An image of a compostable bagasse food container filled with salad in an article on sustainable food packaging options for eco-friendly businesses

5 sustainable food packaging options for eco-friendly businesses

Leading a sustainable lifestyle has become a priority for several customers, who are choosing to purchase products grown and created in a sustainable and ethical manner. Furthermore, these items must be packaged in eco-friendly materials, as a 2020 survey found over 60% of consumers are willing to pay more for products with sustainable packaging. 

Therefore, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition created strict criteria for sustainable packaging manufacturers. For instance, only safe, non-toxic resources can be used to create packaging, and companies must optimise the use of recycled materials and renewable energy sources. Additionally, companies should use renewable energy in all areas of the process, and only the best practices and technologies must be used during manufacturing.

Research suggests the food sector accounts for around 30% of the world’s total energy consumption and up to 22% of total greenhouse gas emissions. While the food sector is further reaching than the restaurant industry, the more establishments that reduce their carbon footprint, the greater the impact. 

Investing in sustainable food packaging can help businesses save on costs and appeal to an increasingly eco-conscious market while reducing their carbon footprint. Learn more about the sustainable food packaging options available, and which is best suited for your business.  

Sustainable packaging: Widen your market and increase sales

Several studies indicate consumers have a growing interest in sustainable packaging. As of January 2023, over 80% of consumers are demanding sustainable packaging for their products. By investing in sustainable food packaging and actively marketing themselves as an eco-conscious brand, restaurants can widen their customer market to include those who live an eco-friendly lifestyle. 

More so, taking on sustainable initiatives can help build customer trust and loyalty, as research shows 92% of consumers are more likely to trust a company that supports social or environmental issues. According to the Journal of Cleaner Production, sustainable food packaging can be particularly influential in shaping consumer perceptions of food items, with consumers rating sustainably packaged foods more favourably in terms of taste and quality. 

While the cost of sustainable food packaging can be high in the short term, it leads to cost savings down the line. For instance, using renewable materials help reduce waste and energy consumption, which lowers costs over time. 

An image sustainable food packaging options for businesses, examples of bagasse food containers, kraft paper food containers and mushroom packaging in an article on sustainable food packaging options for eco-friendly businesses

What packaging options do restaurants have?

Due to technological advancements and the introduction of several sustainable materials, restaurants have several packaging options to choose from. 

Compostable options

Bagasse containers, also known as sugarcane containers, are common in the food industry. The material can biodegrade within 12 weeks and be mixed with soil to provide nutrients to plants and the surrounding ecosystem. As sugarcane bagasse is the main by-product of the cane sugar industry, the containers require very little energy to produce, helping to reduce a restaurant’s carbon footprint.

It also has no smell of its own, meaning it does not affect the odour or flavour of the food contained inside. More so, it is naturally grease and oil resistant and can hold liquids. These containers can hold both hot and cold foods, however, once the temperature exceeds 95°C (203°F), the packaging may lose strength. 

Another option is kraft paper: a recycled material made from wood pulp. The material is biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable, as it is usually made from wood pulp, often from pine and bamboo trees. The pulp can come from underdeveloped trees or from the shavings, strips, and edgings discarded by sawmills. 

This material is mechanically pulped or processed in acid sulfite to produce unbleached kraft paper. This process uses fewer chemicals than conventional paper production and is less harmful to the environment. In the food sector, the majority of kraft food containers are unbleached, which makes it easier for consumers to recycle.

Kraft paper bags are extremely cost-effective, as it is one of the cheapest sustainable materials. Kraft paper boxes are sturdy, tear resistant, and durable, making them an ideal choice for restaurants, bakeries, and other food service establishments.

An image of Fastpac food packaging as an example of sustainable food packaging options in an article on sustainable food packaging options for eco-friendly businesses
Interesting alternatives

Recyclable Fastpac containers are made using high-quality polypropylene, which makes them both reusable and recyclable. This makes them an appropriate option that caters to consumer demand for cost-effective, reusable items, and sustainable packaging materials. 

Fastpac food containers are heat resistant and microwave safe without any health risks, making these a common form of packaging used in the fast-food industry. Additionally, Fastpac containers are strong, sturdy, and leakproof, making them suitable for quick transport and delivery. 

Mushroom packaging is made using the vegetative part of mushrooms, which is known as mycelium. This is often used alongside other agricultural byproducts such as corn stalks and hemp hurds, making it compostable.

Mycelium is an innovative packaging material that boasts the same characteristics as polystyrene. It is lightweight, easy to mould, and simple to produce. Notably, mycelium is cost-competitive with polystyrene foam, which means it is commonly used as a replacement for when styrofoam is typically used. 

Mushroom packaging has several advantages, as it is water and flame resistant. However, while mushroom containers are a high-performing, cost-competitive, and insulating protective packaging solution, they can decompose within a few weeks. 

Therefore, businesses may have to place packaging orders more regularly than with other materials. That said, buying small volumes instead of buying in bulk may help alleviate this problem. 

Another alternative is bamboo packaging, which is made from bamboo pulp. The manufacturing of these packaging materials begins with the harvesting of bamboo plants. The bamboo is cut into smaller chips, while unwanted particles or “sawdust” is removed from the bamboo chips. These chips are then washed and cleaned in preparation for the next step of processing. This includes transferring them to a pulping machine to be converted into bamboo pulp. 

The bamboo pulp is then washed and screened to remove any crude residue, dust, and sand. Some manufacturers choose to bleach the bamboo pulp to increase its whiteness for custom printing and help improve its strength. The pulp is then dried in sheets and prepared for printing. 

Notably, bamboo products have grown immensely in popularity, with the market projected to be worth USD 12.4 billion by 2032. Packaging made from bamboo is environmentally friendly, compostable and helps reduce packaging waste. It is a strong and durable material that can contain hot and cold foods and liquids.