Stemming the tide of waste: green packaging in 2020

Stemming the tide of waste: green packaging in 2020

By
Laura Robinson
July 5, 2020

Every year, we throw away around 40% of the plastic we produce. But given that there’s no magical place called "away", it ends up in landfill or pollutes our oceans. This isn’t only an issue for our planet. It also doesn’t make good business sense. This waste represents a $80-120 billion loss to the global economy each year. But luckily, the tide is starting to turn.  

Many leading manufacturers – including Nestlé and Unilever – have made public commitments to develop more sustainable packaging. Loop Industries, a leading technology company, has partnered with PepsiCo and Danone to introduce more sustainable PET solutions across their supply chains. And numerous food service partners are collaborating with innovative start-ups to trial reusable - or even edible - solutions.  

Crunchbase data shows that packaging solution start-ups have raised over $850m in the last 3 years. The ecommerce boom triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has also created even greater demand for sustainable packaging. Experts now claim that this market – dominated by the food and beverages segment - will grow to represent a $313.93 billion opportunity by 2025.

This week we take a look at the green packaging options available, the benefits for businesses who get it right and the innovative companies that are helping others to think out of the box.

Drivers: Sustainability is trendy - and profitable


Thanks to a few political nudges and popular documentaries raising the profile of the environmental issues linked to plastic packaging, it’s now cool to be green. In many social groups, recycling and using reusable bags or cups has become the new normal. In fact, a global survey recently showed that 81% of respondents expect to buy more green products in the next five years and 89% pay attention to packaging when making a decision between brands.

At the same time, companies have recognised that sustainability sells. If consumers are looking for brands that reflect their values, then innovative packaging solutions demonstrate their commitment to waste reduction in a way that words on a website never could. Packaging also represents a significant portion of a product’s final costs. So rethinking and reassessing design can have a positive effect on both a company’s environmental impact and bottom line.  

So what’s the greenest packaging solution?

Sadly, there’s no single answer. When it comes to choice of materials, in addition to the standard recycled plastic and paper options, there are bioplastics and other novel packaging solutions, often made from sugarcane, bamboo, rice or seaweed. Despite proving popular with consumers and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, some of these options are not suitable for all food applications and others can take a long time to biodegrade if disposed of incorrectly.

Ultimately, the best solution depends on the product and its own unique use case. The availability of the raw material (renewable or nonrenewable), the scalability of supply, the production process and the recycling infrastructure in the area where the product is sold all need to be borne in mind. But there is one thing that most experts agree on: in line with the waste hierarchy, we should be focusing on reduction and circularity, rather than designing for recyclability alone.


Manufacturing: Making green packaging a product USP


Green product packaging means striking a delicate balance. It needs to be robust enough to ensure food safety, quality and reduce food waste. But the solution also needs to be innovative enough to help you stand out against competitors and attract environmentally conscious consumers. A number of forward-thinking brands have walked this tightrope successfully.  

Plant-based meat producer No Evil Foods focused on design and materials, using minimal, fully compostable cardboard, printed with plant-based inks. In beverages, UK-based Frugalpac collaborated with Italian wine brand Cantina Goccia to create a wine bottle made from 94% recycled paperboard. While Haven’s Kitchen – a company selling refrigerated sauces - partnered with TerraCycle to create their own recycling programme for their pouches.

Culina - a plant-based yoghurt brand – launched their first product in terracotta cups that can be reused as trendy breakfast or dessert containers or plant pots. The pots were a huge hit with their target group and their instagrammability made it easy for happy customers to become brand ambassadors. They’ve since switched to resealable glass containers that can also be repurposed into handy airtight spice jars.


Food service sector: reuse models and edible packaging


For food service companies, takeaway packaging and single use utensils are the biggest headache. Many businesses initially focused on ensuring that their takeaway containers were made from compostable materials. But studies have shown that depending on the material and how the consumer disposes of it, this is sometimes just shifting the problem.

