Wageningen University & Research: Roadmap to more sustainable food packaging for three companies

Wageningen University & Research has really helped three companies on their way to more sustainable food packaging. These three winners of Unpack Your Challenge each received a scientifically substantiated roadmap with guidelines for a successful sustainable packaging strategy.

With Unpack your Challenge, Wageningen Food & Biobased Research called on European companies in November 2021 to share the challenges they come across when making packaging more sustainable. Three companies were selected from the many entries. A Wageningen team of materials experts, recycling experts, and experts in chains and logistics worked with directors and packaging technologists from these companies to jointly define a roadmap. This roadmap will help these companies to make the best choice for their packaging issue by using scientific insights.

Sustainable packaging for soft fruit, loose fruit, and meat
The selection of companies shows how different the challenges are that they are facing. For example, the first company is looking for an environmentally friendly alternative to packing soft fruit with proper protection, but without causing logistical problems. The second company wants packaging for its meat products that contains less plastic and is also fully recyclable. The third organisation is in search of a sustainable packaging for firm, loose fruit. The biggest challenge for this company is that the packaging has to hold the fruit close together.

These three companies now have a roadmap that they can use to design, adapt, and roll out their packaging strategy themselves. Each roadmap is accompanied by a thorough analysis of the current situation, the company’s packaging goals, and the prerequisites that the more sustainable packaging must meet.

Not a simple choice
Marieke Brouwer, sustainable packaging researcher at Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, has developed the roadmap. “Making the right choice for more sustainable packaging is not easy,” she says. “For example, what effect will it have on the protection of the packaged product if you choose packaging that contains less plastic? And what will be the consequences for the shelf life of the product? Obviously you don’t want new packaging to lead to more food being thrown away. And how do you make sure that the packaging fits in with the production processes and logistics options of the company. By developing a roadmap, all scientific and practical insights are included in the final choice of packaging.”

For example, what effect will it have on the protection of the packaged product if you choose packaging that contains less plastic? And what will be the consequences for the shelf life of the product?
Marieke Brouwer, sustainable packaging researcher at Wageningen Food & Biobased Research
Possibilities for other companies
The entries in the challenge showed that there is a lot of interest in determining a sustainable packaging strategy. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research also offers other companies and organisations the opportunity to jointly prepare a roadmap. If you are interested, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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