Submitted by: The Two Sides Team August 12, 2019
With the public demanding more environmentally friendly packaging, the race is on to find a plant based packaging solution that’s both sustainable and cost-effective.
A few months ago, research company EcoFocus released the results of their study into the trends that will shape the food and drink industries in the year ahead. The annual EcoFocus Trend Study looks at how consumer attitudes, actions, preferences and values are reshaping grocery purchasing decisions – and this year, those attitudes, actions, preferences and values are all pointing towards plant-based packaging.
The study found that plant-based packaging is now on the minds of three out of four grocery shoppers, with 76% saying they have heard or read about plant-based food or drink packaging, and 62% want to learn more about it. Meanwhile, nearly half of shoppers are already shopping with plant-based packaging in mind: 46% of grocery shoppers “try to buy packaging that is made with plant-based materials”.
“Better personal health has driven the clean label movement in recent years and will drive plant-based trends in coming years,” said Linda Gilbert, CEO of EcoFocus Worldwide.
From trend to necessity
Such levels of consumer interest hasn’t gone unnoticed by the major food brands and retailers, and Whole Foods named ‘Eco-Conscious Packaging’ as one of their Top 10 Food Trends for 2019. Taken from interviews with international food experts and global buyers, this annual trends prediction is one of the most eagerly anticipated reports in the food industry, and listed compostable food wraps made from beeswax alongside other sustainable packaging solutions. “Some movements start as trends,” said the report, “then become necessities. This is one of them.”
Sustainable packaging has now become a key issue in the minds of shoppers weighing up whether to buy a certain product. The EcoFocus study found that 64% of grocery shoppers agreed that “I have changed what I buy in order to reduce our exposure to chemicals from food or beverage packaging.”
Of course, while paper and board are vital elements of sustainable packaging, there are other materials in the natural world that are proving highly suitable for safe, recyclable packaging.
“Better personal health has driven the clean label movement in recent years and will drive plant-based trends in coming years”
A team of German researchers are currently working on developing a packaging material made from sea algae. Called Mak-Pak, the project is using a variety of red, brown and green algae to produce a range of materials with barrier properties that could be suitable for food packaging. Once the development stage is complete, Mak-Pak will be tested in outlets of German fast-food chain Nordsee.
Then there’s Bio-Peel, a fruit packaging material created by London design student Denny Handley, who managed to blend waste orange peel with bio-polymers, vegetable glycerine and water to create a new packaging material that’s strong, malleable and environmentally friendly.
A race against time
Whether it’s vast supermarket chains or design students, plant-based packaging is very high on the list of priorities for companies big and small. The urgency of the single-use plastic issue means that there’s a huge amount of work around the world that’s going into producing a high volume, cost-effective, strong and sustainable plant-based packaging solution that multinational companies will be keen to put their products in.
Article by Sam Upton
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