Until COVID-19 put a pandemic-sized spanner in the works, reusable solutions have also been gaining traction. Reusable cups pretty much enjoy fashion accessory status in some social groups and a growing number of cafés are keeping up their side of the bargain by offering customer discounts to incentivise their use. reCIRCLE - a company offering a third-party reusable tableware system – makes it easy for food service partners to get started. Over the last few years, they’ve rapidly expanded their network across Switzerland and into Germany.

And then there’s edible packaging. Experts predict that demand will grow 6.9% year on year, becoming a $2 billion global market by 2024. Solutions are typically made of seaweed, potato starch or milk proteins – but others have experimented with apples and tomatoes too. Recently, Air New Zealand partnered with innovative company twiice to switch their compostable coffee cups for edible vanilla flavoured ones – a development that apparently went down very well with customers.


Eat your waste: Notpla and DoEat


You’re running the London marathon and you’re gagging for a drink. Rather than a cup or a bottle, a volunteer hands you a small edible capsule. You bite it open, drink the liquid inside and then swallow the seaweed-based packaging. And even if you spit it out, it will biodegrade in just four to six weeks. This ingenious little solution – called Ooho - is the brainchild of start-up Notpla. After taking on disposable sauce sachets in a successful trial with Unilever and JustEat last year, the company launched their first seaweed-lined takeaway box in February. But for Notpla, this is just the beginning. The company sees a variety of applications for their technology – from edible shots to films that package dried goods.


Meanwhile in Belgium, Thibaut Gilquin and Hélène Hoyois were also sick of the sight of packaging waste. So they founded DoEat, a company that produces 100% edible or compostable tableware – regardless of where it’s thrown away. Their products are made from potato starch but are also robust enough to hold liquid contents and can even be baked in the oven. Customers can opt for neutral flavoured products – perfect for sweet or savoury contents - or choose tableware flavoured with herbs, olive oil or cacao. Suitable for buffets, barbeques, festivals or food trucks, their products can now be ordered online.

Getting it right and communicating the benefits

As the now infamous case of the shrink-wrapped cucumber shows, what consumers expect may not always be the most environmentally friendly or economically viable option for your company. As with carbon labelling, working with the right third party expert or solution provider may save your business a significant headache and give you the confidence to communicate about your product’s USP.

Because perfecting your packaging is only one part of the story. Brands need to make sure that their customers understand the benefits behind the changes and know how to dispose or reuse the product appropriately. Get this right and you won’t only be doing your bit for the planet. You’ll also be charming value-driven millennials as part of the package.


Business opportunities

  • Work in retail? Consider taking a leaf out of Waitrose’s book and introducing a packaging free section in your stores for regularly bought items.

  • Redesigning your packaging? Think about designing in circularity and potentially introduce a reward for reuse or recycling. It may be worth getting external advice or benefitting from an online course to find the right solution.

  • Interested in shifting to a reusable model? Try reaching out to third party providers to see how their systems can help you cut packaging waste and increase customer loyalty. reCIRCLE offers Swiss businesses a handy tool (DE, and FR only) to calculate mid-term savings.

Written by
Laura Robinson

From policy geek to digital consultant, Laura has always enjoyed bringing people together through words or tools to drive positive change. She is most proud of finally taking the leap into entrepreneurship by founding Pink Pear Agency - a network of passionate specialists who help food businesses grow innovative projects and share their stories with the world. Laura is currently interested in project development and management, digital tools, content strategy and copywriting.

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Every year, we throw away around 40% of the plastic we produce. But given that there’s no magical place called "away", it ends up in landfill or pollutes our oceans. This isn’t only an issue for our planet. It also doesn’t make good business sense. This waste represents a $80-120 billion loss to the global economy each year. But luckily, the tide is starting to turn.  

Many leading manufacturers – including Nestlé and Unilever – have made public commitments to develop more sustainable packaging. Loop Industries, a leading technology company, has partnered with PepsiCo and Danone to introduce more sustainable PET solutions across their supply chains. And numerous food service partners are collaborating with innovative start-ups to trial reusable - or even edible - solutions.  

