Food waste today is a serious environmental, social, and economic issue. While millions of people are struggling to find enough food to eat, tons of food is lost, wasted or thrown away at different stages of the supply chain. Smart food packaging is the key to this solution. It can not only keep the generation of food waste in check but also help packaging companies save packaging waste. Some of the measures that packaging companies can implement toward this are as follows:
Consumer ignorance when it comes to food packaging labels is one of the main reasons of increasing food waste. For instance, a surprisingly small number of consumers know the difference between “best-before” and “use-by” dates on packaging labels of food products. This results in food being needlessly thrown away. Packaging companies need to improve labels so that the use-by-date is clearer and the “best before” date is explained so that the consumer’s confusion is reduced. Thus, transparent labeling can help keep the amount of food in waste in check and save fast-depleting landfill space.
Innovative and intelligent packaging can help address the issue of food waste. For instance, there has been a steady growth in the number of people living alone over the last few years. The use of single serve or smaller portions can cater to the growing market of individual meals, which in turn can help curb the amount of food discarded as waste because of over-buying. Smaller packaging also provides the additional advantage of catering to the on-the-go-lifestyle consumer base, which is also increasing gradually. Hence, packaging companies need to understand the changing consumption trends so as to evolve the packaging accordingly.
Consumer’s Confusion about Food Packaging
Consumer’s misperceptions regarding food packaging add to the problem of food waste. They perceive packaging as a part of the issue of food waste, rather than part of the solution. A perception shift is required where consumers understand that packaging is fundamental in helping reduce and prevent food waste.
It is crucial that consumers understand more clearly the serious and health-related role that packaging plays in extending shelf life, protecting food from contamination, ensuring that it safely travels long distances without getting spoiled.
The packaging industry needs to focus on educating the consumer about how the packaging can help keep the food fresher for longer. This can help bring a sea change that in turn can curtail the tremendous amount of food discarded as waste because of the consumer’s ignorance.
Few packaging improvements can help reduce food waste. These are as mentioned below:
- Educating manufacturers, retailers, and consumers about the nuances in packaging such as the difference between use-by date and best before date on primary packaging so that the food products are not discarded as waste even though they are fit for consumption
- Enhanced quality of distribution packaging for better protection and increased shelf life of fresh produce as it travels from farm to the processor, retailer or wholesaler. Also to support the recovery of surplus produce from farms and redirect it to food rescue institutes
- More coordinated food supply chains, which use intelligent packaging and data sharing to reduce outdated and excessive stock
- Develop packaging to cater to changing consumption patterns
- Improved secondary packaging to ensure that it adequately safeguards food products as they move through the supply chain
- Boosting the use of retail-ready packaging to reduce double handling and damage
Reducing food waste can help countries on social, environment as well as economic fronts. Packaging companies play a pivotal role when it comes to reducing the generation of food waste throughout the supply chain. It’s time the conversations and actions around food packaging shift from reducing the food waste at the end stage and focus on how improved packaging can prevent it at the very first stages of the supply chain.