Environmentally friendly alternatives to plastic packaging are becoming more and more essential in virtually every industry, from sustainably sourced materials to biodegradable products. However, some innovative minds don’t think these steps are far enough and have decided to take things a little further; packaging that you can get rid of by consuming it.
Edible packaging might sound borderline crazy to some, but plenty of creative people and companies have worked hard on offering the world a solution that, at first, appears to be a novelty, yet upon closer inspection could serve as an incredible solution to many single-use plastic problems. Direct Packaging Solutions explores these solutions and the rise of edible packaging.
Starting Small with Straws
One of the greatest symbols of quick-use, disposable plastic are plastic straws; items ordered and discarded in an abundance across multiple industries, including the fast-food industry and the nightlife industry. While many companies are now embracing recyclable or biodegradable options, such as McDonald’s opting for paper straws, other, smaller companies are looking further ahead into the realm of edible alternatives.
Two excellent examples of these are Diageo and Sorbos. Both have managed to create genuinely tasty, flavoured straws that have endeavoured to spread awareness and support for the edible movement by partnering with large drinks suppliers and spirits companies. The former offers perfectly paired flavoured straws with 31Dover.com, such as chocolate straws with pre-mixed cans of Baileys & iced coffee, whereas the latter has collaborated with Bacardi to supply a variety of flavoured straws with bottles of rum.
Cutlery & Cups
Small companies may be making strides to improving the edible packaging market, yet others are opting to collaborate with as many big players in as many industries as possible. Working with companies ranging from the Marriott chain of hotels and the investment show Shark Tank, Loliware’s plastic-free products, including straws and cups, have successfully replaced plastic-based single-use items across the globe. Chelsea Briganti, the Co-Founder & CEO of Loliware, has said that “single-use plastics should never last forever; they should be designed to disappear”, which is exactly what the company has focused on.
Much like Loliware’s edible cups, other companies have worked towards expanding beyond just straws. When it comes to thinking outside the box, you have to turn to companies like Bakeys and Biotrem. Deciding that the likes of paper plates and plastic sporks were just as harmful to the environment as straws, Bakeys created spoons that can be eaten at the end of the meal, and Biotrem went one step further by making edible plates. These products might appear novel, but when used at events like outdoor festivals they support a great reduction of litter.
Conventional Packaging to Edible Packaging
Moving onto conventional packaging, ‘Do Eat’ offers a wealth of different packaging types. Spearheaded by founders Hélène Hoyois and Thibaut Gilquin, who studied Web Design and Design & Architecture, Do Eat creates everything from sandwich wrappers to full bowls. The company has already made waves in the industry too, winning the Prix du Produit Innovant NutriAward and being nominated for the Prix Belge de l’Environnement, suggesting that their biodegradable and edible packaging is beginning to become more globally recognised.
Another example of focusing on the growing edible packaging trend is the Indonesian based ‘Evoware’. Pushing the limits of what one can do with seaweed, Evoware has managed to create food packaging that’s not just tasteless & odourless, it also dissolves in water and has a two-year shelf life. While Evoware is currently utilising their seaweed-based packaging for the likes of sandwich & burger wrapping and coffee sachets (that can simply be popped into a mug and dissolved in hot water), they’ve begun branching out to other forms of packaging that, while still technically edible, probably shouldn’t be eaten, such as packaging for medical supplies.
Reinventing the Box
Saltwater Brewery decided to tackle the problem of plastic packaging for their six-packs, creating edible alternatives, made from barley & wheat ribbons. Brewery President Chris Gove even added, “we hope to influence the big guys and hopefully inspire them to get on board.” As if to really drive the point home, when promoting the new six-pack rings Saltwater Brewery released a video featuring a turtle eating one of the rings; making them a fantastic symbol for combatting ocean pollution.
Finally, there’s the modern & novel solution to plastic, throwaway water bottles; Skipping Rocks Lab’s Ooho water pouches. Looking like a small, see-through ball of water, Ooho is an undeniably charming alternative to water bottles. Much like other companies, Ooho was created by experimenting with seaweed. “We want to be part of this ecosystem so of course, we protect our technology, but I think there’s room for a lot of people to solve these problems,” says Pierre Paslier, Co-CEO of Skipping Rocks Lab.
Conclusions & Progress
Some might consider these innovative solutions to plastic, single-use packages as too small to make a difference, yet much like Saltwater Brewery’s President was hoping for, the larger players in the industry have begun making big changes.
The rise of edible packaging can be seen more and more every day, moving from niche and speciality companies to international chains. One such chain would be KFC, revealing that they would be releasing edible coffee cups, made from biscuit and a layer of heat-resistant white chocolate. KFC’s Head of Communications & Branding, Jenny Packwood, says “We want to freshen things up…We found people see coffee as an affordable, daily indulgence, so we want to make that treat a little bit more special.”
This approach to edible packaging appears to treat the plastic-problem with more of a ‘luxury’ approach, rather than that of one with an environmental mentality, yet the result would still be the same. It’s estimated that approximately 2.5 billion disposable cups are thrown away in the UK alone, so tackling even this small section of the plastic pollution problem with a fun, desirable solution by such a large figure in the fast-food industry suggests that attitudes may finally be changing for the best.
About the author: Tom Simpkins is a professional writer who fell in love with eco-friendly alternatives to plastic when discovering that some are edible (and delicious) When he’s not writing, Tom loves trying out new recipes, reading nerdy novels and creating tantalising cocktails (with edible straws, of course)