Crunchbase data shows that packaging solution start-ups have raised over $850m in the last 3 years. The ecommerce boom triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has also created even greater demand for sustainable packaging. Experts now claim that this market – dominated by the food and beverages segment - will grow to represent a $313.93 billion opportunity by 2025.

This week we take a look at the green packaging options available, the benefits for businesses who get it right and the innovative companies that are helping others to think out of the box.

Drivers: Sustainability is trendy - and profitable


Thanks to a few political nudges and popular documentaries raising the profile of the environmental issues linked to plastic packaging, it’s now cool to be green. In many social groups, recycling and using reusable bags or cups has become the new normal. In fact, a global survey recently showed that 81% of respondents expect to buy more green products in the next five years and 89% pay attention to packaging when making a decision between brands.

At the same time, companies have recognised that sustainability sells. If consumers are looking for brands that reflect their values, then innovative packaging solutions demonstrate their commitment to waste reduction in a way that words on a website never could. Packaging also represents a significant portion of a product’s final costs. So rethinking and reassessing design can have a positive effect on both a company’s environmental impact and bottom line.  

So what’s the greenest packaging solution?

Sadly, there’s no single answer. When it comes to choice of materials, in addition to the standard recycled plastic and paper options, there are bioplastics and other novel packaging solutions, often made from sugarcane, bamboo, rice or seaweed. Despite proving popular with consumers and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, some of these options are not suitable for all food applications and others can take a long time to biodegrade if disposed of incorrectly.

Ultimately, the best solution depends on the product and its own unique use case. The availability of the raw material (renewable or nonrenewable), the scalability of supply, the production process and the recycling infrastructure in the area where the product is sold all need to be borne in mind. But there is one thing that most experts agree on: in line with the waste hierarchy, we should be focusing on reduction and circularity, rather than designing for recyclability alone.


Manufacturing: Making green packaging a product USP


Green product packaging means striking a delicate balance. It needs to be robust enough to ensure food safety, quality and reduce food waste. But the solution also needs to be innovative enough to help you stand out against competitors and attract environmentally conscious consumers. A number of forward-thinking brands have walked this tightrope successfully.  

Plant-based meat producer No Evil Foods focused on design and materials, using minimal, fully compostable cardboard, printed with plant-based inks. In beverages, UK-based Frugalpac collaborated with Italian wine brand Cantina Goccia to create a wine bottle made from 94% recycled paperboard. While Haven’s Kitchen – a company selling refrigerated sauces - partnered with TerraCycle to create their own recycling programme for their pouches.

Culina - a plant-based yoghurt brand – launched their first product in terracotta cups that can be reused as trendy breakfast or dessert containers or plant pots. The pots were a huge hit with their target group and their instagrammability made it easy for happy customers to become brand ambassadors. They’ve since switched to resealable glass containers that can also be repurposed into handy airtight spice jars.


Food service sector: reuse models and edible packaging


For food service companies, takeaway packaging and single use utensils are the biggest headache. Many businesses initially focused on ensuring that their takeaway containers were made from compostable materials. But studies have shown that depending on the material and how the consumer disposes of it, this is sometimes just shifting the problem.

Until COVID-19 put a pandemic-sized spanner in the works, reusable solutions have also been gaining traction. Reusable cups pretty much enjoy fashion accessory status in some social groups and a growing number of cafés are keeping up their side of the bargain by offering customer discounts to incentivise their use. reCIRCLE - a company offering a third-party reusable tableware system – makes it easy for food service partners to get started. Over the last few years, they’ve rapidly expanded their network across Switzerland and into Germany.

And then there’s edible packaging. Experts predict that demand will grow 6.9% year on year, becoming a $2 billion global market by 2024. Solutions are typically made of seaweed, potato starch or milk proteins – but others have experimented with apples and tomatoes too. Recently, Air New Zealand partnered with innovative company twiice to switch their compostable coffee cups for edible vanilla flavoured ones – a development that apparently went down very well with customers.


