The evolution of packaging in the food and drink market

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The evolution of packaging in the food and drink market – words Alexa Wang


Packaging seems to have been around forever and as with everything has continued to evolve over time. Whether it be the innovation of tins in packaging in the 1700s before moving through to cans in the 1800s. With these still standing today.

This followed with an early plastic called Bakelite being introduced at the early stages of the 1900s and thus the idea of cellophane. With the growing numbers and the demand, this increased further and further over time.

Packaging was made as a way of increasing shelf life of food early on and this transitioned to companies using it as a way of pushing brand awareness. A clear example of this would be the famous Heinz clear glass bottles that are still around today. They were launched back in 1890, and were so unique as a product at the time that consumers knew exactly what they were at a quick glance. Much of this has now transitioned to the plastic bottles that we see around so often today.

The Move away from plastic packaging

There is little doubt that this continued growth in packaging has resulted in a big negative to the environment, which is why it is now evolving further to tackle this issue. Whether it be the likes of returnable packaging, which is a popular choice for big logistics companies. Removal boxes have also been another key addition in recent times.



(Pictured: Example of returnable packaging in food and drink industry)


One form of packaging which could just be the future in the food industry is edible packaging. These can be edible glasses made of the likes of seaweed, natural flavours and organic sweeteners. This is being pushed as a way to tackle the issue of plastic cups, which on most occasions are not even required. This statistic is shown in the US in which it is estimated that over 25 billion are thrown each and every year. This simply has to change moving forward. It is a similar story in the UK, so packaging must transition to a more eco-friendly approach.

Tackling the issue moving forward 

  • Plastic free aisles in supermarkets

This is a future plan that is being put in place around the world for supermarkets. This is to push supermarkets to set up plastic free aisles, where all food is sold loose, which enables shoppers to make that environmentally friendly choice.

  • Tax on carrier bags

This is already in place around the world and has already had a major positive impact. Carrier bags in supermarkets have always been a major waste on plastics and with the introduction of the tax on them, this has reduced this dramatically. In the UK for example this resulted in a fall of 90% on bag use.

  • Plastic bottles

Plastic bottles and sandwich packaging are two of the major issues of plastic waste from everyday consumers. Therefore a push to reduce these and even ban them is in place. As mentioned previously edible packaging could be used in the future as an alternative.

  • Disposable coffee cups

Coffee continues to be a hugely popular beverage of choice around the world. The waste on disposable coffee cups is vast. This is why they are now being taxed moving forward as well as pushing consumers to use their own reusable coffee containers.



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