Green packaging

New packaging innovations are addressing sustainability issues, survey finds

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

50% of packaging providers are supporting sustainability initiatives, survey finds. Pic: GettyImages
50% of packaging providers are supporting sustainability initiatives, survey finds. Pic: GettyImages

Related tags Packaging Recycling Sustainability

Recent international research has revealed that professionals in the food packaging industry are addressing demands for greater sustainability and consumer preference with innovative approaches to material choice and the processes involved in production.

Conducted by Industrial Physics, a packaging, product, and material test and inspection leader, the results showed that the biggest drivers of packaging innovation for those in the food and beverage industries were:

  1. Ensuring quality of the packaging produced (69%)
  2. Ensuring quality/safety of the product contained within the package (63%)
  3. Ease of consumer use (56%)
  4. Supporting sustainability initiatives (50%)

Toby Lane, Product and Applications Manager at Industrial Physics, said: “Sustainability continues to drive material developments including plastic eradication from brands across the world. However, we must look at the broader picture in terms of material transportation weight, production energy, testing capability, food safety approval, and other related challenges​.”

Packaging professionals operating in the food and beverage sectors shared that although the cost of materials is proving a challenge for well over half of respondents (60%), investment in new material development is still proving popular. Reducing the use of plastic remains high on the agenda (43%) for investment, with biodegradable material (58%) and organic material (51%) cited as those with the most potential when it comes to exploring new packaging mediums.

Lane added: “Material use debates often end with the question, ‘can the material ensure the quality and safety required?’ For example, plastic is currently used for food storage because it is highly effective at sealing food while offering a tough, lightweight barrier with various sealing options. Therefore, if manufacturers select a less effective material to support sustainability or cost objectives, they risk triggering negative impacts such as increased food waste. This would be in direct contrast to the wider objectives uncovered in the research around waste reduction​.”

Research also uncovered that packaging professionals in the food and beverage sectors are investing in recyclability (60%) and reducing waste (59%).

The survey showed that on experiences of testing, although overall packaging decision-makers are significantly in favour (96%) of new developments, professionals in the food and beverage sector are already raising challenges from material and process development. The research revealed that manufacturers are struggling to test new types of packaging, due to:

  • The high cost of expertise required (63%)
  • Limited testing facilities (50%)
  • A lack of in-house expertise (44%)

Lane concluded: “Despite perceptions, the testing equipment and methods are still as applicable today. There are instances, for example in the case of recycled polymers where materials will behave differently and a new bank of data will need to be built, however, industry collaboration can prove valuable to gather a wider sample more quickly. Also, the equipment available today is often so automated that professionals do not need to have a highly specialized knowledge base to conduct the testing required​.”

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