University of Reading: Eco-Friendly Paper-Based Packaging Co-Designed With Consumers

Sensitive foods could be packaged in more environmentally and consumer-friendly packaging thanks to EIT Food-funded research. EIT Food, the world’s largest and most dynamic food innovation community, is supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union.

The project “PACK4SENSE” (Paper packaging for SENSitive foods) is developing a sustainable packaging concept, and sees partners from industry and research, namely Colruyt Group, Syntegon, Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging, Strauss Group, and the University of Reading working together.

To understand consumer expectations regarding sustainable packaging for sensitive products, focus group sessions were conducted with consumers at the University of Reading. Results showed that consumers are confused on how different packaging should be handled and disposed. They would like to see more sustainable packaging on the shelf as long as these packages retain the functionalities of the current packaging such as rigidity, protection of the product without compromising quality. However, they are not willing to pay more for such packages but feel that any extra costs should be shared by food producers and retailers rather than being passed onto consumers.

Information received from consumers was fed back to the consortium partners who in turn designed paper-based packages for sensitive food products. These packages were then tested for their sensory characteristics and consumer acceptability at the University of Reading.

Dr Bola Oloyede, Postdoctoral Research at the University of Reading said:

“From the initial results of the study, we found that while consumers liked the natural look of the paper-based packaging, they considered them too fragile and not rigid enough to withstand handling. Most of the participants were willing to separate the inner barrier from the recyclable paper base but stated that the process of separation needs to be easy and clear instructions must be provided. While consumers feel more work still needs to be done to make the paper-based packages ready for the market, they agreed that the packaging design is heading to the right direction.”

Dr Stella Lignou, Associate Professor in Sensory and Consumer Science at the University of Reading said:

“Plastics have become best-in class packaging material for food packaging, with unparalleled functionalities and very low cost. However, only 14% of plastic packaging is recycled and the impact on our planet is unsustainable.

“For Pack4SENSE we wanted to look at producing planet-friendly packaging for highly sensitive foods. We have been working with consumers and the trained sensory panel at the Sensory Science Centre at the University of Reading to ensure that what is developed works not only from a technical perspective but also from a consumer perspective. The feedback from the participants in the study has been very encouraging and consumers can’t wait to see these paper-based packages on the shelf.”

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