Today packaging has a great influence on our everyday life, especially when it comes to food. When we go to the supermarket we find everything, from cucumbers covered in plastic films and cartons full of pasta, to shiny plastic films covering our meat and ready to go dinners in flexible packaging. The shelves are filled with different solutions for the products we are looking for, everything so that we consumers can buy more and get the best quality possible.
Unfortunately, since food and packaging go hand-in-hand, this also means huge amount of packaging waste that is being thrown away every year. As new statistics show, only in Great Britain around 7.3m tons of household food waste was thrown away in 2015. In an attempt to control this, multiple inventions have been created. We are now going to tell you a bit more about some of them that we think could revolutionize the future of food packaging.
When you are done eating something, you don´t really want to think about the packaging and where that goes, right? So, what if there was a solution to this? Swedish design studio Tomorrow Machine is currently working on this. They developed an egg-like ‘pod’, entirely made out of caramelized sugar, designed to hold liquids like oil and sauce. When you are done eating, the pod is easily dissolved in water and disappears. Another company called MonoSol, from Indiana, is working on a protective film that you can wrap your food in, and when you are done it easily dissolves in any water solution.
Modified atmosphere packaging
MAP is short for Modified Atmosphere Packaging, and means that the air in the package is replaced with a mixture of gases that can slow down or stop the growth of bacteria. This prolongs the quality of the product and reduces spoilage. This method is often used with products like meat, cheese, fresh pasta and so on, because the products can last between 21 to 180 days, depending on what it is. A very handy solution for us who store things in the fridge for a few to many days before we remember it.
When we think about recycling packaging, the best option for many might even be edible packaging, where you don’t have anything to recycle. And this is not as far-fetched as one might think. The company WikiCell has come up with an invention which consists of two layered packaging that are both edible. The first layer is made of ion-like calcium and algae which together form a waterproof gel that can protect the product. The second layer is made of sweeteners and tapioca, that form an egg-like shell around the whole thing. It is perfectly edible, 100% biodegradable and has potentially hundreds of food packaging applications.
Imagine peeling your dry food like a fruit. The company Tomorrow Machine has invented a packaging that’s all natural and made out of 100% biodegradable beeswax. The packaging can hold dry products like rice and other grains, and you simply have to peel the wax off. Unfortunately, the bee population is in danger at the moment, so for the near future we might need to put this invention on the shelf until the bees are safe.
Most packaging, such as bioplastic and compostable packaging, will disintegrate in time, but what if the package decomposes at the same time as the product it holds? The clever Tomorrow Machine has come up with this smoothie box made only out of seaweed gel and water, which decomposes at the same rate as the product within. It is designed for refrigerated drinks, like smoothies, that have short shelf life.
Have you ever wonder if the avocado you picked is ripe enough, or too much? Intelligent packaging, also called active packaging, is a method to identify the freshness of the food. Some producers already use a simplified version of it on their fruit for example, where you can compare the color of the fruit to the color of a sticker to see if it’s ripe or not. But some scientists are now developing this to not only look at the color from the outside, but also monitor its moisture, oxygen level and more, to give a better picture of the products freshness.
A complete change in the way we consume food
The way we look at food consumption is definitely changing, due to overpopulation, climate change and resource scarcity. Food packaging will become less of a priority in the future since the way we consume food will be entirely different.
Scientists are indeed currently working on a number of clever ways to get the nutrients we need into our systems with minimal fuss. In the future we could be getting our three squares a day through chewing gum, skin patches and even the simple act of inhalation. This may sound weird for us today, but it may become a habit in the future.