Innovative packaging to reduce food wastage
Up to 50 percent of all food that is produced is either destroyed or thrown away. Food wastage refers to unnecessary food waste, such as food that could have been eaten if it had been dealt with differently. According to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, roughly a million tonnes of food is thrown away each year in Sweden, with households accounting for the majority of this. Food wastage could be reduced with packaging that protects its contents and helps consumers to handle products in the best way.
The “Packaging systems for reduced food wastage” project will develop innovative new packaging solutions to reduce food wastage, throughout the value chain from food producer to consumer. The solutions will be optimised at system level so that no part of the chain is optimised at the expense of any other part. In order to take an overall approach, Innventia has brought together a unique consortium with participants from the entire value chain: materials and packaging producers, food producers, the convenience goods trade, authorities, institutions and universities (headed up by Karlstad University’s Helén Williams), recycling companies and Stockholm Consumer Cooperative Society. It transpired at the workshop arranged last year during the introductory phase – stage one of VINNOVA’s Challenge-Driven Innovation programme – that many players lacked sufficient knowledge and awareness of other parts of the chain.
As the project enters stage two, mapping wastage and the potential for improvement throughout the value chain will be an important part of the process. Ethnographical consumer studies will be carried out as part of this. These studies will show how food is dealt with in the home, and will highlight opportunities for packaging improvements in order to protect the product, communicate and make the best use of resources.
Three different prototypes will be created in partnership with three food producers, as concrete examples of how packaging can contribute towards increased use and make the food and packaging industries more resource-effective. These prototypes are being developed to build up knowledge that can also be applied to completely different products. Since two thirds of all packaging is used within the food and drink industry, the results will affect millions of users in the long term. For the companies taking part in the project, the new, more effective packaging will also be a concrete result in their efforts to achieve sustainable development that can also strengthen their brands.
“Producing prototypes gives companies physical examples that they can show,” says project manager Kristina Wickholm. “General knowledge is not enough to generate innovation. Our ambition is to develop real packaging solutions and to demonstrate the actual significance of the packaging when it comes to preventing wastage from occurring. Then we will be able to talk about packaging as an environmental hero.”
“The fact that players from the entire chain now want to collaborate to reduce food wastage at every stage makes this a real dream project,” adds researcher Helén Williams, Karlstad University, who will also be a sub-project manager.