What is food packaging?
It is the enclosing of food to protect it from damage, spoilage, pest attack, and tempering during transport, storage, and retail sale. When we are talking about packaging there is various information labeled on the container like the amount of contents, the self-life, and cooking instructions as well. If your container performs any of these functions, it is considered packaging. One of the best ways to make your packaging environmentally-friendly is to obtain a commercial vacuum sealer.
There is a couple of functions packaging material has when considering packaging material. Those would be as follows,
- Protection of the food from spoilage due to chemical, physical or biological damage.
- Communication -information or instructions on the package.
- Containment- hold the content and secure the ingredients inside until use.
The quality of packaged food is related to the attributes of the food and the packaging materials used. Several possibilities have been reported for the interaction of food and packaging material when considering packaging. Those would be as follows.
- Diffusion can happen from the packaging material. Migration of volatile and non-volatile material from the packaging material to the food from the package.
- Absorption of different components from the food or from the environment into the packaging material. We can take as an example, the absorption of fatty acid matters and vitamins into the packaging.
- Permeation of volatile compounds through the packaging.
When packaging is considered, we can narrow it down to three levels of packaging.
- Primary packaging
In this level of packaging, the food is in direct contact with the product or the packaging. The main purpose of primary packaging is to preserve and protect the content.
- Secondary packing
This is another level of packaging commonly used for protection, marketing purpose, and bundling. For example, it often combines multiple items together such as boxes that hold multiple cans of soda together.
- Tertiary packaging
In this type of packaging, protection is facilitated, handling and transportation of the products in order to group everything into unit loads during transit. Consumers hardly see this packaging.
Types of food packaging products.
For the packaging of food, the major categories of materials used are glass, metals, paper, paperboards, and plastics as well. Multilayer of packaging is also used with combinations of plastic or combination of plastic and paper and metal.
Now let us talk about the different food packaging materials and their advantages and disadvantages.
- Paper and paperboards
Paper and paperboards are made from cellulose fibers derived from wood by using sulfate and sulfite, the fibers are then treated with bleach, pulped, and treated with chemicals to produce paper products. Paper is used for temporary food containment and protection because of its high permeability and the inability to be sealed with heat. Waxes and resins are used as coatings to enhance the paper’s protection. There are different types of products such as greaseproof, parchment paper, and kraft paper depending on the method of production and packaging function. Disposable cups suppliers and paper cup manufacturers can give you good rates when you are buying in bulk let’s say for a party you are planning.
Glass is the least toxic packaging material for food and drinks. There are many advantages when packaging with glass such as imperviousness, strength, hygiene, color, design, decorative potential, microwave ability, and heat treatability. Some disadvantages would be being brittle. Non-degradable and heavy.
Plastic is the most common and widely used material for food packaging. The convenience and widespread use of plastic are due to its low cost, chemical resistance, processability, and lightweight. Also, when we talk about the limitations of using plastic we can talk about its permeability to gas, vapor, and light.
When you consider using plastic, there are two main categories as thermosets and thermoplastics. Thermosets make them unsuitable for food packaging as they solidify upon heating and are non-reformable. But thermoplastics soften when heating and are able to retain their initial condition at room temperature. This makes them perfect for food packaging. They can be recycled and reused as new products.
Metals offer excellent physical protection combined with barrier properties, formability, decorative potential, and above all recyclability. They are a versatile form of packaging. The nutrient decomposition is minimum when in metals since they are the perfect barrier to light, oxygen, and moisture. The major disadvantage of using metal as a packaging material is they weigh heavy, they are costlier, and the fact that they are difficult to crush. The most commonly used metal in the food packaging industry would be aluminium and steel.
One can also go for Eco-friendly food packaging materials which are made from plastic or paper. It means the materials are made from recycled and renewable materials. Eco-friendly food packaging is becoming popular nowadays as you can use them for storage, transportation, or even composting. The benefits can be summed up as follows;
Easily reused and recycled
Widespread use of eco-friendly material as paper is seen when paper straws are used. Some brands like Starbucks have started using straws made of paper that you can recycle. Some places use paper cups as well for serving drinks so that can be also recyclable.
Free of allergens and toxins
Eco-friendly food packaging is becoming popular because it is good for human consumption. It does not use toxic chemicals but instead, uses natural materials like plant-based and recycled paper.
Reduces carbon footprints
Eco-friendly food packaging is greener as they are using alternative materials like paper and cardboard. The use of those in companies can reduce their carbon footprints as they are made from natural materials which can be recycled.
Eco-friendly food packaging saves you money. It reduces the amount of waste generated while saving a lot of money in the long run. Many companies are looking to reduce their impact on the environment. One way would be switching from the traditional plastic containers to more environment-friendly paper, glass, or even compostable plastic.
Protects the environment
Eco-friendly packaging has a lot of benefits to offer when it comes to protecting the environment by reducing carbon footprinting and sustainability. Paper cups and plates and straws can be used and they degrade in the environment more than any other material used for packaging. You can also contribute to the environment by using them on any occasion you are celebrating.