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  • Dec 27,2023

Plastic food packaging boxes are ubiquitous in our daily lives. Whether we order food online, buy groceries from the supermarket, or dine out at a restaurant, we often encounter these convenient and versatile containers that keep our food fresh, hygienic, and ready to eat. According to a report by Grand View Research, the global plastic food packaging market size was valued at USD 259.6 billion in 2020, and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.0% from 2021 to 2028.

However, plastic food packaging boxes also have a dark side. They are one of the major contributors to plastic pollution, which is a serious threat to the environment and wildlife. According to a study by the University of Georgia, about 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic have been produced since 1950, and only 9% of it has been recycled. The rest ends up in landfills, oceans, or incinerators, where it can take hundreds of years to degrade, release toxic chemicals, and harm animals and humans. Moreover, plastic food packaging boxes also have a significant carbon footprint, as they are made from fossil fuels and require energy-intensive processes to manufacture, transport, and dispose.

As the demand for plastic food packaging boxes continues to grow, how will the industry respond to these challenges and opportunities in the next decade? What are the trends and innovations that could shape the future of plastic food packaging boxes? In this blog, we will explore some of the possible scenarios and implications for the plastic food packaging industry and its stakeholders, such as manufacturers, food producers and retailers, consumers, and policymakers.

 

Smart and Personalized Packaging

One of the emerging trends in plastic food packaging boxes is the integration of smart and personalized features, such as sensors, digital printing, and QR codes. These features can enhance the functionality, safety, and appeal of plastic food packaging boxes, as well as provide valuable information and feedback to consumers and businesses.

For example, sensors can monitor the temperature, freshness, and quality of the food inside the plastic food packaging boxes, and alert the consumers or the retailers if the food is spoiled, contaminated, or past its expiry date. This can reduce food waste, improve food safety, and increase customer satisfaction. Some of the examples of sensor-based plastic food packaging boxes are the FreshTag by Thinfilm, which uses a printed electronic label to indicate the freshness of the food, and the Insignia Technologies\' smart pigments, which change color when the food is exposed to oxygen or temperature changes.

Digital printing can enable customized and interactive designs on the plastic food packaging boxes, such as personalized messages, promotions, or recipes. This can increase the attractiveness, differentiation, and engagement of plastic food packaging boxes, and create new marketing and branding opportunities for the food producers and retailers. Some of the examples of digital printing on plastic food packaging boxes are the Coca-Cola\'s Share a Coke campaign, which printed different names on the plastic bottles, and the Nutella\'s Unica project, which created 7 million unique labels for the plastic jars using an algorithm.

QR codes can link the plastic food packaging boxes to online platforms, where consumers can access more information about the food, such as its origin, ingredients, nutrition, and sustainability. This can enhance the transparency, traceability, and trust of plastic food packaging boxes, and empower consumers to make informed and responsible choices. Some of the examples of QR codes on plastic food packaging boxes are the Scanbuy\'s SmartLabel, which provides detailed product information and allows consumers to compare products, and the OriginTrail\'s blockchain-based traceability solution, which verifies the authenticity and quality of the food.

Smart and personalized packaging can also create new opportunities for data collection and analysis, which can help the plastic food packaging industry improve its efficiency, quality, and customer satisfaction. For instance, the data from the sensors, digital printing, and QR codes can provide insights into the consumer behavior, preferences, and feedback, which can enable the plastic food packaging industry to optimize its production, distribution, and marketing strategies, and tailor its products and services to the customer needs and expectations.

 

Sustainable and Biodegradable Packaging

Another major trend in plastic food packaging boxes is the shift towards more sustainable and biodegradable materials, such as vegetable-based, algae-based, or protein-based plastics. These materials can reduce the environmental impact of plastic food packaging boxes, as they can decompose naturally, emit less greenhouse gases, and use less resources than conventional plastics.

Sustainable and biodegradable packaging can also offer health benefits for consumers, as they can reduce the exposure to harmful chemicals that can leach from conventional plastics into the food. Some of these materials can even be edible, which can eliminate the need for disposal and add value to the food.

Sustainable and biodegradable packaging can also appeal to the growing consumer demand for eco-friendly and ethical products, which can enhance the brand image and reputation of the plastic food packaging industry.

For example, vegetable-based plastics are made from renewable and biodegradable sources, such as corn, potato, or sugarcane. They can be processed into different types of plastic, such as polylactic acid (PLA), polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), or starch-based plastics, which can be used for various plastic food packaging applications, such as films, trays, or bottles. Some of the examples of vegetable-based plastic food packaging boxes are the NatureWorks\' Ingeo PLA, which is used by Danone for its yogurt cups, and the Newlight Technologies\' AirCarbon PHA, which is used by Nestlé for its water bottles.

Algae-based plastics are made from algae, which are aquatic organisms that can grow rapidly and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. They can be converted into different types of plastic, such as polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), or polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which can be used for various plastic food packaging applications, such as films, bags, or containers. Some of the examples of algae-based plastic food packaging boxes are the Algix\'s Solaplast, which is used by Totally Green Bottles and Caps for its water bottles, and the Algopack\'s Algo, which is used by Lush for its cosmetic pots.

Protein-based plastics are made from proteins, which are organic molecules that can be extracted from different sources, such as milk, soy, or silk. They can be processed into different types of plastic, such as casein, soy protein, or silk fibroin, which can be used for various plastic food packaging applications, such as films, coatings, or foams. Some of the examples of protein-based plastic food packaging boxes are the Lactips\' casein-based film, which is used by BASF for its dishwasher detergent pods, and the Spiber\'s silk fibroin-based film, which is used by The North Face for its Moon Parka jacket.

 

Reusable and Refillable Packaging

A third trend in plastic food packaging boxes is the adoption of reusable and refillable models, such as personalized containers, micro supply chains, and circular systems. These models can extend the lifespan and utility of plastic food packaging boxes, and reduce the waste and cost associated with single-use packaging.

For instance, personalized containers can allow consumers to have their own plastic food packaging boxes that can be reused over and over, and filled with different foods from different sources. This can reduce the consumption and disposal of plastic food packaging boxes, and increase the convenience, customization, and loyalty of consumers and businesses. Some of the examples of personalized containers are the Loop\'s durable and returnable packaging system, which is used by various brands, such as Häagen-Dazs, Tide, and Pantene, and the Ooho\'s edible and biodegradable packaging, which is used by Skipping Rocks Lab for its water and juice products.

Micro supply chains can enable local and community-based production and distribution of food and plastic food packaging boxes, which can reduce the transportation and storage costs and emissions. This can also increase the freshness, quality, and diversity of food and plastic food packaging boxes, and create new social and economic opportunities for the local producers and consumers. Some of the examples of micro supply chains are the Farmshelf\'s hydroponic farms, which are used by various restaurants, hotels, and schools to grow their own fresh produce, and the Precious Plastic\'s recycling machines, which are used by various communities to make their own plastic products.

Circular systems can facilitate the collection and recycling of plastic food packaging boxes, and transform them into new products or materials. This can reduce the environmental impact and resource consumption of plastic food packaging boxes, and create new value and innovation for the plastic food packaging industry and its stakeholders. Some of the examples of circular systems are the TerraCycle\'s recycling programs, which are used by various brands, such as Colgate, Gillette, and Nespresso, to collect and recycle their plastic waste, and the Adidas\' Futurecraft Loop sneakers, which are made from recycled plastic and can be returned and remade into new sneakers.

 

Conclusion

Plastic food packaging boxes are facing significant changes and challenges in the next decade, as they have to adapt to the evolving consumer preferences, environmental regulations, and technological innovations.