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Does sustainable food packaging affect the taste of food?

As the demand for convenient restaurant-quality meals increases, food packaging has come to play a key role in the consumer experience. More customers expect product packaging to be stylish, functional, and, above all, sustainable. 

Several studies show consumers have a growing interest in sustainable food packaging. As of January 2023, over 80% of consumers are demanding sustainable packaging materials be used for the majority of products

By investing in sustainable food containers and marketing themselves as eco-conscious, restaurants and food vendors can widen their customer market. Additionally, it can help build customer trust and loyalty, as research shows 92% of consumers are likely to trust a brand that supports social or environmental issues

However, the burning question is: Will sustainable food packaging materials affect the taste of the meal? And how can business owners ensure that it won’t? 

The importance of environmentally sustainable packaging

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. 

Notably, the food delivery business has become a highly competitive space over the last few years. This may be due to the Covid-19 lockdowns forcing restaurants to rely solely on food delivery to earn a profit. As demand for food delivery increases, so does the packaging required. 

Notably, the takeaway food industry has long been guilty of unsustainable packaging practices. Several still use plastic or styrofoam takeaway food containers when serving customers. Styrofoam food containers are highly destructive to the environment and have the potential to pose health risks to consumers. 

Beyond this, many food vendors offer items consumers don’t need, such as paper packets or plastic utensils. Overall, food packaging involves a lot of excess materials that customers are likely to dispose of post-delivery.

The excessive use of plastic, cardboard, and Styrofoam takeout containers has had a significant impact on the environment. For instance, research shows plastic waste, including food containers, has affected over 700 marine species.

As this reality becomes clear, the majority of food businesses have switched to sustainable food packaging materials, such as bagasse paper, mushroom containers, and packaging made from polylactic acid (PLA). Eco-friendly takeaway food containers can help reduce waste and negate the need to include any wasteful extras. 

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Does sustainable food packaging affect taste?

In 2022, the global market for takeout containers for restaurants was set to reach a value of $2.3 billion. This has helped pave the way for manufacturers to offer more eco-friendly materials that not only reduce costs but also protect the environment. 

Studies show over 50% of customers are concerned about the environmental impact of food packaging and plastic waste. More so, over two-thirds are willing to pay more for sustainable materials. Therefore, prioritising recyclable, reusable, and biodegradable food packaging minimises environmental impact and promotes a positive message. 

According to the Journal of Cleaner Production, sustainable food packaging can be particularly influential in shaping consumer perceptions of food items. Notably, consumers rate sustainably packaged foods more favourably in terms of both taste and quality. 

Several food packaging materials are lined with a non-toxic, food-safe coating. This helps to protect the packaging materials from absorbing liquids such as water vapour, oils, and grease. Additionally, it prevents materials such as kraft paper or cardboard from disintegrating and possibly sticking to the food. 

That said, the materials and coatings used for sustainable food packaging are designed not to impart any additional flavour or aroma to its contents. 

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Why should you prioritise sustainable takeout packaging?

Investing in sustainable takeaway packaging can help businesses cut back on costs while boosting brand reputation. Making environmentally friendly packaging choices, and being more mindful of consumption, can also help brands attract and retain customers. 

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 helps reduce waste and energy consumption, which lowers costs over time. 

There are several ways restaurants and food vendors can reduce costs. For instance, investing in recyclable or compostable materials such as paper, LDPE, or cardboard is often cheaper in the long run and more eco-friendly, ensuring they appeal to a wide customer base.

Additionally, business owners should consider portion sizes and a minimalistic packaging design. Takeout containers for restaurants will cost less if owners opt to adjust portion sizes. With smaller containers and simple packaging, they can save on the cost of purchasing larger containers and design materials.

Beyond this, opt to invest in multifunctional takeaway containers. This form of packaging is a highly effective way to reduce costs while still providing customers with the convenience they need. 

For example, there are fast food containers that can be completely sealed, while some are reusable and microwaveable. These are cost-effective and practical both for restaurants and their customers.

Most importantly, find the right supplier. Restaurants should do their research and find the right supplier. The supplier should be able to provide quality materials at an affordable price. After being in touch with the right one, restaurants can then buy bulk orders to save more on costs per unit.

Deciding to switch to sustainable takeaway packaging can be a daunting idea, but the benefits far outweigh the risks. By switching to compostable or recyclable packaging options or finding ways of using fewer materials altogether, businesses can drastically reduce their environmental impact and demonstrate their commitment to sustainability initiatives.