There’s a revolution happening right now. It’s all around you every time you go to the supermarket. It’s a revolution that is redefining the way food packaging is designed. Let’s back up a bit though. For decades our mega brands and mom and pops alike have been packaging their foods in very typical materials such as different kinds of cardboard and plastic.
This stream of waste was for many years just thrown in the trash … and in many countries it still is. More recently in developed nations, recycling programs have shown up which divert some percentage of these discarded packaging materials from landfills to recycling plants who convert the materials into something usable again. Recycling is a bit of a misnomer though because with plastics for example, the material is actually degraded or “down-cycled” during the recycling process.
So what’s the revolution that is going on in food packaging design? You might have guessed already: It’s revolution of materials. And from cardboard to plastics nothing will ever be the same again.
One shift is the use of sustainable wood fibre and post consumer waste for cardboard. This is good news for our forests which have been under attack for wood pulp and timber for centuries. Keep in mind that our clean air and water mostly originate from our wild lands so it’s important to keep them in good shape. With a shift to using sustainably harvested fibre it means we leave what’s left of the virgin forests intact. Next is cardboard products made from recycled fibre. This is called “post consumer waste” and many paper and card stocks now contain some percentage of recycled material. When you couple sustainably harvested fibre with cardboard made from varying percentages of post consumer waste and we start to see some very real change in this industry.
In the world of plastics the action is decidedly more glamorous. New polymers (plastics) are showing up on our shelves which are made from corn, potato and even mushrooms. That’s right. The oils from these vegetables are turned into plastics with very special properties. One of the greatest advantages of these modern plastics is they biodegrade rapidly once they are disposed of. Unlike plastics made from crude oil, they biodegrade into mostly harmless organic particles which are easily broken down into the environment.
Every generation has the luxury of looking back and seeing how silly the previous generations were. Our children will look back at the way we did things and say … “ You what? You wrapped your loaves of bread, a product that has a shelf life of days … with a plastic bag that has a shelf life of decades? That’s insane!”
When you consider that billions of products are sold every single day packaged in cardboard or plastic then it’s definitely a big deal when positive change happens in these industries. We’re looking forward to seeing what other innovation is yet to come in packaging supplies and materials.
If you are considering a food packaging design then consider using these new materials. They aren’t only better for the planet, but they are becoming the standard for many eco-savvy consumers who expect more from their favorite brands. To connect with this modern breed of consumer (and get their dollars) you’ll need to show that your values align with theirs.