Andrew Copson, managing director of Sharpak Yate, Bridgwater and Holland, discusses the importance of food packaging, the issues the industry faces and new environmentally friendly packaging solutions which are designed to cut waste and extend shelf life. He also explains what these developments mean for retailers and their consumers.

Food packaging is an essential part of food safety, helping to prevent goods from being tampered with and reducing food waste. Packaging remains a vital part of the food production process, providing protection during transit against impact, temperature, or other factors that may ruin or reduce the quality of the food.

While the importance of food packaging is clear, the industry has faced a number of issues over the last few years and has developed products in response to changing customer demand.

One of the key issues is visibility. Consumers want to be able to see exactly what they’re buying – a 360 degree view of the product, using transparent materials. This is driven by a desire to buy food which looks fresh and attractive, and it is this demand which drives how packaging is designed, particularly for fresh produce.

The packaging industry has responded to customer demands by making moves toward lightweight, environmentally produced packaging which retains the integrity of the food. The industry as a whole has made real strides towards packaging which does more with less, is practical and innovative as well as low carbon.

At Sharpak we are laying down our commitment to meet customer objectives while reducing the impact of packaging on the environment through innovative design and products that reduce waste. We have introduced technologies such as Modified Atmosphere Packaging and SPS air for soft fruit, which extends the shelf life of fresh food products.

Modified Atmosphere Packaging substitutes the atmospheric air inside a package with a protective gas mix that helps ensure the product stays fresh for as long as possible. Meanwhile SPS air offers significant air flow improvements through sloping vents in the base which aids fruit conservation and helps to preserve the food in transit, at the supermarket and in the fridge.

Reducing the environmental impact of packaging is a key concern for packagers, retailers and consumers. A number of businesses, including Coca Cola, Kraft and Sharpak have committed to a series of waste-reduction targets, and to achieve more sustainable use of resources, as part of the Courtauld Commitment 2.

At Sharpak, one of the many developments we’ve put into place to reduce carbon footprint is the introduction of c-LOW in mushroom punnets which has been created as part of our ongoing commitment to reduce the environmental impact of our packaging products.

c-LOW offers 33% lower material carbon footprint than conventional PP and a 10% reduction on the original, launched last year. These improvements mark a significant advance in reducing the impact that packaging has on the environment.

Packaging continues to play a vital role in food transport and the protection of goods, and will remain important to retailers as a means of attracting consumer interest on shelf and to customers as a preservation of food quality.

At Sharpak, our aim is to continually improve upon our packaging methods and deliver innovative packaging solutions which provide real benefit to all the stakeholders involved in the packaging process, and also help reduce the impact of the industry on our planet.