No Space for Packaging Waste – Part 1
As consumers demand products at a greater convenience and quality, they are also expecting the products they purchase to be sustainable. To explore the best innovation in FMCG packaging, we’ve broken down the designs into four camps: edible, nationwide, premium and convenience. This week we tackle the edible and nationwide solutions to packaging challenges.
Innovation in edible packaging seems the most futuristic but have been implemented in very relevant environments, such protein powders and for marathons. The Notpla ‘Ooho’ pods have been developed by Skipping Rocks Labs in 2013 and were released onto the market in 2018. The tagline ‘we make packaging disappear’ reflects the materials of seaweed and other plants and biodegrades in only 4-6 weeks. Ooho pods filled with Lucozade were given to runners in the 2019 London marathon. Of course, Notpla is not the only company designing packaging centred around its ability to eaten.
Kuraray has created MonoSol, patented food grade water soluble edible food from polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH). PVOH is colourless, odourless and tasteless, and it dissolves in water within seconds. MonoSol is ideal for portioned pasta or rice, instant coffee and oat. Protein shakes would benefit from this innovation to avoid the mess free protein powder problem that currently exists with powder vs. scoop. Food production and food service would also value this design to be able to deliver precise quantities of ingredients quickly and accurately.
Although the next two innovations would also fall into convenience aisle of the innovation categories, the edibility of these designs cannot be ignored. Herald became the UK’s first sole supplier of edible straws in 2017. The company have initially targeted the entertainment and leisure sectors, looking ahead to feature in bars, festivals and other events in the future. The flavours lemon, lime and strawberry leave the question over how this impacts the taste of the drink it is being used in.
Avani, a company based in Bali, have created a line of biodegradable food containers, cutlery, straws and bags. Again, with a primary purpose for convenience for food, this brand has created their products to biodegrade in 3-6 month. Furthermore, the product can be eaten safely by insects and animals both on land and in the sea. When the packaging is dissolved in hot water it’s even safe for humans to drink.
Innovation in packaging has also taken place on a much larger scale and have been adopted by retailers in the UK and Europe. Whilst some initiatives aim to remove packaging completely, others have created packaging that leaves plastic behind.
Czech company MIWA have created minimum waste sustainable shopping of the highest standard as ‘new normal’ of recycling is no longer enough. MIWA consists of reusable, durable capsules that are dishwasher safe and stackable that you take to your local store. The smart technology and app enable you to dispense food into capsules that automatically link with the corresponding app. The app allows you to pay instantly and includes details about the product you have purchased.
Although the technology has only been launched in a few locations that includes Nestle to implement MIWA when launching two new brands, they are continuing to adjust and improve the experience to scale out the technology elsewhere. This technology reduces environmental footprint by 71%.
Dutch supermarket Ekoplaza has introduced a plastic free aisle in 74 branches since February 2018 and includes over 700 products. There has been criticism over this form of packaging as it can only compost in industrial facilities that is not closely available to customers to access and the amount of plastic used but in alternate compostable materials such as plant cellulose, algae and shrimp shells.
Ekoplaza are aware of some of the plastic that is still being used, for example the small amounts used within the lids of glass jars used for yogurt and beverages, and have stated they are ‘working on that’ (Europlaza, 2020).
Back home in the UK, major grocery retailers have made efforts to reduce packaging waste and begin to revolutionise how we shop.
Sainsbury’s, for instance, became one of first supermarkets to get rid of plastic bags for its loose fruit, vegetables and bakery items and therefore reduces their plastic output by 489 tonnes. Retailer promises are not exclusive to Sainsbury’s, the big four as well as the likes of M&S, Waitrose, Iceland and the discounters have all announced their plans to remove own-label packaging or swap with sustainable materials.
In October 2019 Thorton’s Budgens in Belsize Park partnered with environmental campaign group A Plastic Planet to launch its new plastic-free Unpackaged range of 200 products. Similar to MIWA, customers can buy reusable glass jars and fill them up with “everyday essentials” including peanut butter, milk and, orange juice. Other unpackaged goods include vegan and gluten-free products as well as loose pulses, beans, grains and seeds.
As innovation in packaging is taking place at local and at a national scale, it’s clear it’s a wide scale priority for FMCG businesses looking to tackle the issue of waste.
What challenges have the convenience sector faced in packaging and are there any achievements within premium packaging? Find out in part two coming soon.