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Go for healthier, sustainable packaging

Source:Food Bev Asia

Date Published:12/12/2018 11:12:40 AM

The F&B packaging sector fast-tracks move toward healthier, sustainable packaging designs.  

THE food and beverage packaging industry the world over is bracing for a paradigm shift. Greater consumer awareness about health and wellness together with growing concerns about the environment are fuelling the trend for healthier, more sustainable choices.  Increasing disposable incomes and purchasing power across many countries, including Asia, is also reshaping consumers’ buying behaviours, shoring up interest in better-quality products and services. Meanwhile, food security concerns are pushing up demand for safe designs that help reduce leakage, spoilage and wastage.

Product development efforts across different regions are also influenced by urbanisation, convenience and the trend for smaller pack sizes. Branding strategies, Internet retailing and premiumisation are other strong market influences.

The Indonesian Packaging Federation (IPF), a non-profit, nongovernment organisation founded in 1977 and comprising packaging industry players, espouses sustainability in packaging. A member of the Asian Packaging Federation (APF) and World Packaging Organization (WPO), IPF emphasises the key role of sustainable packaging in promoting health and wellness, reducing harm to the environment, and in the long run lowering costs.

Mr Henky Wibawa, Indonesian Packaging consultant and IPF executive director, notes the importance of rethinking packaging design and manufacture in light of the move toward Industry 4.0.

“Eighty percent of a product’s environmental impacts are locked in at the design phase,” Mr Wibawa said. He stresses the importance of adopting sustainable design in packaging, an approach to creative production that underscores effective decision making toward reducing impact on the society and environment.

Mr Henky Wibawa is a consultant on Indonesian packaging as well as the executive director of the Indonesian Packaging Federation (IPF)

Designing packaging for a circular economy

In a circular economy that emphasises waste reduction and input and energy efficiency, designing with sustainability in mind is a must. As early as the design stage, developers and manufacturers should make the decision to reduce the overall environmental impact of the design or product being created. All stakeholders should adopt a life cycle thinking approach, which factors in the economic, environmental and social impacts of a product or process over its entire life.

One surefire way of decreasing a product’s impact on the environment is to reduce its overall size and weight. Lowering the number of materials in the design is also key. F&B packaging designs adopting dematerialisation will opt for fewer types of materials and inputs that weigh less. This is because as a general rule, more materials mean greater environmental impact.

Mr Wibawa encourages a revisit of recycling approaches, saying that a recyclable product is not just about having one material that is recyclable.

If recyclable packaging for food and beverages is the goal, the recyclability of all materials must be considered. Such materials must be easily disassembled to allow recycling at the product’s end of life. There should also be systems in place to enable the manufacturer to take back the product and recycle the materials at the end of the product’s life.

Modularity and transportability are other key design considerations. With these incorporated in the packaging design, resulting products can be moved and configured in different ways to match diverse applications and uses.

Packaging design work then must go beyond basic research. Besides market trends and developments, designers must understand the needs of all users and how all materials will be used within the system and throughout the process. 

Designing for evolution is the new catchphrase. Players in the packaging industry are encouraged to stop thinking of their designs as "finished" products. Instead, design work should be approached as if it is software -- products and services that constantly evolve based on data obtained through feedback.

In a circular economy that emphasises waste reduction and input and energy efficiency, designing with sustainability in mind is a must.

Flexible packaging

Designing food and beverage packaging with all these in mind increases product viability. This is because reusable materials create new value, not just for the company itself but also for other users and businesses that will use and reuse the materials.

With new technologies and design approaches, packaging can help prevent food waste across the different stages of the value chain. This means effective protection and appropriate format and serving.

Effective protection achieved through packaging preserves food quality and could reduce the need for cold chain. With flexibility in format and serving, packaging can match the different consumption needs of consumers and lower the risks of leftovers or discarded food, thereby contributing to waste reduction.

Although flexible packaging is less easy to recycle than rigid packaging, it is highly resource efficient. Industry players are therefore exploring more ways to increase the recycling and recovery rates for flexible materials. With reframed thinking and approach toward design and packaging, the industry takes the first steps toward a better future for everyone. 

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