Eat your waste: Notpla and DoEat


You’re running the London marathon and you’re gagging for a drink. Rather than a cup or a bottle, a volunteer hands you a small edible capsule. You bite it open, drink the liquid inside and then swallow the seaweed-based packaging. And even if you spit it out, it will biodegrade in just four to six weeks. This ingenious little solution – called Ooho - is the brainchild of start-up Notpla. After taking on disposable sauce sachets in a successful trial with Unilever and JustEat last year, the company launched their first seaweed-lined takeaway box in February. But for Notpla, this is just the beginning. The company sees a variety of applications for their technology – from edible shots to films that package dried goods.


Meanwhile in Belgium, Thibaut Gilquin and Hélène Hoyois were also sick of the sight of packaging waste. So they founded DoEat, a company that produces 100% edible or compostable tableware – regardless of where it’s thrown away. Their products are made from potato starch but are also robust enough to hold liquid contents and can even be baked in the oven. Customers can opt for neutral flavoured products – perfect for sweet or savoury contents - or choose tableware flavoured with herbs, olive oil or cacao. Suitable for buffets, barbeques, festivals or food trucks, their products can now be ordered online.

Getting it right and communicating the benefits

As the now infamous case of the shrink-wrapped cucumber shows, what consumers expect may not always be the most environmentally friendly or economically viable option for your company. As with carbon labelling, working with the right third party expert or solution provider may save your business a significant headache and give you the confidence to communicate about your product’s USP.

Because perfecting your packaging is only one part of the story. Brands need to make sure that their customers understand the benefits behind the changes and know how to dispose or reuse the product appropriately. Get this right and you won’t only be doing your bit for the planet. You’ll also be charming value-driven millennials as part of the package.


Business opportunities

  • Work in retail? Consider taking a leaf out of Waitrose’s book and introducing a packaging free section in your stores for regularly bought items.

  • Redesigning your packaging? Think about designing in circularity and potentially introduce a reward for reuse or recycling. It may be worth getting external advice or benefitting from an online course to find the right solution.

  • Interested in shifting to a reusable model? Try reaching out to third party providers to see how their systems can help you cut packaging waste and increase customer loyalty. reCIRCLE offers Swiss businesses a handy tool (DE, and FR only) to calculate mid-term savings.

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  • Read Unlimited Articles
  • Access Member Directory
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Every year, we throw away around 40% of the plastic we produce. But given that there’s no magical place called "away", it ends up in landfill or pollutes our oceans. This isn’t only an issue for our planet. It also doesn’t make good business sense. This waste represents a $80-120 billion loss to the global economy each year. But luckily, the tide is starting to turn.  

Many leading manufacturers – including Nestlé and Unilever – have made public commitments to develop more sustainable packaging. Loop Industries, a leading technology company, has partnered with PepsiCo and Danone to introduce more sustainable PET solutions across their supply chains. And numerous food service partners are collaborating with innovative start-ups to trial reusable - or even edible - solutions.  

Crunchbase data shows that packaging solution start-ups have raised over $850m in the last 3 years. The ecommerce boom triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has also created even greater demand for sustainable packaging. Experts now claim that this market – dominated by the food and beverages segment - will grow to represent a $313.93 billion opportunity by 2025.

This week we take a look at the green packaging options available, the benefits for businesses who get it right and the innovative companies that are helping others to think out of the box.

Drivers: Sustainability is trendy - and profitable


Thanks to a few political nudges and popular documentaries raising the profile of the environmental issues linked to plastic packaging, it’s now cool to be green. In many social groups, recycling and using reusable bags or cups has become the new normal. In fact, a global survey recently showed that 81% of respondents expect to buy more green products in the next five years and 89% pay attention to packaging when making a decision between brands.

At the same time, companies have recognised that sustainability sells. If consumers are looking for brands that reflect their values, then innovative packaging solutions demonstrate their commitment to waste reduction in a way that words on a website never could. Packaging also represents a significant portion of a product’s final costs. So rethinking and reassessing design can have a positive effect on both a company’s environmental impact and bottom line.  

