While packaging is crucial in order to maintain the shelf life of meat products, processors are looking for sustainable options in packaging materials.

Evolving consumers

Increasing sales is predicated on food companies identifying consumer preferences and purchasing behavior. During his presentation, Stanton explained that one of the biggest changes the food industry must contend with today is the change in family households. Three groups affecting the food landscape today are:

The sandwich generation – adults that are both taking care of their parents and taking care of their kids at the same time;
Boomerang kids – adults that are going back to live with their parents later in life; and
Millennials – “Millennials behave differently, shop differently and eat differently,” Stanton explained.
Another change in consumer groups today comes from single-person households – many of which are part of the millennial generation. Twenty-seven percent of US households are made up of just one person. “Single-person households don’t shop the same way a family does,” Stanton said.

Sustainable partners

Minimizing waste by controlling the amount of packaging material is the focus of one recent partnership between a packaging company and customers in the hospitality industry and a giant retailer.

One of the UK’s retail giants, Tesco Plc, along with the global hospitality conglomerate, the Hilton Food Group, announced this past April, a partnership with packaging company Linpac as part of a group commitment to eliminate packaging waste in the food-supply chain. Using 95 percent recycled materials from plastic water bottles derived from household waste, Linpac’s Rfresh Elite packaging has been adopted by Tesco for its meat and poultry products. Linpac also supplied Elite packs to Hilton UK and Ireland in 2016.

Unlike some other sustainable plastic material on the market the Elite packaging utilizes a sealant between the tray and top film that facilitates easier post-consumer recycling, extending the life and uses for the material in the future. The sealant also reduces the weight of the packages by up to 5 percent compared to traditional packaging formats. Tesco’s adoption of Rfresh Elite products has created an end-market use for over 1,300 tons of plastic post-consumer waste.

According to a statement, “The process is the same as that used to recycle clear plastic water bottles, meaning that the resulting crystal clear recycled plastic (rPET) can re-enter the recycling chain to create closed-loop recycling and ultimately, contribute to a circular economy.”

According to Mark Caul, Ph.D., technical manager for packaging at Tesco, the recycling attributes of the packaging demonstrates a long-term commitment to preserving the environment by the company and has the potential to have an impact on a more global scale.

“These trays represent a step change for the packaging industry by being much lighter, with the added bonus of making recycling easier for local authorities,” he said. “This is a landmark innovation and a clear demonstration of our commitment to reducing our impact on the environment we live in.”