⭐️ Everything you should know about edible packaging.

As we learn more about sustainability and the different initiatives taken to reduce our dependence on plastic, it’s vital to explore different options and innovations. 

For example, one of the best sustainable packaging options that are poised to grow is edible packaging. 

Yes, it’s packaging that’s literally good enough to eat! 

According to Allied Market Research The global edible packaging market size was valued to $697 million in 2016 and was projected to grow at a CAGR of 6.81% from 2017 to 2023, reaching $1,097 million in 2023. 

As we shift towards increased eco-friendliness, governments and packaging experts are beginning to invest more money into edible packaging as a viable alternative. 

And as more sources are cultivated for edible packaging solutions, a new packaging movement is beginning to take shape. 

Edible packaging material is a great fit for large markets such as Asia, where government policies favor edible packaging. 

There are plenty of plant-based resources that can support the future of this kind of packaging.

In this article, we’ll explore what edible packaging is, the different types available, and some of the advantages and disadvantages of edible packaging to help you decide if it’s the right choice for you!

What is Edible Packaging?

Edible packaging is a type of sustainable packaging made from plant-based materials that you can eat and is natural and biodegradable. 

As companies continue to search for eco-friendly packaging, it’s no surprise that edible packaging has gained so much traction. 

Edible packaging can help reduce our dependence on plastics while also generating less waste compared to other packaging options.

Example of seaweed packaging
Source: Design Boom

The food industry, in particular, tends to be a major culprit when it comes to waste. 

Packaging in the food industry has come under fire lately for the sheer amount of waste produced from plastic bags to extraneous boxes, wrappers, and cans. 

Most current food packaging is made from materials that are not biodegradable or natural, causing them to accumulate in landfills and oceans, adding to our environmental issues. 

That’s where edible packaging comes in. 

Because the packaging itself can be consumed after the food, it can cut down on waste without sacrificing product quality. 

In addition, the packaging is just as delicious as the food, making it a win-win for industries looking to reduce their carbon footprint.

Edible packaging can be made from a variety of bio-materials and plant-by products. Some recently popular edible packaging materials include seaweed and casein (a milk protein). 

So what are the different types of edible packaging available?

What Edible packaging Options are Available? 

Although edible packaging is a newer addition to sustainable packaging, chances are, you’ve probably come across it before. 

If you’ve ever had an ice cream cone, then you’ve had edible packaging! 

The waffle cone is one of the very first examples of edible packaging, and there are more on the horizon. 

Some have tried to push it further by creating an edible coffee cup made from hard cookies and chocolate as an alternative to Styrofoam or plastic cups. 

Companies such as Loliware are also working towards a plastic-free future by creating flavored gelatin packaging for a sweet treat that is absolutely natural. 

Other companies are developing dessert treats, such as cupcakes and candy wrappers from different materials such as potato fibers and rice paper.

Example of edible cookie cup
Source: Sardi

Another emerging type of edible packaging is made from casein, a milk protein. 

While it looks similar to plastic, it outperforms it in terms of keeping food fresh and blocking oxygen exposure. 

Since it doesn’t have a flavor, it can be used as a neutral form of edible packaging. 

To increase durability, citrus pectin can be added so that it can withstand high temperatures and humidity, making it a great alternative to plastic packaging. 

Other companies, such as Wikifoods, are developing fruit-like casing for food containing yogurt or ice cream.

Some other popular edible packaging solutions include; 

Drinking straws: Edible straws, such as the ones created by Herald Plastic, are another innovation to cut down dependence on regular drinking straws. They come in a variety of fruity flavors and can also include branded designs.

Food film: Currently, research is being done on edible and 100% biodegradable food film, using plant-based carbohydrates and proteins. This type of food film can be used for food products using materials such as konjac flour, starch, cellulose, and proteins.

Eco bags: Avani has created an edible eco-bag made from cassava root starch and other natural resins as a sustainable alternative to plastic.

Spoons: Bakeys have created edible spoons made from rice flour, wheat, and sorghum as a way to combat cutlery pollution.

Drink pouches: Skipping Rocks Lab has created edible drink pouches from seaweed and plant materials in an effort to combat some of the waste created by the beverage industry. The drink pouches are available, either flavored or colored and are also 100% biodegradable.

How is Edible Packaging Made?

Edible films and coatings are created after emulsifying or dispersing film-forming polymers into a specific solvent such as water or ethanol. It is then applied directly to the food item with the assistance of the solvent.

Read more on sustainable coatings.

The main characteristic of edible films and coating being used as edible packaging materials is that they need to be neutral in flavor. 

If the taste is too strong, there’s a risk that the food packaged inside may also take up some of that flavor, so the packaging must be made from compatible items that won’t compromise taste. 

Alongside this, the packaging also needs to be able to protect and preserve the item inside. 

This is why edible packaging is usually made with several different components to balance out these differing needs. 

Why you should consider Edible Packaging for your Business

Now that we’ve seen the innovation going into this type of packaging, what is the benefit of joining the edible packaging market? 

Luckily, there are a lot. 

Meet customer expectations

The first one tends to be the biggest business concern: satisfying customer expectations around sustainability. 

We’ve seen a global shift towards eco-friendliness, and customers are increasingly scrutinizing brands to ensure sustainability is a core practice. 

Edible packaging is one of the best ways to accomplish this. 

Because there is zero waste tied to this type of packaging, and it is natural and biodegradable, edible packaging can be a great way to show that you’re willing to commit to the environment for the long run.

This will help build a loyal customer base that your business can rely on. 

Diverse purposes

Secondly, edible packaging is multipurpose, making it great value. 

It can be used for food packaging and saving, and there are a lot of interesting innovations coming out to make it an integral part of the food packaging industry. 

For example, edible packaging can be used for food safe coatings and dissolvable packaging to create more effective and convenient packaging solutions. 

With plenty of developments being made in crafting different types of packaging, there are a lot of options available to make it truly your own and stand out from the rest.

The Drawbacks of Edible Food Packaging

Just like with any other kind of sustainable packaging, there are also disadvantages to using edible packaging. 

With edible packaging being used, non-edible material may still be needed depending on the products, negating some of the environmental benefits. 

And because edible packaging can be more sensitive to temperature and heat, a lot more care is needed during the shipping process, which may be costly for some businesses to maintain. 

While plenty of research and development shows that it is safe and effective, there may also be difficulty gaining customer trust over packaging they can eat. 

People are so used to throwing away packaging or seeing it as a disposable item that it will take time for the culture to shift towards packaging they could eat. 

Shifting customer attitudes around whether it’s sanitary or is protective enough from contamination may be deemed difficult. But the good news is that it isn’t impossible. 

The Future of Edible Packaging

One thing that has become apparent is that the future of packaging is starting to change. 

We’re moving towards more environmentally-friendly options that can significantly help in reducing waste such as plastic and other toxic materials while creating a new standard of sustainability initiatives. 

Although a lot more research and development is needed to scale edible packaging and make it suitable for large-scale use, the current developments show a lot of progression in this respect. 

As more policy changes and resources are being spent on edible packaging, we’re poised to see much more innovation in edible packaging materials for more than just the food industry.

While it makes sense to expand edible packaging into the food packaging industry, there is a lot of potential for expanding into other industries with this packaging trend.

We can expect to see changes in a variety of industries with regards to not only edible packaging but sustainable packaging as a whole.

Read more on sustainable packaging

Get in contact with our product specialists to learn more about what sustainable packaging options PakFactory has available for you.