Food Packaging Innovations: How to Balance Sustainability & Functionality

Sustainability matters to consumers and it starts with the packaging process. According to Nielsen, 75% of Millennials say they are willing to change their habits to reduce their impact on the environment. And 90% are willing to pay more for products that contain environmentally friendly or sustainable ingredients. 

However, as “green” as a food package may be, it still ultimately needs to be functional. Luckily in today’s market you can achieve both sustainability and functionality to satisfy these consumer needs.

Sustainable Packaging 

As we look ahead to the future of packaging, it’s clear that sustainability will play an even stronger role in branding than it does now. Packaging World predicts that, “with an emphasis on building a circular economy, consumers expect packaging companies to ‘do the right thing’ in material choices and package design.” According to Mintel, 52% of U.S. food shoppers prefer to buy foods with minimal, or no packaging to reduce packaging waste. 

So, how can packaging be more sustainable? Consider using PCR, recyclable, or compostable films for your sustainable food packaging.

What are the differences between these three?

  • PCR stands for Post-Consumer Recycled, which means these materials are made from recycled items like aluminum, cardboard boxes, paper, and plastic bottles. These materials are collected, sorted, and melted (or ground) into small pellets and molded into new items. 
  • Recyclable packaging, including PE-PE film, is suitable for store drop-off recycling programs.
  • Compostable packaging is manufactured using plant-based or fossil fuel materials. It is designed to break down in a short amount of time without leaving behind any toxic residue. 

When it comes to choosing what type of printer to manufacture your packaging, consider a local digital printer. When compared to traditional, or flexographic printing, digital printing is a far more sustainable option. Digital printing uses less energy, produces less waste, and has a smaller carbon footprint overall. Since you don’t use printing plates in digital printing, you save time and materials at set up. Need a quick change? You can order on demand so you’ll carry less inventory, minimizing waste.

Functional Packaging

How a package is handled can have a big impact on consumer retention and loyalty. It should protect the contents inside and engage with consumers through marketing, but also through form and function. 

More than anything consumers crave convenience. Adding options like the ability to stand-up, reseal, handles, tear notches, and more all help consumers better interact with and use your product. 

According to recent research cited by Packaging World, what adds appeal for consumers is ease of use and disposal. Resealability is one of the top three packaging attributes of flexible packaging rated by consumers according to the Flexible Packaging Association

In addition to functionality and convenience, packaging needs to keep products from going stale, need to be child resistant and needs to be air tight so liquids are contained.

Eco-Friendly Packaging Partner

It’s important to work with a supplier that can provide the sustainable solutions and key package attributes to create the right package at the right price. 

At ePac, we utilize the HP Indigo 20000 digital printing press, which is a carbon neutral machine. Additionally, the HP digital printers use polymer-based inks, which do not contain any hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). These sustainable inks consume less energy and emit fewer greenhouse gases than solvent-based or UV-curable inks typically used in traditional packaging. 

We will partner with you to create the right innovative packaging that marries sustainability and functionality―two qualities that matter to today’s consumer. Ready to get started?