So what’s the greenest packaging solution?

Sadly, there’s no single answer. When it comes to choice of materials, in addition to the standard recycled plastic and paper options, there are bioplastics and other novel packaging solutions, often made from sugarcane, bamboo, rice or seaweed. Despite proving popular with consumers and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, some of these options are not suitable for all food applications and others can take a long time to biodegrade if disposed of incorrectly.

Ultimately, the best solution depends on the product and its own unique use case. The availability of the raw material (renewable or nonrenewable), the scalability of supply, the production process and the recycling infrastructure in the area where the product is sold all need to be borne in mind. But there is one thing that most experts agree on: in line with the waste hierarchy, we should be focusing on reduction and circularity, rather than designing for recyclability alone.


Manufacturing: Making green packaging a product USP


Green product packaging means striking a delicate balance. It needs to be robust enough to ensure food safety, quality and reduce food waste. But the solution also needs to be innovative enough to help you stand out against competitors and attract environmentally conscious consumers. A number of forward-thinking brands have walked this tightrope successfully.  

Plant-based meat producer No Evil Foods focused on design and materials, using minimal, fully compostable cardboard, printed with plant-based inks. In beverages, UK-based Frugalpac collaborated with Italian wine brand Cantina Goccia to create a wine bottle made from 94% recycled paperboard. While Haven’s Kitchen – a company selling refrigerated sauces - partnered with TerraCycle to create their own recycling programme for their pouches.

Culina - a plant-based yoghurt brand – launched their first product in terracotta cups that can be reused as trendy breakfast or dessert containers or plant pots. The pots were a huge hit with their target group and their instagrammability made it easy for happy customers to become brand ambassadors. They’ve since switched to resealable glass containers that can also be repurposed into handy airtight spice jars.


Food service sector: reuse models and edible packaging


For food service companies, takeaway packaging and single use utensils are the biggest headache. Many businesses initially focused on ensuring that their takeaway containers were made from compostable materials. But studies have shown that depending on the material and how the consumer disposes of it, this is sometimes just shifting the problem.

Until COVID-19 put a pandemic-sized spanner in the works, reusable solutions have also been gaining traction. Reusable cups pretty much enjoy fashion accessory status in some social groups and a growing number of cafés are keeping up their side of the bargain by offering customer discounts to incentivise their use. reCIRCLE - a company offering a third-party reusable tableware system – makes it easy for food service partners to get started. Over the last few years, they’ve rapidly expanded their network across Switzerland and into Germany.

And then there’s edible packaging. Experts predict that demand will grow 6.9% year on year, becoming a $2 billion global market by 2024. Solutions are typically made of seaweed, potato starch or milk proteins – but others have experimented with apples and tomatoes too. Recently, Air New Zealand partnered with innovative company twiice to switch their compostable coffee cups for edible vanilla flavoured ones – a development that apparently went down very well with customers.


Eat your waste: Notpla and DoEat


You’re running the London marathon and you’re gagging for a drink. Rather than a cup or a bottle, a volunteer hands you a small edible capsule. You bite it open, drink the liquid inside and then swallow the seaweed-based packaging. And even if you spit it out, it will biodegrade in just four to six weeks. This ingenious little solution – called Ooho - is the brainchild of start-up Notpla. After taking on disposable sauce sachets in a successful trial with Unilever and JustEat last year, the company launched their first seaweed-lined takeaway box in February. But for Notpla, this is just the beginning. The company sees a variety of applications for their technology – from edible shots to films that package dried goods.


Meanwhile in Belgium, Thibaut Gilquin and Hélène Hoyois were also sick of the sight of packaging waste. So they founded DoEat, a company that produces 100% edible or compostable tableware – regardless of where it’s thrown away. Their products are made from potato starch but are also robust enough to hold liquid contents and can even be baked in the oven. Customers can opt for neutral flavoured products – perfect for sweet or savoury contents - or choose tableware flavoured with herbs, olive oil or cacao. Suitable for buffets, barbeques, festivals or food trucks, their products can now be ordered online.

