The challenge – How to find a both sustainable and convenient food packaging?

October 27, 2020
The problem with existing solutions

With the acknowledge that food packaging waste challenge is a system problem, Koepala adopt system thinking to reassess the food packaging life cycle and realized that all the value chain starts with product design.

Functionality. What is a convenient food packaging?

The packaging design oftentimes focus only on the functionality of consumption part during the whole product life cycle. In the case of food-to-go packaging, most of the existing conventional packaging allow consumers to eat directly from the package. The problem is in order to make that, convenience usually equals with lots of different packaging. For instance, a salad bowl might have tray, lid with a sleeve, a drink might have cup, lid and cup holder. However, after the meals. consumers’ waste bin is so often quickly filled with few empty food packaging. Food brands have to look further to make packaging functional until the end of its life. In fact, according to a survey from Accenture, over half of consumers are willing to pay more for recyclable products. Thus, the packaging that made from environmental-friendly materials are not enough to make it recyclable but it needs to be designed in the way that makes the recycling as streamlined as possible for users. Even most consumers want to recycle but packaging are often end up in the wrong bin after a couple minutes “what goes where” frustration.

That was from the end-user side. Nevertheless, if you look at the whole packaging value chain, it is easy to see that the “user” of the packaging is not only limited the people who consume the food product but also include the people who transport it, who sell it and even waste management personnel.

What packaging functionality actually means for retailers, food packers and packaging manufacturers?

The food packaging waste challenge is a difficult issue for only consumers but also authorities. It is a global problem. Therefore, a strong movement against plastic waste is happening around the world. In 2018, European Commission has proposed the Single Use Plastic (SUP) directive that will come into force in 2021. “Producers will be held accountable for the disposal phase of their SUP products” (Plastic Soup Foundation). There is a clearly need for plastic-alternative and sustainable food packaging options.

Nevertheless, retailers and food producers also want to attract customers and bring the most value for the users with the packaging. One of the key features is convenience. Deloitte has published a study discuss solely about the impact of this aspect in the future of food. With the growing population in urban area and fast-paced lifestyle, consumers desire convenient feature in all daily products and services. From Statista 2019 data, Sales in Germany of ready meals and other convenience products are expected to grow by 13 percent from 2010 to 2023 to a total value of 5.3bn euros.

“Current movements against plastic waste and for sustainability have not stopped the German convenience food market from gaining momentum” (Deloitte, 2020).

Thus, the market and consumers demand for a “convenient yet highly sustainable” food packaging. For instance, 77% of Finns think that food brands are most responsible for plastic in food packaging. From retailers and food producers’ point of view, they might have seen this need but how to implement a new packaging to the existing system and still keep the competitiveness in a low-margin industry like food packaging is not an easy-to-solve challenge. On the other hand, food packaging manufacturers want to support their clients with an innovative design and sustainable material yet still stay profitable. A large of the packaging cost is not related to production cost but logistic cost, this includes:

  • Ratio of weight of packaging / weight of product
  • The amount of useless space and air that is being transport with the food products
  • Store shelf space and storage

How Koepala Aterimo™ can tackle this combine challenge from all the stakeholder? Please stay tune for our next update.

Photo by Dan Burton - Unsplash

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