How innovators save food through sustainable packaging

One of the key objectives of the Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP), outside of providing the industry with professional packaging education and training, is to continually shine the light on individuals and companies who are making a significant difference in their field of packaging. Recognising innovation and unique packaging development is important to the AIP as we believe that it not only acknowledges inspiring individuals and teams, but also encourages others to be innovative.

Sadly, packaging technologists and designers often go unrecognised within their business and establishing the Australasian Packaging Innovation & Design Awards (PIDA) is an external peer-reviewed and deserved industry recognition.

The PIDA Awards have been designed to recognise companies and individuals who are making a significant difference in their field across Australia and New Zealand and are coordinated by the Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP) and Packaging New Zealand.

A feature of the PIDA Awards is that they are the exclusive feeder program for the prestigious WorldStar Packaging Awards and provide an opportunity for Australian and New Zealand companies to also be recognised on an international packaging platform. The 2019 PIDA winners, for example, will automatically be eligible for entry into the 2020 WorldStar Packaging Awards competition which will be held alongside the largest packaging exhibition in the world Interpack in Germany.

Within the 13 award categories, there are a number of special awards that are focussed on encouraging packaging technologists to consider the issues of accessible packaging, sustainable packaging and save food packaging as everyday criteria for their packaging development.

With all of the discussions focussed on fighting food waste, and the role of packaging in minimising food waste, it is important that the industry recognises and awards companies who are working in this design area and trying to make a difference. The Save Food Packaging Design Special Award is designed to recognise companies that have developed innovative and sustainable packaging solutions that minimise food losses and food waste, extend shelf life and improve the supply of food.

A key component of the Save Food Packaging Design Special Award is to raise the profile of the critical role of packaging to reduce food waste and therefore, reduce product’s overall environmental impact. Avoiding food waste is a critical packaging issue and one that food producers, manufacturers, brand owners, retailers and consumers need to better understand. While the primary function of packaging is to protect the contents, the function of packaging to reduce food waste is rarely discussed. The connection between packaging design and food waste needs to be discussed more openly in the industry. From field to fork, there are a number of possibilities for food loss and waste to occur. It has been approximated that up to one-third of the edible food produced does not reach the fork and packaging a role to play to minimise food waste.

Opportunities for packaging design to reduce or eliminate food waste can include better facilitation or communication around portioning, expiry date/best before extensions, or better clarification and even leftover storage solutions. The packaging should also highlight a range of design factors that help to prevent food waste including mechanical protection, physical-chemical protection, resealability, easy to open, grip, dose and empty, contains the correct quantity and serving size, food safety/freshness information, expiry date and “Best before” date, information on storage options and improved communication on packs including open, reseal, close and dispense. The packaging should also facilitate sorting of household waste – easy to clean, separate, recycle or reuse.

The 2019 Save Food Packaging Design Special Award Finalists are Hazeldene’s Chicken Farm and Sealed Air for Cryovac Darfresh on Tray vacuum skin technology, Plantic Technologies for the Plantic RV Material that was designed for Moana seafood company and Flavour Creations for their pre-thickened Ready-to-drink (RTDs) new Dysphagia Cup and Cup Holder.

Hazeldene’s Chicken Farm and Sealed Air have been recognised for Cryovac Darfresh on Tray vacuum skin technology that has been engineered to address food safety, 25 per cent extension of shelf life over the previously used Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) format and improved on-pack communication. The Hazeldene design project had included a range of design factors to reduce food waste and included the tear tap peelable top film allows for easy access to the product. The top film is tough enough to withstand possible bone puncture marks, with the serving size optimised for two people. The skin packaging format allows the pack to be frozen and thawed without product degradation and “best before” date is clearly shown on the packaging.

Plantic Technologies have been recognised for the Plantic RV Material that was designed for Moana seafood company to be able to supply fresh fish to the online meal delivery company “My Food Bag”. The fish had to be protected to maintain freshness for home deliveries, extend the shelf life of fresh fish from the day that the fish were caught and packed until delivery to warehouse to provide Moana with greater flexibility in their production.

Flavour Creations has been recognised for their pre-thickened ready-to-drink (RTDs) which are a shelf-stable product with 12 months shelf-life when unopened and best before dates are clearly legible, When the RTD’s are packaged in the new dysphagia cup and cup holder they are designed to reduce food wastage by enabling better motor control of the drinking process, improving grip, stability and ensuring the ability to consume the full contents.”

The AIP has Best-Practice examples to showcase what true and innovative Save Food Packaging Design really looks like to help guide others. The AIP has spent the last four years developing Save Food Packaging Design guidelines that have been the foundation of the award category judging. These guidelines enable the judges to provide feedback and areas of improvement to the entrants so that they can ensure that all of the criteria are met to successfully market their packaging as unique for saving food. The long-term goal is that all Food Packaging Technologists and Designers incorporate Save Food Design guidelines as a standard practice into their NPD process. Every food manufacturer has a role to play in minimising food waste and it can start with your packaging design.