Latest figures from the Waste & Resource Action Programme (WRAP) highlight that a staggering 7.2 million tonnes of food and drink are thrown away every year, the majority of which could have been eaten.
With increased consumer consumption and sales growth, retailers are facing mounting pressure to make better use of packaging to keep food fresher for longer, as well as to educate customers about the vital role packaging plays in this process.
WRAP’s Courtauld Commitment, which was first agreed in 2005, is now in its third phase. This latest version is known as CC3 and the initiatives it sets out aim to reduce food waste even further.
CC3 sets ambitious targets of a further 1.1 million tonnes of waste reduction by 2015, bringing £1.6 billion (US$2.64 billion) in cost benefits to consumers and the industry.
Steven Depolo, Miami, US
When the first phase of the Courtauld Commitment was agreed in 2005, the main focus for tackling waste centred around weight-based targets, including the lightweighting and reduction of packaging.
During this initial phase, 520,000 tonnes of packaging were avoided through the removal of unnecessary packaging and the use of lighter materials.
After the initial packaging reductions were achieved under the Commitment, and additional work undertaken as part of Courtauld 2, the options for further reductions were deemed limited. This is because any additional reductions could risk technical performance and actually result in increased waste.
The Courtauld 3 Commitment has therefore turned its main focus to improving packaging design through the supply chain, to maximise recycled content as appropriate, improve recyclability, and deliver longer product protection to reduce food waste.
This third phase, which has been warmly welcomed by many in the industry, aims specifically to reduce household food and drink waste by five percent. This represents a nine percent reduction in real terms, to counter the expected increase in food purchased.
The Courtauld 3 Commitment presents an ideal opportunity to stimulate further innovations in the industry, especially around the development of enhanced packaging optimisation. The role of the modern packaging manufacturer is to deliver intelligent solutions that represent the perfect fusion of design and technical development.
However, improving packaging optimisation through the introduction of new technology requires a collaborative approach. Importantly, it must also be delivered throughout the supply chain, as reducing food waste requires different approaches for retailers and consumers. The benefit of this approach is that it can often result in more possibilities for the manufacturer, as it enables a variety of packaging options to be cost-effectively combined or used separately.
Product Lifetime Extension
Continued innovation by packaging experts is helping to keep food fresher for longer, therefore, saving money and reducing waste. The question is, how much longer does packaging actually make food last?
Understanding the real issues retailers and brand owners face, a range of innovative sandwich packs was introduced recently. The Modified Atmosphere (MA) Carton Sandwich Wedges are not only hermetically sealed, but also use barrier film that allows them to be gas flushed.
This technological revolution is ideal for retailers who require a much longer shelf life, as the MA technology removes virtually all oxygen from inside the wedge to extend the life of the product.
Made using bespoke manufacturing equipment, the packaging provides the absolute ultimate in terms of sealing in freshness and protecting from contamination.
The results clearly highlight that an extended shelf life of up to 28 days is possible depending on ingredients and the choice of packaging design. By comparison, dayfresh and standard cartonboard sandwich packs, which are either hand closed or sealed (but not hermetic), are suitable for display for only one to three days.
These very long life MA packs are most suited to continental or US supply chains where the distances and logistics may require an extended time to reach point of sale. However, even in a short supply chain, increasing the shelf life by just one day from three to four days, can potentially make a major impact on out-of-date wastage. This allows for greater fluctuations in consumer demand, resulting in a real impact on the amount of waste at the retailer.
Fighting Wastage Through Resealing
Steven Depolo, Miami, US
How long food stays fresh continues to remain a key priority for consumers, especially as products that have a longer life can be conveniently purchased in just one shopping trip. For those looking to save time and money, this means fewer journeys to purchase fresh food.
However, despite continued innovation in the industry, most consumers still believe that keeping food sealed in its packaging at home leads to it spoiling quicker. In fact, it is once packs are opened that most products will begin to deteriorate quickly.
Where food is supplied with the intention of being used immediately after opening, this is not a problem. However, the economy of larger packs often encourages the consumer to buy packs that contain enough food for use on more than one occasion.
The food that is not used when the pack is first opened may need to stay fresh for several days, with further portions being taken at intervals. If the flavour or appearance of the product changes noticeably, it is likely that the food will be discarded. If the food is to be kept as fresh as possible, the pack needs to have some method of resealing after it has been opened.
Advantages Of Resealing
Modified Atmosphere Sandwich Wedge – Five Key Benefits
1. REDUCED PACKAGING
2. IMPROVED FRESHNESS
3. REDUCED FOOD WASTE
4. WIDELY RECYCLABLE
5. STRONG CONSUMER APPEAL
Resealability could be as simple as a locking tab on the front of a tray to keep the pack loosely closed for protection, as on an egg carton. Alternatively, it may come in the form of a near-hermetic seal from a suitable pack addition. These are capable of greatly reducing the movement of air or moisture in or out of the pack.
The benefits are clear, as the Love Food Hate Waste campaign highlights, salad will breathe more slowly and so live longer, bakery products will be prevented from drying out and going stale, and meat and fish will retain their colour and flavour for longer.
Of course, a key factor in achieving customer satisfaction is the overall integrity of the seal. Technology now permits resealing to be built into the packaging or, alternatively, incorporated into a third party sealing system during packing. This offers the optimum type of resealability for the end-user.
However, a resealable feature in a pack must perform many functions, as it cannot just be any method of reclosing. It must be obvious how it works, easy to seal and re-open, and give the contents of the pack protection as close as possible to the conditions before the pack was opened for the first time.
Fundamentally, if a pack’s resealing feature does not perform effectively, the negative impact on retailers and brands can be far-reaching, with a myriad of issues to overcome that include potentially critical health and safety concerns, and the loss of consumer appeal and loyalty. Likewise, even when the resealing feature performs, the role of educating consumers about its benefits is a challenge because numerous on-pack messages fight for attention.
The role of the packaging manufacturer is to work collaboratively with food manufacturers, brands and retailers. Only then can packs be designed that meet the growing consumer demand for resealing, and also communicate the vital role that functionality plays in keeping food fresh for longer and reducing waste.
The critical role of packaging in helping signatories meet their Courtauld 3 targets presents a number of challenges surrounding extended shelf life and further waste reduction.
However, as this guide clearly demonstrates, the Courtauld 3 Commitment is continuing to open up a raft of new opportunities and technical innovations across the industry.
Importantly, the resulting benefits of the Commitment are not constrained to the organisations directly involved. The current situation presents an ideal opportunity for the entire industry to assess its own circumstances and priorities in relation to enhanced packaging optimisation.
If change is to happen, choosing the right packaging partner is key. However, with multiple companies offering similar-sounding services, it can often be difficult for organisations to select the most reputable supplier.