Have A Break, Reduce Your Waste

Thursday, August 16th, 2018

The Kit Kat bar is one of the world’s most beloved chocolate bars. But, I bet you didn’t know the wafer in the centre is actually made from broken Kit Kat bars. Steve Pinhorne, Managing Director at global packaging manufacturer, Advanta, explains why a similar zero-waste approach should be taken in food packaging.


Kit Kat manufacturers leave no Kit Kat uneaten. If quality assurance deems that a certain Kit Kat is not up to standards, it will simply go in the reject pile, ready to be crushed and used to fill other Kit Kats. Other food manufacturers may have simply discarded these flawed products, adding to the 1.7 million tonnes of food that is wasted before it even reaches the retailer.


It’s predicted that the global population will reach 9 billion by 2050, and feeding this many people could mean increasing food production by as much as 60 percent. However, we first need to drastically reduce the estimated 30 percent of waste currently evident in the supply chain.


According to WRAP, ready meals and chilled products generate up to twelve per cent of the total waste arising in the food and drink supply chain. This includes trimmings, rejects and packaging. There are certain factors that are hard to control, like a sudden change in the weather, but there are many variables that you can have a say on.


If certain waste can’t be prevented, can it be returned to the process just like the broken Kit Kats? From re-using pastry trim, to using offcuts for another product, there are impressive waste and cost savings to be had. But what about packaging, how can you minimise waste in this area?


You may outsource your wrappers and containers from your regular supplier, but the waste generated by this supplier inevitably becomes your waste, which ultimately affects your reputation and likelihood of getting your product on the supermarket shelves. With the likes of Morrison’s boasting a 421-tonne waste reduction in 2011, it’s clearly on the big four’s agenda.


This is where aluminium packaging shines. As an endlessly recyclable material, offcuts generated from foil tray production can simply be sold to a recycling plant, to be melted and moulded into another sheet of aluminium, without losing any quality. At Advanta, for example, every ounce of aluminium that enters the factory either leaves as a foil tray or is compacted onsite and sent on its way to be recycled and reused. There’s zero waste.


By choosing aluminium, you’re not just reducing the waste that goes to landfill, but also your carbon footprint. According to Alupro, recycling aluminium saves around 95 percent of the energy needed to make the metal from raw materials. Staggeringly, these means recycling one tonne of aluminium saves nine tonnes of CO2 emissions.


Packaging choice also has a huge impact on the shelf-life of your product, because closer use-by dates result in a higher chance of the consumer putting the product in the bin. Using modified atmosphere packaging or improved seal integrity techniques reduces the risk of food wastage. Smoothwall foil trays are a particularly good option to use with gas flushing techniques to extend shelf-life. Equally, these trays are highly robust, meaning the product is protected from damage on its way to the retailer.


Smart Labels

For highly perishable products, the shelf-life is determined by food manufacturers and is often set rather conservatively as a way to ensure food safety. This date is fixed, and supermarkets cannot legally sell a product after this date. However, rather than using a fixed shelf-life, we may see more retailers choosing food products with technologically advanced packaging, to better illustrate the shelf-life of a product.


For example, a product with a dynamic shelf-life (DSL) can have its suggested use-by date adjusted according to the actual quality of the product, either by adjusting the date or by indicating the quality of a product with a different technique. One technique is time-temperature indicators (TTI), a device or smart label that shows the accumulated time-temperature history of a product.


UK retailer, Sainsbury’s, is testing this technology with the introduction of its ‘Smart Fresh’ label initiative. This smart label, now found on Sainsbury’s own-brand cooked ham packaging, changes colour from yellow to purple over time. The cooler the ham is kept, the slower this reaction takes place. This means if the ham has been left in warm conditions for too long, the label will turn purple rapidly, indicating this product is no longer safe to eat.


Modified Atmosphere Packaging

While DSL and smart labels may go some way in reducing food waste, it doesn’t fix the crux of the problem of actually extending the time a product is viable for. Take the shelf-life of meat and poultry products as an example—with a typical protein shelf-life of anywhere between 20 and 90 days—it is crucial for processors to identify new ways to extend shelf-life. This is where Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) could increase in popularity.


Oxygen is one of fresh protein’s biggest enemies. By controlling the composition of air and moisture in an airtight container, bacteria growth is discouraged and the deterioration of the product is slowed down considerably. One way to alter the gas composition is by hermetically heat sealing a meat in a Smoothwall foil tray and applying gas flushing. The amount of oxygen can be reduced from 20.9 percent to zero percent, replacing the removed oxygen with nitrogen or carbon dioxide.


At Advanta, we’ve worked with one of our customers to help extend the shelf-life of a pork rib ready meal. They used a winning combination of our Smoothwall aluminium trays, slow-smoke cooking techniques and vacpacked product packaging to create a product with a mammoth shelf-life of 143 days—that’s over four months.


This prolonged shelf-life provides a buffer for the retailer to sell this product well ahead of the use-by date. Equally, the consumer has a surplus of time to eat the product, rather than throwing it in the bin. As a result, it is likely to reduce the 2.9 trillion pounds of food waste globally.


It’s time for more businesses to assess their supply chains and make themselves a highly reputable and socially responsible option for potential customers. Get your staff engaged to help drive food and packaging waste out of your business. Educate them on the financial and environmental strain that workplace waste brings. Think like the Kit Kat manufacturers, who leave no Kit Kat uneaten and select foil as their packaging of choice.


Want more insider news? Subscribe to our e-book now!


#Food Packaging #Kit Kat # Advanta #Reduce your waste #Environmentally friendly