protection standards, they must design sustainable packaging as well. 

Sustainable Packaging Trends in the Food Industry

Consumers are tired of being responsible for taking care of a company’s waste and are demanding better, more sustainable packaging. Below are a few sustainable packaging trends in the food industry.
Use Less Packaging
Making custom packages for the food items you sell can save a lot of money, rather than just using a one-size-fits-all approach. Less packaging saves money for the manufacturer and the consumer. For food, a small item in a large package means the food is at risk of being damaged, it can be exposed to too much air, and takes up less space in the store, in the fridge, or in the cupboard. It’s also less to have to deal with after it has been used. 
Reusable and Returnable Packaging
Stores and restaurants that sell fresh foods can offer discounts to consumers who bring the packages back. People can keep the packages at home for other uses, as well.  Taking your package back to the store to be refilled means far less waste and consumers can feel good about their choices regarding these packages. If your name is in it, then it’s basically free marketing if it is a package they may use to take their own packed lunch in every day.
Biodegradable Plastic
Biodegradable plastic is a very practical and eco-friendly alternative to traditional plastic. Plastic is a good choice when you need a sturdy container that won’t break or crush. But, unless people are aware that it is recycled and biodegradable, they are going to choose other options.
Plant-Based Packaging
For the food industry, this is a very smart idea. These packages are made from food wastes, corn, corn starch, mushrooms, and seaweed. These packages need to be sturdy and maintain the food’s freshness. Some of these packages may also transfer an unwanted flavor into the food that is inside of them. Bioplastics are better for certain food items that may absorb flavoring from the packages.
Compostable and Plantable Packaging
Some companies are including seeds within the packages that people can plant. Compostable packages can be thrown in with your regular compost at home or at a commercial level.  These types of packages are better for food that will not be in them for very long, like takeaway foods, or items that are not heavy or damp. They are often made out of plant-based materials. 
Paper and Cardboard
Paper and cardboard are some of the most recyclable, biodegradable, and reusable materials available. For businesses that are concerned about climate change and other environmental concerns use post-consumer or post-industrial recycled cardboard and paper. Some may also use packaging materials marked as FSC-certified which are sourced from sustainably managed forests. Paper and cardboard need to be sustainably sourced, as virgin paper and cardboard may contain dyes, inks, and other ingredients that may be harmful. There are safe, organic inks people are using, like milk, other food, or soy-based. These won’t contaminate the food inside the package and won’t be a problem when being recycled, or composted.

Sustainable Packaging in the Food Industry

Every food company from restaurants to grocery stores is making headway into better and more sustainable food packaging. Consumers can also do their part.  Making a point to buy less packaging is a great place to start. Companies will have no option but to step up to the plate. Consumers can take their own packaging, as well, for everything from take away food from restaurants to mesh or reusable bags for all their fresh produce and groceries. It is still a work in progress, but more and more companies who package and sell food are finding better ways to not only package the food but to make sure it stays fresh without preservatives and maintains its shelf life for as long as it needs to. Trayak has been helping leading brands of all sizes make data-driven sustainability decisions for over 10 years. If you would like to learn more about our tools and services please contact us.

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