Getting it right and communicating the benefits

As the now infamous case of the shrink-wrapped cucumber shows, what consumers expect may not always be the most environmentally friendly or economically viable option for your company. As with carbon labelling, working with the right third party expert or solution provider may save your business a significant headache and give you the confidence to communicate about your product’s USP.

Because perfecting your packaging is only one part of the story. Brands need to make sure that their customers understand the benefits behind the changes and know how to dispose or reuse the product appropriately. Get this right and you won’t only be doing your bit for the planet. You’ll also be charming value-driven millennials as part of the package.


Business opportunities

  • Work in retail? Consider taking a leaf out of Waitrose’s book and introducing a packaging free section in your stores for regularly bought items.

  • Redesigning your packaging? Think about designing in circularity and potentially introduce a reward for reuse or recycling. It may be worth getting external advice or benefitting from an online course to find the right solution.

  • Interested in shifting to a reusable model? Try reaching out to third party providers to see how their systems can help you cut packaging waste and increase customer loyalty. reCIRCLE offers Swiss businesses a handy tool (DE, and FR only) to calculate mid-term savings.

Every year, we throw away around 40% of the plastic we produce. But given that there’s no magical place called "away", it ends up in landfill or pollutes our oceans. This isn’t only an issue for our planet. It also doesn’t make good business sense. This waste represents a $80-120 billion loss to the global economy each year. But luckily, the tide is starting to turn.  

Many leading manufacturers – including Nestlé and Unilever – have made public commitments to develop more sustainable packaging. Loop Industries, a leading technology company, has partnered with PepsiCo and Danone to introduce more sustainable PET solutions across their supply chains. And numerous food service partners are collaborating with innovative start-ups to trial reusable - or even edible - solutions.  

Crunchbase data shows that packaging solution start-ups have raised over $850m in the last 3 years. The ecommerce boom triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has also created even greater demand for sustainable packaging. Experts now claim that this market – dominated by the food and beverages segment - will grow to represent a $313.93 billion opportunity by 2025.

This week we take a look at the green packaging options available, the benefits for businesses who get it right and the innovative companies that are helping others to think out of the box.

Drivers: Sustainability is trendy - and profitable


Thanks to a few political nudges and popular documentaries raising the profile of the environmental issues linked to plastic packaging, it’s now cool to be green. In many social groups, recycling and using reusable bags or cups has become the new normal. In fact, a global survey recently showed that 81% of respondents expect to buy more green products in the next five years and 89% pay attention to packaging when making a decision between brands.

At the same time, companies have recognised that sustainability sells. If consumers are looking for brands that reflect their values, then innovative packaging solutions demonstrate their commitment to waste reduction in a way that words on a website never could. Packaging also represents a significant portion of a product’s final costs. So rethinking and reassessing design can have a positive effect on both a company’s environmental impact and bottom line.  

So what’s the greenest packaging solution?

Sadly, there’s no single answer. When it comes to choice of materials, in addition to the standard recycled plastic and paper options, there are bioplastics and other novel packaging solutions, often made from sugarcane, bamboo, rice or seaweed. Despite proving popular with consumers and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, some of these options are not suitable for all food applications and others can take a long time to biodegrade if disposed of incorrectly.

Ultimately, the best solution depends on the product and its own unique use case. The availability of the raw material (renewable or nonrenewable), the scalability of supply, the production process and the recycling infrastructure in the area where the product is sold all need to be borne in mind. But there is one thing that most experts agree on: in line with the waste hierarchy, we should be focusing on reduction and circularity, rather than designing for recyclability alone.


Manufacturing: Making green packaging a product USP


Green product packaging means striking a delicate balance. It needs to be robust enough to ensure food safety, quality and reduce food waste. But the solution also needs to be innovative enough to help you stand out against competitors and attract environmentally conscious consumers. A number of forward-thinking brands have walked this tightrope successfully.  

