Frozen food leads to less food waste. But only with the right packaging

Pareja joven disfruta cocinando

A lot of requirements are placed on frozen food packaging. But it's worth the effort: frozen food helps us reduce food waste and global CO2 emissions.

The world is gobbling frozen food like never before. During 2020, the global market for frozen food was worth 147 billion euros, and that figure is expected to rise to 322 billion euros by 2026 according to market research company Statista.

The pandemic fuelled the frenzy, as consumers had to stock up on food to avoid having to go grocery shopping often. But increased consumption of frozen food is a megatrend rather than a quick fad. Consumer preferences started gravitating towards frozen food well before the pandemic, and the preferences seem to be here to stay. While the preference for frozen food is growing across all age categories, it’s particularly strong with younger generations. Older millennials, those who are born in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, stand for 48% of global frozen food consumption, and younger millennials are quick to follow. Busy lifestyles that leave little room for investing a lot of time in sourcing and preparing food is the main reason behind this development. Sustainability is another important reason, both when it comes to limiting food waste and using packaging that is either recyclable, made with recycled materials or renewable resources.

Older millennials, those who are born in the late 1980's and early 1990's, stand for 48% of global frozen food consumption, and younger millennials are quick to follow.

Food brands have followed suit and developed their offering to suit millennials’ taste buds, and now you can buy just about anything frozen: everything from vegetables in resealable pouches to sushi and vegan portions.

Frozen food is in fact an ideal way to prolong shelf life without losing out on the vitamins. Research shows that freezing vegetables soon after harvest keeps vitamins intact. For example, frozen peas or spinach have more vitamin C than ‘fresh’ produce that has been stored in the supermarket shelves for several days or even weeks.

millennials comiendo sushi junto

High demands on packaging

From a sustainability point of view, frozen food seems to lead to less food waste. As up to 9 % of global carbon emissions can be attributed to food waste, keeping it in check should be a high priority. Freezing food is a good option. But that alone won’t do the trick. You also need to have the right kind of packaging.

There are several boxes the packaging needs to tick. First, the packaging needs to be sturdy enough and puncture resistant to withstand any physical damage like a sharp edge puncturing the package.

MONO

The packaging must be able to handle diverse situations like the pressures of sealing, freezing and transportation, and be flexible as frozen food may expand during the freezing. Withstanding variability in temperatures is also necessary as some frozen food is defrosted in its packaging.

Barrier properties are key

walki paper-based frozen food packaging

So the demands on the packaging are high, as it’s difficult to maintain food quality without the right barriers. Recyclable fibre-based packaging is an excellent sustainable choice for frozen food as the packaging is both recyclable and made from a renewable resource. Novel fiber-based packaging can be equipped with the needed barrier properties and sealing properties for the packaging to perform both on the packaging lines and on the shelves and in freezers, and still be classified as recyclable in the paper stream. Fibres can be recycled up to 15 times. Research also shows that consumers prefer fibre-based packaging.

Some frozen food comes with sharp edges and require special attention to the puncture resistance of the packaging. Monomaterials such as Lamibel®MDO-PE are used thanks to its high durability standards which prolong shelf life. In addition to providing excellent barrier and sealing properties, Lamibel®MDO-PE also maintains the packaging’s functional properties even when frozen. The mechanical strength is high and offers excellent puncture resistance, also at very low temperatures. Mono MDO-PE is also recyclable in most countries, slightly depending on the recycling infrastructure.

As the world charts its way towards sustainability, reducing CO2 emissions should be the highest priority. Producing food that goes unconsumed is both unsustainable as well as unethical. Frozen food with its long shelf life permits us to only thaw what we eat and has been proven an excellent way to minimize food waste. If one is mindful of what materials are used for protecting the food, you won’t be left with waste. If done right, the packaging can be 100% recycled.

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