Edible packaging is one of those crazy but sort of great ideas that’s been in labs for a while—but it’s likely soon to be on grocery store shelves. A recent study released by Research and Markets called ForeSights: Edible Packaging, looks at market share and potential consumer trends. According to the report:
[quote]“Although at a nascent stage, edible packaging has the potential to gain traction as food and drink brands look for new and more enticing sustainability initiatives.” [/quote]
Convenience: No extra packaging for consumers to wrestle with, and would mean cost savings along the supply chain, especially for shipping.
Less Waste: This technology is being touted as “green” because there won’t be any packaging waste at all. Less in landfills and recycling bins.
Do we really want to eat packaging? Will consumers resist consuming what is still, essentially, a package? That might be a hard sell. According to the ForeSights study, 70% of consumers think packaging needs to be reduced—but are they willing to eat it?
Safety: As this Packaging Digest article points out, food products with packaging provides a layer of security and hygiene. If the food and package are the same thing, there will have to be safety methods added that fulfill government requirements.
Branding: How will brand owners create brand awareness and uniqueness without packaging? Many iconic food brands are associated with color—think the red and white of Coca-Cola, or the bright yellow of a Cheerios box. Possibilities—brands will only use edible packaging as internal packaging, inside a conventional branded container, or someone will come up with something innovative and cool that will take food branding to the next level.
Some edible packaging products:
WikiPearl: From the hallowed halls of Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, WikiFoods (the company) created WikiCells (the technology), which beget WikiPearl (the product), which is a biodegradable polymer that creates a “package” for a food product. They’ve used it with ice cream, and are working on beverages.
MonoSol: Produces a product called the Vivos Edible Delivery System (which is not the most appetizing name, but there you are). This product actually looks like a conventional food package bag—think those little soy sauce packages that come by the handful with your Chinese food delivery—but dis-solvable in water—hot and cold—and hasn’t a smell or a taste. Watch their video of a package of instant coffee dissolving in a cup and you’ll pretty much get the idea. For a take on another form of edible or biodegradable packaging. Check out this video of Ogilvy & Mather Colombia’s revolutionary idea of serving up Coca-Cola in a bottle made of ice.
What Does This Mean for Printing and Packaging?
None of the prototypes so far have any branding or printing as part of their technology. For brand owners, this means a very valuable part of their advertising and identity will disappear. For printers, this could mean a valuable part of the market segment will, if not completely disappear, shrink and undergo some pretty radical changes.
Smart brand owners will partner with edible packaging development companies, and work on ways to create a win-win situation, and printers need to keep up with edible packaging developments—if it is the next big thing in packaging, you’d better be prepared.