Global awareness of food waste and its negative impact on the environment continue to grow and so does the importance of the role that packaging plays in preventing it.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 1.3 billion tons of food is lost or wasted every year, costing around $680 billion in industrialized countries and $310 billion in developing countries. When discarded food rots in the landfills it emits methane, a strong greenhouse gas, causing a negative impact on the environment. Packaging that extends the case life of food helps address this issue by keeping more food out of landfills.

Throughout the food supply chain, food waste reduction isn’t just a moral responsibility, it also has major business benefits. For processors and retailers alike, a $1 investment in food waste reduction can generate a $14 return.

What’s more, consumers are taking notice, opening the door to new growth opportunities for processors and retailers.

A recent Mintel study points to packaging innovations that extend food freshness, preserve ingredient fortification and ensure product safety as increasingly benefiting consumers on a global scale. Indeed, 50 percent of U.S. grocery shoppers agree that the right packaging can help reduce food waste.

Consumers want it all, and processors can help
With more choices than ever in the meat and poultry cases, consumers are demanding more from their food products. In addition to the desire for food to remain fresh longer, they are interested in conveniences that include package quantity options, freezer ready and leak-proof packaging.

Package transparency also is more important than ever to consumers, processors and retailers alike. Consumers want to be able to see the product they are buying, while processors and retailers want to differentiate product and attract consumer attention with product and packaging that look great in the case.

The demands are fierce… and provide an opportunity
At the same time, processors are looking for ways to increase operational efficiencies through reductions in food waste throughout the journey from source to shelf.

With increasing demands from all sides, one issue is top of mind for all. The cost of food waste affects everyone and people are now actively seeking solutions.

Today, food packaging continues to evolve, transitioning from a container meant to simply hold food to something that can play a more active role in food quality and safety as well as sustainability.

How packaging innovations extend food freshness, save money and our planet
Longer case life means less discarded food and less waste. In the long run, that benefits everyone -- processors, retailers, foodservice operators, and consumers… and our planet.

Consider this. For one pound of edible beef to reach the consumer, it takes more than 600 gallons of water, 1.8 pounds of grain, and 50 pounds of CO2. When food is discarded, these resources are essentially wasted.

And the cost implications are enormous. An estimated 50 million tons of food, or more than one-third of the food produced annually in the U.S., is disposed of before it can be consumed – a total representing nearly $160 billion in lost value.

Getting rid of the waste
Solutions like Sealed Air’s Cryovac Darfresh family of vacuum skin packaging solutions help answer food waste issues with packaging innovations that extend food freshness.

And that means consumers can purchase these proteins with confidence. When food lasts longer in their own refrigerator, they have extra time to plan meals before the use-by date.  If schedules change, Darfresh packaging can go straight into the freezer, with no need to re-package for use at a later date. And, features like easy-opening make meal preparation simpler. All these conveniences make it easier for consumers to keep from wasting the food they buy.

“As processors and retailers face added pressure to reduce costs, state-of-the-art packaging can serve as a differentiator that delivers value in a crowded meat case,” said Sean Brady, marketing director, ready meals for Sealed Air North America Food Care Division. “The beauty of Darfresh is in its versatility to provide a visually attractive product that extends case life, reduces waste and meets consumer demands for safe, convenient packaging all with a packaging process that’s efficient and cost effective.”

How processors can grow their bottom line
Processors have the ability to expand business through a variety of innovative packaging solutions that address the multitude of consumer desires.

For example, Darfresh on Board, on Tray and 10K OTR solutions dramatically extend case life versus standard overwrap and modified atmosphere films; up to 21 days for fresh red meat; up to 14 days for poultry; and up to 3 days for seafood.

And, Darfresh 10K OTR is an innovative solution for fresh or frozen seafood that is leak-proof and meets FDA regulations for oxygen transmission rate (OTR).

An additional benefit can be realized with faster processing speeds. Faster packaging reduces the costs for processors by increasing productivity as measured in pounds per man-hour, and reduces capital investment costs and costs related to utilities, such as water and electricity.

Influencing responsible behavior throughout the value chain
Sustainable food packaging has evolved to address myriad concerns, allowing processors and retailers to meet business objectives in both sustainability and sales.

Sustainable packaging benefits all:

  • With proteins that stay fresh longer, from prep and holding to delivery, so consumers can enjoy their mealtime experience with the confidence that they are preparing fresh, great tasting foods
  • By reducing the waste of packaging materials throughout the packaging process and its distribution cycle
  • Minimizing waste by extending case life from days to weeks or longer with vacuum seal technology

“Over the years, we have expanded the Darfresh offering to meet the needs of various food sectors and industry segments: products like fresh red meat, poultry, seafood, cheese, and smoked and processed meats as well as the ready meal category. It’s a beautiful innovation in food packaging that plays an active role in food quality and safety as well as sustainability,” said Brady.

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