When it comes to reducing food waste, professionals in the packaging industry say consumer perception of packaging is what’s tying them down.

Early in October, DuPont Packaging Global Marketing Director Yasmin Siddiqi spoke at the PAC Packaging Consortium’s “A Day in the Life” symposium. She asked the more than 150 packaging professionals in attendance,  “What’s holding back your efforts to reduce food waste?”

Nearly half answered it was “consumer perception of packaging.” The remaining attendees were split between “ambiguity in terms of overall goals” and “affordability/cost.”

Sixty percent of the packaging industry leaders, brand strategists, designers and key decision-makers in attendance said food security is very important to their business.

“Consumer perception of packaging is a pervasive issue and one that needs to be addressed from every angle in the value chain,” said Siddiqi. “The packaging industry is well positioned to prevent food losses and waste. We need to amplify the positive impact we can have to help break down some of those negative perceptions.”

According to Siddiqi, part of the problem with food waste can be corrected by viewing packaging holistically.

“If you examine packaging in a microscope, you can miss the real story,” Siddiqi said. “For example, food waste has a huge environmental impact because most of the food in landfills contributes to global warming by emitting methane, which is 21 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. Add to that the environmental impact of lost food in terms of wasted water and energy, and you start to see that one pound of food saved has a significant human and environmental impact.”

In another survey, 43 percent of packaging leaders said extending product shelf life should be the packaging industry’s food security priority. Thirty-six percent favored product protection, while 17 percent considered product freshness key. Just 4 percent said packaging should facilitate food portioning. 

Further, the exit poll showed that attendees believe the packaging industry can positively impact food waste throughout the value chain, with a greater impact downstream. When asked where packaging can best mitigate food waste in the supply chain, respondents were almost equally split between retailers, consumers and manufacturers/food processors.

“Food waste occurs in all areas of the supply chain and requires a collaborative collective effort to identify hot spots, evaluate corrective actions and educate accordingly,” said James D. Downham, president and CEO of PAC, Packaging Consortium. “PAC is a trusted neutral actor, our process is transparent collaboration, and we are committed to leading this important initiative."

Siddiqi will address packaging’s contribution to reducing food waste at PACK EXPO 2015 on Monday, Nov. 3, in booth 2962.