The Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP), in conjunction with the World Packaging Organisation (WPO), has established the Save Food Packaging Awards for Australia and New Zealand that recognises companies who are developing innovative and sustainable packaging that minimises food losses and food wastes, extends shelf-life, and improves the supply of food. Packaging’s role in reducing food waste is the next challenge for packaging technologies, designers and engineers.
APFI spoke with Peter Brennan, planet protector (national sales manager) of WoolCool at the recent ProPak Asia, to find out more about their innovative, natural insulated packaging solution for the transportation of temperature-sensitive goods.
WoolCool was invented by a packaging engineer, Angela Morris, about 12 years ago in the UK. Being an environmentalist too, she was trying to find an alternative to polystyrene to be used in food packaging that was not only just as good as, but better. An English neighbour who was a sheep farmer gave her the idea of using wool, as the English and many people around the world use wool as an insulator to keep homes cool in summer and warm in winter. That was the lightbulb moment.
Over a period of about a year and a half, she developed a very particular blend of wool, using the belly wool, which is typically known in the clothing industry as waste wool because the fibres are too coarse and thick to use to make clothing with, but they have far greater insulating properties than fine wool. Exhaustive testing proved this wool performed better at insulating than polystyrene. Today the company’s partners span across the fresh food and pharmaceutical industries.
WoolCool is made from 100 percent natural scoured sheep’s wool and no chemicals are used in the cleaning process. It is then needle-felted, which brings all the fibres closer and tighter, to give its structural integrity. Typically for the food and pharmaceutical industry, this is cut into rectangular or square lines, and together with cardboard, they provide a great insulating packaging system.
Applications & Benefits
There are numerous applications for this. For example, for meal kit delivery companies such as HelloFresh and Marley Spoon to provide their consumers with fresh ingredients that comes with a recipe card (for a quick assembly of a meal). Ingredients typically come in a box and include chilled fresh produce (e.g. meat, poultry, seafood, dairy), and also dry products like vegetables, canned items, herbs and spices, and more.
The ready meal segment too can use it. These are companies that have fully prepared meals in a package, and WoolCool provides a far better insulator than polystyrene or anything else in the market.
In fact, in a crucial temperature trial test conducted by their partner HelloFresh, WoolCool kept chilled goods under five degrees (ambient temperature was 18-24 deg C) for more than 25 hours. Polystyrene only made it to about 15 hours. In another test with ambient temperatures of about 40 degrees such as here in Thailand, WoolCool proved to keep chilled goods under five degrees for more than 17 hours.
WoolCool therefore allows companies in the food segment to extend their supply chain so food can now travel further and for longer, and still maintain their integrity.
Potential lies in the pharmaceutical industry too because the critical temperature for a lot of pharmaceutical products is between 2-8 deg C, and for others 15-25 deg C in ambient transport. Similarly, because wine is a very temperature-sensitive product, the wine industry can see use there.
Actually, for just about any industry that ships temperature-sensitive goods, WoolCool would be an ideal insulator. It is such a simple innovation using sheep’s wool; you would have thought that someone would have invented it already even 50 years ago.