Opinion: Hygiene and Food Safety of Packaging

As highlighted by Mckinsey & Co, in their recent article there is increasing concern surrounding the safety of food packaging.

One of the key parts of the development of convenience packaging over the last 30 years has been associated with food security and the safety that the packaging offers. Consumers are more comfortable in small niche retailers to buy unpackaged goods but when it comes to the bigger retail situations then there is an expectation of cleanliness, hygiene and security. This latter expectation combined with a perceived need for convenience and choice has driven packaging developments to meet these expectations and of course one has driven the other into a spiraling demand. Ironically this “better” packaging has also driven a negative side with an increase in food waste and non-recyclable materials.

The Mckinsey article (see chart) also highlights consumers’ negative perceptions surrounding suitable plastic alternatives.

Mckinsey & Company, 2020

This is one demonstration of the engagement with the consumer on the drive to sustainability. Most consumers when asked want environmentally better packaging and ideally sustainably sourced food from ethical sources. Clearly nearly all consumers want to retain the convenience, safety, security and hygiene requirements and some believe that plastic alternatives are challenged on these fronts – this is merely education. The biggest problem is most consumers don’t want to pay for alternative materials which offer all the usual requirements but also a sustainable and ethical substitute

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