The public’s pulse on environmental issues—including the depletion of natural resources and increase in food waste—continues to drive demand for sustainable products, according to “Global Trends Impacting Packaging Machinery,” a 2018 report from PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies. As a result, the number of innovative foods that are sustainably sourced and packaged has grown. 

In addition, heightened corporate social responsibility, firmer regulations and heavier taxes related to the protection of the environment are driving investment in solutions that optimize the use of resources and minimize environmental distress, according to PMMI’s report. Sustainability is a mainstay today, and it is affecting the supply chain from crop to consumer. 

Out with the old, in with the bruised 

Companies today are utilizing their innovative arms to fuel ideas to combat the food waste epidemic and enact sustainable solutions. Consequently, new products are being derived from foods that would otherwise wind up discarded or relegated to scraps. Take for example, the cold-pressed juice Wtrmln Wtr, founded on the premise of creating juice out of watermelon deemed too unattractive for sale as produce. This premise also is the genesis of several produce subscription delivery companies establishing roots across the United States to mitigate produce waste due to product that is aesthetically unfit for sale.

While food upcycling may be the latest trend, the fact remains that certain food products are only as good their final packages, as the right materials and containers can significantly impact shelf life. 

The whole package

There has been an ongoing push to improve sustainability across different packaging types, driven throughout the supply chain from consumers and retailers onward. This is true for various packaging formats, including the plastic used on bottle caps, PET bottles, recycled corrugated used in cartons and cases, and recycled HDPE or PET film. Sustainability initiatives have advanced considerably, leading manufacturers to reduce the package source material through downgauging, creating thinner and lighter packaging while reducing waste.

Ultimately, companies must optimize the package to prevent spoilage and avoid adding to the food waste epidemic. 

Sustainability has a role to play not only as it pertains to the food and primary package, but also in the secondary package and cartonboard it is shipped in. As the e-commerce market continues to grow, so does consumer concern about product waste. Brands must use the proper package size for delivery to avoid the perception of being wasteful and unsustainable in the eyes of the targeted end-user.

Innovation for all

In the packaging space, strides are being made toward improving materials, but also packaging machinery.  As companies increasingly take steps toward sustainability, the demand for more energy-efficient machines rises, and companies begin to look to more innovative solutions to meet demand, reduce their footprints and more.

Food industry professionals can find the latest sustainability-enhancing packaging options at PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2019 (Sept. 23–25, Las Vegas Convention Center), produced and owned by PMMI. Co-located with Healthcare Packaging EXPO, this event will bring together more than 30,000 attendees, including 5,000 international visitors from more than 125 countries and 2,000-plus exhibiting companies spanning nearly 900,000 net sq. ft. of exhibit floor. 

Registration, which includes access to PACK EXPO Las Vegas and Healthcare Packaging EXPO, is $30 through Aug. 30, after which the price increases to $100. 

PMMI represents more than 850 North American manufacturers and suppliers of equipment, components and materials, as well as providers of related equipment and services to the packaging and processing industry.