You Are What You Eat: Health Trends in Food Packaging

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By Amina AlTai, Marketing Director, Imagemme.

… foods are so heavily laden with chemicals, or exotoxins, that our bodies cannot cope, and end up spending more energy trying to rid of these harmful chemicals, than actually gaining any nutritional value from eating these foods.

It’s somewhat of an oxymoron. We carefully select and curate the nutritious foods we are going to eat to provide energy to our bodies. Oftentimes, these foods are so heavily laden with chemicals, or exotoxins, that our bodies cannot cope, and end up spending more energy trying to rid of these harmful chemicals, than actually gaining any nutritional value from eating these foods. It results in an endless game of catch-up where our bodies are constantly starved of nutrients and the fuel to drive us. And many of these chemicals are coming directly from the packaging. So when our groceries, take-out foods, and our on-the-go cups are laden with unhealthy materials, our bodies are bound to take the fall.

Luckily, there are several emerging innovations that category leaders are wising up in order to make our food packaging a healthier, more viable option. Here are a few trends we are seeing in packaging design that can help you live somewhat healthier, even if you don’t have time to prepare your own foods.

Recycled containers: Recycled containers are a hot topic at the moment. While it could be a healthier and more environmentally sound option, the FDA has reservations on its wide-spread safety and has a very specific protocol for the production process. The FDA’s main concern is that contaminants from the post consumer material could wind up in the final product. Nevertheless, we are seeing a mushrooming of these types of packages, especially across natural and organic products.


Plant Fiber Containers and PLA: Though the name sounds somewhat scary (it stands for Polymerized Lactic Acid) PLA containers are some of the safest options out there and are made entirely of corn or sugarcane. They look and feel just like PET plastic, but without the harmful chemicals. PLA containers are used often in vegan food packaging to maintain the integrity of the products being packaged. Be prepared to see a lot of plant fiber packaging emerge, especially those created from sugarcane, corn, wheat, bamboo and rice.

Recycled cups with PLA liners: One of the biggest concerns for consumers is what what we’re ingesting while we drink, especially with hot drinks. As the package heats up, the structure changes and it is more likely to omit harmful chemicals into your drinks. In the hot beverage category we are seeing an emergence of recycled/compostable fibers with PLA liners, thus avoiding harmful petrochemical-based coatings. This biodegradable material is extremely diverse and can store food up to 110 degrees.

Chemical Consciousness: A hot topic in packaging, regardless of the category is phthalates. Phthalates are added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, and durability and are used in a range of packaging types. They are most renowned for their role in beauty and cosmetic packaging, and have been thought to cause harmful health effects.

BPA is also a buzzword in food packaging. Bisphenoal A, or BPA, is commonly found in the lining of canned goods and is controversial because of its ability to exert hormone-like properties that can act as endocrine disruptors.

The list of chemicals could go on and on. The lesson here is a movement away from PETs and their relatives, to compostable, biodegradable options where possible.

Edible food packaging and films: What could be cooler than being able to eat the package your food came in? It’s just as nature intended! There are several protein-based films that can act as food storage containers, but they also have the ability to inhibit major food borne bacteria! Additionally, there is a trend emerging whereby the edible film can be used as a delivery system for flavors, vitamins and antioxidants.

There are countless alternatives for companies that are looking to create food packaging as healthfully as possible. However you decide to package your food items, it’s important to select vehicles that maintain the nutrition and integrity of the ingestibles without adding any sneaky surprises. As with most packaging innovation, the cost of entry can be high, but once consumers catch on, it will pay dividends to their health and your bottom line.

About the author
Amina AlTai is the Marketing Director and Co-Founder of Imagemme Packaging Design.
You can connect with her on Google+