Can packaging contain food wastage at retail?

Published:May 4, 2023

The world celebrated its first International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, this year on 29th September. In this article, we probe the role packaging plays in containing food loss and wastage. We attempt to analyse how sustainable pack sizes affect food wastage at the end of the supply chain.  Food loss and waste has become crucial across the globe. A study by Food and Agriculture organisation of United Nations found that roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tons per year. The carbon and water footprint of this significant amount of food loss and waste was estimated to be 4.4 gigatons (or 8% of the world’s total CO2 equivalent and 250 km of blue water, respectively).  The study also found that food loss at the retail level is a rising cause of concern in urban food consumer markets. Studies reveal that the wastage levels are between 24% to 40% in the food supply. The major cause of food wastage at the retail level is attributed to poor packaging, improper storage, incorrect temperature control, and loss in transport. This loss combined with the wastage at the consumer level caused mainly due to lack of awareness on shelf-life / best by dates, inadequate pack sizes, improper storage once the pack has opened, forms a major chunk of the food loss percentage.  As a packager with a legacy of offering premium quality environment friendly packaging to multiple FMCG companies across the globe, Manjushree is uniquely placed to innovate and develop new packaging, collaborate with other stakeholders on the waste management challenge and inform consumers in order to increase their participation.  Finding the right solution, one that not only ensures food freshness and safety but also protects taste, aroma, and appearance, while being environmentally conscious is not easy. Each product is different and the journey the food takes from the origin to shelf must be considered. There are several packaging opportunities like - using packaging with barrier properties, introducing reusable packaging range, providing sustainable pack sizes etc., that provide a harmonious solution to contain and control the challenges at both the retail and consumer level.    Here are four packaging suggestions to reduce food waste at the retail stage. 
  1. Introduce serve size, small packaging
Serve size packaging are multi-baggers, they have the potential to transform consumption patterns. They stock more for less space in a retail outlet, induce repeat purchase with their single-serve size product quantity, reduce post-consumption wastage – reduced quantity leaves less excess, and have a smaller environmental footprint as their manufacturing and transport requires reduced resources on a per-piece basis. 
  1. Choose the right product packaging mix
Every food item has its unique storage requirements. Food loss at retail can be controlled by selecting a packaging that is conscious of its product’s need of temperature and light sensitivity, barrier requirements, and environment resistance to ensure freshness of food for long. Customised packaging ensures a safe origin-to-cart journey of the food product. 
  1. Opt for bio-degradable thin wall containers
Cut fruits, vegetables, baked produce, etc., at retail stores have small shelf life and are traditionally packed in flexible packaging to make it cash-and-carry friendly, but once opened, storing these items become difficult. Bio-degradable, thin-wall containers are an excellent alternative for packaging these perishables. They store the food product till its useful life and dissolve into the elements once it is discarded. 
  1. Encourage reusable packaging
Sustainability does not only come from recycling, encouraging reuse increases the lifecycle of plastic packaging by keeping it in consumption for longer. In the food and beverage industry, a lot of waste occurs due to improper storage of a product after the pack has been opened. Moving to reusable rigid packaging not just gives safe storage to the primary product but can also be used to store other perishable after the primary product is fully consumed. In a regular household, rigid plastic containers have far more opportunities to be reused than flexible packs.  Sustainable Pack Sizes  Offering sustainable pack sizes aim at source reduction by providing smaller packaging options that bring evident benefits at both the retail and consumer end of the supply chain. At retail, smaller pack sizes are easier to store, ensuring more for less in stock space. Smaller pack sizes have a reduced footprint since they consume less plastic and production resources and contribute lesser to carbon emissions caused during transport.  At the consumer end the benefits of having smaller pack sizes is similar, it is easier for them to store and consume quicker than larger pack sizes leading to reduced wastage. It is especially beneficial for high shelf life products that generally have a smaller consumption life once opened, for example – dairy products, freezer food, dairy-based drinks, juices etc.  We believe choosing serving size packages and smaller package options is a smart solution. Here is an example of our serving size packaging design for the Beverage industry.      Depicted above are recyclable PP bottles with recyclable HDPE caps that offer fill volumes of 180ml, 200ml and 300ml. The bottles are designed with 38mm neck for a spill-proof gulp. The bottles come in unique designs with customisation options. These PP bottles are semi-transparent, easy to stack and handle. They have a high tolerance for retort sterilization up to 121-degree Celsius for 20 mins and can tolerate both conduction & induction sealing. These bottles offer a shelf life of up to four months  We also manufacture PET preforms for small 180ml, 200ml, and 300ml size beverage bottles. These bottles offer stability for aseptic environment filling and are available with a tamper-evident screw cap. They offer a shelf life of up to 90 days.  Over the years we have undertaken multiple redesign and resizing projects. If you are in need of a fresh look for your product, or want to optimise your existing packaging, we can help you with your next sustainability project, contact us at –   

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