There’s no question that Aussies and Kiwis love dining out. In fact, Aussies spend more on takeaway meals and restaurants ($95.05 each week) than we do on electricity ($35.05) or secondary education ($27.99).
On average, Aussies are eating out two times a week and spending $2.6 billion each year on food delivery from companies like UberEats, Deliveroo and Menulog.
Our Kiwi mates’ love affair is a bit more under control, spending about half as much on restaurant meals per week, however dining out still represents 26% of their total food spend.
While it’s luxurious to treat ourselves regularly, our environment is paying the price – Kiwis send approximately 2.5 million tonnes of waste to landfill, and Aussies approximately 64 million tonnes.
Brands are faced with how to meet the growing consumer demand for convenient and portable food solutions, whilst also meeting the groundswell of pressure to be more environmentally responsible.
This quest for sustainability is seeing a trend of innovative edible packaging gain currency around the world.
Just eat the sachets
Ever wonder where all of those sauce sachets that arrive with your UberEats end up? In the UK, Just Eat delivery service has begun to offer edible sauce sachets made by Skipping Rocks Lab.
The sachets were available to Just Eat patrons during a six-week trial launched in July 2018.
Following the success of the trial, 10 London restaurants further trialled this product for 8 weeks, which is expected to prevent approximately 40,000 plastic sauce packets from entering homes.
By 2050, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation predicted there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans.
It takes 700 years for a plastic bottle to decompose and about 500 for plastic straws. If reading this makes you concerned, you’ll be happy to learn that we are seeing innovations using plant and seaweed materials to create a sustainable alternative to these products.
A newly developed product, Ooho, is flexible packaging for liquids made from seaweed extracts. The packaging can hold almost any liquid and degrades in a natural environment after 6 weeks, or you can eat it.
Their first product, launched in early 2018 was an on-the-go water ‘bubble’ filled with London tap water.
Ooho designer Pierre Paslier told the Guardian, “At the end of the day you don’t have to eat it. But the edible part shows how natural it is. People are really enthusiastic about the fact that you can create a material for packaging matter that is so harmless that you can eat it.”
Designed to disappear
The world of straws is also seeing revolutionary innovation happening.
Meet Lolistraw, made of a seaweed-based material and designed by Loliware, this straw can be consumed after you finish your drink (if you don’t eat it, it can go in the compost or just dissolve in nature.)
This American based company has designed a bright and eclectic collection of edible ‘designed to disappear’ straws that can have flavours and even nutrients added to them.
Chelsea Briganti, one of the Loliware cofounders told Fast Company, “You can imagine drinking your cold-brewed coffee with a vanilla straw or a caramel straw. We think that will really increase this movement around plastic-free, because we’re not telling the consumer, hey, you can’t have your straw.
We’re providing them a solution to the plastic straw crisis while also giving them a fun experience on top of that. It’s not about the consumer sacrificing anymore, it’s about the consumer having fun and being sustainable at the same time.”
Shop plastic free
We are even beginning to see whole supermarket aisles go plastic free around the world.
In particular, Ekoplaza, a shop in the Netherlands offers its customers the ability to choose from more than 700 plastic-free products including meat, rice, dairy, chocolate, yogurt, snacks, cereals and fresh fruit and vegetables.
The products are instead wrapped in alternative biodegradable packaging.
“There is absolutely no logic in wrapping something as fleeting as food in something as indestructible as plastic,” Sian Sutherland, cofounder of A Plastic Planet, told the Guardian.
“Plastic food and drink packaging remains useful for a matter of days yet remains a destructive presence on the Earth for centuries afterwards.”
This trend has yet to take off in mainstream supermarkets in the UK or around the world, but according to Transparency Market Research, demand for edible packaging could increase on average by 6.9 per cent yearly until 2024.
Eat everything on your plate
In a feat to address fast food packaging waste, New Zealand burger chain Better Burger teamed up with Innocent Packaging to create plant-based and compostable packaging for their burgers.
The wafer paper packaging made from potato starch and water encouraged their customers to eat everything on their plate, rubbish included. They even went the distance and used edible ink to brand the packaging, adding their logo and a fun design.
“When we started Better Burger, it felt like all I could see was fast food rubbish dumped on the side of the road, on footpaths and in parks. I decided then and there that we weren’t going to contribute to the waste problem – we could do better”, says Rod Ballenden, General Manager, Better Burger.
“I’d say we are the only fast food chain in all of Australasia with fully plant-based, compostable packaging so none of our front-of-house waste is sitting in landfill for any great period of time.”
Since October 2017, Better Burger have saved more than 366,000 plastic items from going to the landfill from its outlets. Ballenden estimates this number will reach one million by 2019.
This article by Lori Mitchell, first appeared in VoPP Mag, The Food and Wine Issue, 2019.