Edible packaging: Exploring sustainable solutions for the future

Despite all of its benefits for packaging, plastic is not biodegradable, meaning it cannot break down naturally in the environment. One practical packaging option to reduce the usage of plastic is edible packaging. Ismail Sutaria, lead consultant, packaging and materials, Future Market Insights, in his article, talks more about edible packaging

02 Apr 2024 | By Ismail Sutaria

“Over the projected period of 2023 to 2033, the edible packaging market is anticipated to rise at a CAGR of 14.31%”

Anything that is utilised but cannot be naturally disposed of results in garbage and harmful environmental effects. A sustainable substitute is needed to counteract the rising trend of pollution brought on by people's use of plastic.

Plastic has been the most popular material for packing commodities, products, or any other material since its invention. It is an affordable choice that can be used widely because it is portable, lightweight, and easy to use. Plastic is being exploited to the point where it is becoming an environmental hazard because of its use.

Over the years, the packaging sector has been reinvented with appropriate edible packaging through research and development conducted by packaging businesses.

Edible packaging uses renewable and biodegradable materials to provide consumers with an alternative to plastic food packaging. Composed of naturally occurring biodegradable materials, edible packaging is safe for ingestion and doesn't need to be sorted, assembled, recycled, or disposed of.

Edible films and coatings are ingested by consumers as part of the complete food product. It serves as an alternative for plastic, doing the job of packaging without the harmful aftereffects on the environment.

Any type of packaging such as a sheet, film, thin layer, or coating - that is eaten with food and is a necessary component of the dish, is considered edible packing. It is a biopolymer designed to both retain and protect the food from deterioration while also being able to biodegrade similarly to the food it contains.

As food ingredients, edible films and coatings frequently need to be as bland as possible in order to go unnoticed when ingesting the edible-packed food item. When they have a noticeable or distinctive flavour and taste, their sensory attributes enhance the dish.

There are many edible packaging alternatives available on the market. Here are some of the popular examples that are made and consumed on a large scale:

Edible coffee cups:

These can be used in place of paper or plastic cups that are disposed of after use. They contain ingredients like chocolate, vanilla and caramel-glazed cookies. Edible coffee cups have no effect on the flavour of the drinks and do not hold heat. Furthermore, moisture doesn't affect the cup's structure until approximately one hour after the beverage is served. Restaurants and coffee chains can use edible coffee cups to add a unique twist to their coffee servings.

Candy wrappers:

Rice wafer paper is a material for culinary packaging. It is used to wrap different candies and chocolates and can be consumed with the candies. Rice paper is safe because it removes out the plastic or wax paper wrappers and keeps contaminants out of the candy. It complements a variety of sweets, including chocolate, caramel, and hard candies. A tonne of waste which is generated by plastic wrappers can be avoided by using edible candy wrappers.

Edible straws:

For chilled beverages, edible, plastic-free straws come in handy. Some edible straws are prepared using rice, while others are made without sugar. Brands are beginning to offer edible straws as an alternative to paper or plastic straws. The straw itself can be consumed. They come in a variety of flavours. Even if customers decide not to use them, these straws can easily be decomposed without harming the environment.

Edible spoons:

Rice, sorghum, and wheat are the ingredients used for the production of edible spoons. They are replacements for plastic cutlery. Sorghum gives the edible spoons their strength and prevents them from crumbling throughout meals. They also hold their integrity when used to stir liquids. Additionally, many types of flour and seasonings, like herbs and spices, can be used to make edible spoons. They are ideal for a wide range of recipes and are available in a number of flavours.

“Over the projected period of 2023 to 2033, the edible packaging market is anticipated to rise at a CAGR of 14.31%, from USD 1.10-billion in 2023 to USD 4.18-billion by 2033,” as quoted by Ismail Sutaria from Future Market Insights.

The need for biodegradable packaging is rising due to packaging advances and the potential for safe and hygienic transportation of packaged edible food.

With a market share of around 80% in 2021, the food and beverage category led the sustainable packaging industry, and this trend is anticipated to continue. In the food and beverage industry, edible packaging is used to cater a range of food items, including dairy products, fresh food, baby food, bakery and confectionery, and functional food additives. Edible packaging is expected to grow in market share due to changing lifestyles and a rise in processed food consumption worldwide.

While edible food packaging offers numerous benefits, there are drawbacks as well. The main issue with a lot of edible packaging is that it has a shorter shelf life than other kinds of packaging and dissolves rapidly in water. Allergies are a crucial consideration when consuming edible food packaging.

The package's natural components may prevent consumption by those with dietary allergies to natural materials. Therefore, depending on the product, its packaging, and how it is carried and handled, these edible packaging solutions might not be suitable for every business.

Edible packaging is a way to address the sustainability issue and the best option for the food and beverage industry. Different brands are working to find the right mix of packaging for different products, taking into account factors like size, flavour, and shelf life.

Edible packaging makes a significant contribution to the environment simply due to the elimination of the entire plastic manufacturing, processing, shipping, and transportation process. As more organisations adopt edible packaging solutions, businesses in these sectors will be incentivised to introduce more modern and efficient products on a regular basis.

Ismail Sutaria, lead consultant, packaging and materials, Future Market Insights

Latest Poll

The packaging industry is confused by recycling and sustainability rules in India. What is the biggest challenge?


The packaging industry is confused by recycling and sustainability rules in India. What is the biggest challenge?

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Lack of consumer awareness



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