Plant-based meat producer No Evil Foods focused on design and materials, using minimal, fully compostable cardboard, printed with plant-based inks. In beverages, UK-based Frugalpac collaborated with Italian wine brand Cantina Goccia to create a wine bottle made from 94% recycled paperboard. While Haven’s Kitchen – a company selling refrigerated sauces - partnered with TerraCycle to create their own recycling programme for their pouches.

Culina - a plant-based yoghurt brand – launched their first product in terracotta cups that can be reused as trendy breakfast or dessert containers or plant pots. The pots were a huge hit with their target group and their instagrammability made it easy for happy customers to become brand ambassadors. They’ve since switched to resealable glass containers that can also be repurposed into handy airtight spice jars.


Food service sector: reuse models and edible packaging


For food service companies, takeaway packaging and single use utensils are the biggest headache. Many businesses initially focused on ensuring that their takeaway containers were made from compostable materials. But studies have shown that depending on the material and how the consumer disposes of it, this is sometimes just shifting the problem.

Until COVID-19 put a pandemic-sized spanner in the works, reusable solutions have also been gaining traction. Reusable cups pretty much enjoy fashion accessory status in some social groups and a growing number of cafés are keeping up their side of the bargain by offering customer discounts to incentivise their use. reCIRCLE - a company offering a third-party reusable tableware system – makes it easy for food service partners to get started. Over the last few years, they’ve rapidly expanded their network across Switzerland and into Germany.

And then there’s edible packaging. Experts predict that demand will grow 6.9% year on year, becoming a $2 billion global market by 2024. Solutions are typically made of seaweed, potato starch or milk proteins – but others have experimented with apples and tomatoes too. Recently, Air New Zealand partnered with innovative company twiice to switch their compostable coffee cups for edible vanilla flavoured ones – a development that apparently went down very well with customers.


Eat your waste: Notpla and DoEat


You’re running the London marathon and you’re gagging for a drink. Rather than a cup or a bottle, a volunteer hands you a small edible capsule. You bite it open, drink the liquid inside and then swallow the seaweed-based packaging. And even if you spit it out, it will biodegrade in just four to six weeks. This ingenious little solution – called Ooho - is the brainchild of start-up Notpla. After taking on disposable sauce sachets in a successful trial with Unilever and JustEat last year, the company launched their first seaweed-lined takeaway box in February. But for Notpla, this is just the beginning. The company sees a variety of applications for their technology – from edible shots to films that package dried goods.


Meanwhile in Belgium, Thibaut Gilquin and Hélène Hoyois were also sick of the sight of packaging waste. So they founded DoEat, a company that produces 100% edible or compostable tableware – regardless of where it’s thrown away. Their products are made from potato starch but are also robust enough to hold liquid contents and can even be baked in the oven. Customers can opt for neutral flavoured products – perfect for sweet or savoury contents - or choose tableware flavoured with herbs, olive oil or cacao. Suitable for buffets, barbeques, festivals or food trucks, their products can now be ordered online.

Getting it right and communicating the benefits

As the now infamous case of the shrink-wrapped cucumber shows, what consumers expect may not always be the most environmentally friendly or economically viable option for your company. As with carbon labelling, working with the right third party expert or solution provider may save your business a significant headache and give you the confidence to communicate about your product’s USP.

Because perfecting your packaging is only one part of the story. Brands need to make sure that their customers understand the benefits behind the changes and know how to dispose or reuse the product appropriately. Get this right and you won’t only be doing your bit for the planet. You’ll also be charming value-driven millennials as part of the package.


Business opportunities

  • Work in retail? Consider taking a leaf out of Waitrose’s book and introducing a packaging free section in your stores for regularly bought items.

  • Redesigning your packaging? Think about designing in circularity and potentially introduce a reward for reuse or recycling. It may be worth getting external advice or benefitting from an online course to find the right solution.

  • Interested in shifting to a reusable model? Try reaching out to third party providers to see how their systems can help you cut packaging waste and increase customer loyalty. reCIRCLE offers Swiss businesses a handy tool (DE, and FR only) to calculate mid-term savings.