Awareness and concern for the environment is increasing, along with a global demand for foods that are healthy and sustainable. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States, approximately one third of the food produced worldwide is lost or wasted. In order to adapt to evolving buying trends from environmentally-conscious and increasingly savvy consumers, food manufacturers must be prepared.
Challenged to improve product sustainability, food manufacturers must develop systems that help keep foods safer longer. The demand for active packaging solutions, the technology designed to protect products and maintain quality from production to consumption, is expected to increase.
Nearly 40% of all food produced in the U.S. is wasted, worth an estimated $165 billion – yet the economic impact is just part of the story. As landfills become full and the negative impact of wasted food to the global environment becomes increasingly apparent, more emphasis is placed on waste reduction. More than 50% of food waste occurs during ‘upstream’ production – the phase that includes handling and storage. To effectively reduce the harmful impact on the environment of food waste or ‘shrink’, as it is referred to in the food industry, product sustainability has become increasingly essential. Active packaging solutions provide superior protection against moisture, oxygen, odor, and other volatiles which helps packaged foods last longer and has a direct effect on food sustainability.
The use of active packaging improves product sustainability and prevents wasted money on product loss. By extending shelf-life of their products, manufacturers maximize revenue streams. Retailers often experience huge costs associated with food waste and increasingly, are motivated to work with manufacturers who use active packaging. When a retailer can rely on a manufacturer to consistently deliver food that maintains flavor, visual appeal, vitamin content and quality, they are more likely to rely on that product.
Active packaging solutions for the food and beverage industry are highly technical applications typically customized for specific products. Because active packaging extends product shelf life for foods, this often results in improved production efficiency and planning. This has a positive impact on the production phase with more efficient manufacturing site management and logistics, more efficient use of manufacturing and retail space, and a reduction in product loss.
By replacing chlorinated and fluorinated plastics such as PVC, PVDC and PCTFE with active polyolefins and polyesters, product sustainability is improved. Active polymer-based materials can also replace non-recyclable packaging materials and glass containers which reduce energy consumption and transportation costs. Product spoilage, shrinkage, loss of potency, and damage during transport are all issues tied to sustainability. Active packaging helps to eliminate these factors which also benefits the environment.
By extending product shelf life, food manufacturer’s committed to sustainability experience less shrink and any amount of reduction in shrink will result in a smaller carbon footprint. Foods that are packaged to be sustainable for longer result in less waste and there is more opportunity to optimize revenue for manufacturers, retailers, and the consumer. Active packaging extends the life of foods, helps to protect the environment, and ultimately, prevents a problem before it starts.