The Future of Packaging in The Eyes of Food Giants

by Mark Stephens

“These days people are taking a hard look at what they are doing in their lives and how they can seize an opportunity to be less wasteful,” says Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, founder of Plastic Free July. 

When it comes to food packaging, with us having a lot on our plate – metaphorically, and literally – we crave convenience more than ever. Thus, the packaging is now turning into an extended product; as we buy a product, we do question its packaging efficiency: Is it usable? Does this feel attractive? How would this help me use the product in a better way?

However, there are other concerns to be taken into consideration while selecting product packaging. There are matters of authenticity (am I getting the promised product?), there are matters of origin details (Where is the product from?), and there are matters of spoilage. 

Nonetheless, one of the most overlooked concerns is sustainability. As per a World Wildlife Fund report (2019), since 2000, the plastics business has fabricated as much plastic as every one of the former years consolidated, with the production of virgin plastic growing at a rate of 4% a year. 

Related: The Future of Food Packaging Is Sustainability

Companies such as Polymateria, based in London, have been using biodegradable plastic for 3 years. To which, Niall Dunne, Chief Executive of Polymateria, says “We’ve seen how consumer pressure is saying to the big guys that they have to be on board [with reducing their plastic production] and to be more transparent and authentic in this important conversation. 

Fortunately, by all accounts, food packaging has now been inclined towards keeping sustainability in check. Many companies have turned towards biodegradable and compostable packaging approaches. Eventually, wiping off the plastic footprints. For instance, Skittles packaging is designed in a way that its appearance is similar to plastic, but with the implementation of PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate), it can be easily broken down by putting it into compost. 

While PHA-based packaging can be a bit costlier than plastic-based packaging, there are establishments encouraging businesses to not factorize the same. One such example is Alastair Child, Chief Sustainability Officer, Mars Wrigley, who aspires to reduce the use of virgin plastic by 25% by the year 2025. 

In addition to the list, Danimer Scientific uses canola oil for the production of its polymer product, which is an alternative to wood, leading to its breakdown as and when a bacteria affects it. Based in the US state of Georgia, Stephen Croskrey, CEO of Danimer Scientific, says, “PHA goes away naturally and is still a very strong material for all types of products.” 

Moreover, associate professor of Plastics Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Meg Sobkowicz, assures that the packaging future is on the right path. “I think we’re coming around to where public concern is pushing them to tip the scales in favor of environmentally friendly packaging, despite its costs,” he says

The increasing possibilities and benchmarks for protective and smart packaging certainly bring a shed of light towards a better, plastic-free future. However, it goes without saying, there is a long way to go. And it starts now.

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