New packaging to reduce food waste

May 19, 2015 - 05:35

Far too much food is thrown away. Scientists are now working with food, packaging and equipment producers to develop solutions that lead to more of the food being eaten.

Faulty labelling was the cause of 35 percent of all withdrawals of food from the market in Great Britain in 2011. (Photo: Kjell J. Merok)

Wasting food is a huge problem – all over the world. The total food wasted in Norway in 2013 amounted to 361 000 tonnes, which corresponds to approximately NOK 18 billion. On a global basis, consumers throw away food for USD 400 billion each year.

This wastage is not only a financial loss: it has a heavy impact on the environment and presents ethical dilemmas.

Producing food that is thrown away has greater environmental impacts than using more packaging than what many consumers would consider necessary.

The packaging protects and preserves the food, and four of the eight most important reasons given by consumers for throwing food away are associated with its packaging.

Start with the food products

“Different foods require different packaging. This is why in this project we start with the actual food products, and work towards the optimal packaging solutions from there,” says researcher Marit Kvalvåg Pettersen of the food research institute Nofima. She is responsible also for the project management and coordinating the research activities.

She and her colleagues are to investigate, among other things, the effects of various packaging materials and packaging technologies that are most suitable for various food products.

Vegetables, meat and fish products are among the food products to be investigated. The goal is that in a few years’ time, each one of us is to throw away less food, because  optimal and the newly developed packaging technologies improve product quality  and may increase shelf-life.

What should the packaging say?

Consumer studies and knowledge about consumer behaviour and needs are the starting points for the development of new packaging variants, which will contribute to reducing food waste.

Packaging is already used to inform, but there is a huge potential for improvement. Furthermore, faulty labelling is a significant reason for food products being withdrawn from the market. Faulty labelling was the cause of 35 percent of all withdrawals of food from the market in Great Britain in 2011.

The participants in this project will investigate, among other things, how labels can be used more effectively than they are at present.

Sustainable choices

Life-cycle analyses will be a central tool used to ensure that the packaging solutions that are developed in the project are sustainable.

These analyses are to document how such things as choice of materials, packing method and design impact the environment, food waste and logistics. Scientists will use current packaging solutions as the reference for this work.

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Nofima is a business oriented research institute working in research and development for the aquaculture, fisheries and food industry in Norway. Read more

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