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A bit of fresh thinking can help reduce food waste

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A bit of fresh thinking can help reduce food waste

Alan Davey, our Director of Innovation, recently wrote a piece for Retail Times on food waste and why retailers, manufacturers and the packaging industry should work together to cut wastage across the supply chain. Read it here in full.
Only a few years ago, if you had asked the average consumer about the issue of food waste it is likely that they would have responded with another question along the lines of “what issue?”.
Indeed, even some links in the food supply chain, while very much aware that food wastage occurred, would have been quite ignorant to the scale of the problem.
However, during the past 12 months or so, food waste has steadily climbed to the top of political and environmental agendas leading to coverage on mainstream news and bringing it to the attention of everyday shoppers and householders.
In October 2013, a report by INCPEN, Checking out food waste, made the headlines. It showed the top 20 food items wasted or reduced to clear between the wholesale depot and the retail check-out are led by fruit (40%), followed by meat and poultry (20%) with vegetables and bakery close behind. Together they account for 22,000 tonnes of waste at a value of £43mm each year. And supermarket giant Tesco revealed its stores and distribution centres generated 28,500 tonnes of food waste in the first six months of 2013.
These reports came closely on the heels of well publicised research by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, which found that as much as half of the world’s food – amounting to two billion tonnes worth – is thrown away. The report, Global Food: Waste Not, Want Not, said wastage was being caused by poor storage, strict sell-by dates, bulk offers which encourage shoppers to buy more food than they need and consumer fussiness. According to the study, between 30% and 50% of the four billion tonnes of food produced around the world each year goes to waste.
These figures are shameful and demonstrate how important it is for retailers, food manufacturers and the packaging industry to work closer together to reduce wastage across the supply chain and also help consumers cut waste at home. It is essential retailers and food manufacturers recognise the vital role packaging has to play in providing a solution to the problem.
As INCPEN director Jane Bickerstaffe, pointed out following the publication of its report “few packaged products appear in the top 20. It is worth noting that the majority of the high wastage foods are typically sold both loose and pre-packed. It would therefore be worth exploring if packaging more of those sold loose would reduce waste”.
At LINPAC Packaging we are acutely aware of our role in helping both retailers and consumers minimise waste by designing innovative packaging solutions which maximise the shelf life of stored products. For consumers, we can help them further by offering packaging which enables them to only select the food they want to use at any one time – the “eat me, keep me” concept for packaging design as it’s become known.
Pack design is heavily influenced by global demographics too so it is essential that we develop products which respond to changing lifestyles. The chilled retail convenience market is a perfect example of this. The sector has blossomed in the last few years supported by a string of new consumer trends. People are leading busier lives and want to be able to eat healthily and enjoy new fresh foods without impacting on their ‘me-time’ despite the recession. Eating patterns have changed; people are looking for products which reduce the time spent planning and preparing meals and fresh prepared foods are the ideal solution, offering valuable convenience to today’s busy shoppers. Plus, it is not unusual today for people to eat ‘on-the-go’, at their desk, in the car or in front of the television rather than at the traditional family dining table.
The chilled retail convenience market is worth more than €145bn across Europe and is expected to grow to €163.5bn by the end of 2015, with the fastest growing markets being found in France, Germany and the UK. By 2010, convenience and ready prepared food had grown to become the main approach to weekday meal preparation, overtaking cooking using raw ingredients. The challenge for packaging manufacturers is to develop products which respond to these lifestyle trends while at the same time addressing issues like food waste.
Packs which can be divided into compartments and allow people to pick and mix which foods they want to consume are ideal for the convenience focussed consumer. As well as having good shelf appeal, consumers can clearly see what is in the pack and contents are segregated to protect and retain freshness. Resealable and split/portion pack designs give shoppers better flexibility for when and how much to eat; supporting efforts to reduce food waste by giving an extended shelf life and enabling consumers to lead a healthier lifestyle.
In 2013, LINPAC Packaging launched its Freshware range to tap in to the growing popularity and demand for chilled retail prepared and convenience foods. The range incorporates the features identified above and comprises tubs, pots and containers for prepared fruit and salads, dips, sandwich fillers, fresh pasta, pizza, prepared vegetables (e.g. stir-fry), chilled bakery, cooked meats and prepared fish packaging solutions.
If people are eating on the move, they are often eating alone or want something which is not going to take long to consume. That is why we have made many our new Freshware packs individual or twin portion sized. Busy consumers will often discard unwanted food without a second thought but the portioned packs means not only are they eating more healthily but they are provided with just the right amount of food they need. Furthermore, simple innovations like including cutlery within the pack and offering easy peel or grip can make all the difference as to whether a diner-on-the-go eats or wastes food.
For example, the LINPAC Vertiwrap® hinged box for food to go wraps and tortillas is made from crystal clear rPET and stands vertically on the shelf to enable shoppers to see the contents clearly. The pack, which is suitable for two small wraps, has been designed to offer maximum protection to food whilst retaining freshness. And the Vertifresh® salad solutions come with multiple clip-in topping trays to segregate salad, dressings and protein options to ensure the meal stays fresher for longer.
Packaging should be regarded as one of our greatest green technologies because of its protective and preserving qualities. A world without packaging would be one where the manufacture, transport, distribution and consumption of virtually every consumer good would be impossible. Quality packaging can significantly reduce waste across the entire supply chain by giving food a longer shelf life and ensures food can be transported around the world safely and securely.

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