There is a hot topic frequently in the news, that gains a considerable volume of coverage, day in and day out and that is food waste. Many shoppers are disgraced by the shocking volume of waste each year from the UK alone and are shamed by their contribution to the problem. It is claimed that roughly 350,000 tonnes of food waste is generated from UK households, most of which could have been prevented or avoided. This incomprehensible volume is estimated to cost more than £1bn a year.
Other than the preventative methods the consumer can make, such as not purchasing surplus goods, meal planning and using up ingredients before they go off, the supermarkets and producers are also considering ways they can reduce the waste.
Food waste is a social, environmental and economic catastrophe and the national food waste reduction target is at the forefront of many large supermarket chains business plans.
Supermarkets have been supporting the coverage of food waste, to encourage consumers to be aware of the problem, while also researching and investing in innovative packaging solutions. This alteration and progress is taking place across various parts of the supply chain, including farmers, suppliers, distributors and in the supermarkets.
Packaging is one of the main methods used to tackle the volume of food waste, as smart solutions can prevent food from decaying and promote the shelf life, keeping the goods fresher for longer. Packaging is now carefully considered as to whether it will optimise and extend the life of the product.
There are several packaging innovations which utilise the benefits of polyolefin shrink wrap. For example, meats that have been shrink wrapped last much longer than loosely packaged produce, in some cases, it can add an additional seven days of shelf life to products in comparison to alternative packaging methods. The nature of the shrink film also means that the meat doesn’t lose its taste or freshness.
Another example which can be recognised is bulk buys. Rather than each item being placed in a bag together, each item is also individually wrapped. This is to encourage consumers to remove only what they need from their bulk purchase and place the rest of the items in their freezer, to be eaten later. This is typical of multi-buy chicken and fish. This solution again provides the consumer with an extended time to eat the product and the convenience of each item being individually wrapped, encourages this.
Packaging alterations are not the only thing supermarkets are doing. Many of the main chains are now suggesting ways consumers can reduce waste by cooking with leftovers. Meal plans, recipes and inspiration of what to do with their left-over foods are regularly available to customers, for free.
The development in packaging technology doesn’t stop at innovative solutions for the food. As the Internet of Things becomes more of an everyday thing in consumers lives and homes, food waste is predicted to have a considerable reduction. As smart fridges and freezers will monitor which foods are frequently ‘going off’ and will suggest recipes that will use up the products before they are no longer edible.
There is an incredible opportunity for supermarkets amongst other businesses in the food industry to utilise the technology developments in food packaging, to reduce food and energy waste. What is your business doing to assist the war on food waste? We would love to hear via our social media channels!