Eliminating Sticky Food Waste

Monday, September 18th, 2017

Imagine a wet slippery surface that lets viscous liquids glide with ease. Now, imagine it as environmentally friendly, made from FDA-approved foods, and can be used in both food manufacturing and in packaging of liquid goods. Too good to be true? Well, not now! By Dave Smith, CEO, Liquiglide Incorporated

Consumers hate waste. They especially hate wasting sticky products that are trapped inside their packages. For foods, this means everything from mayonnaise and ketchup to barbeque sauce and syrup.

In fact, in a 1,000-participant survey conducted in 2014, it was revealed that consumers actually go to a surprising extent to get the last few drops of a product trapped in its package. These ways include storing bottles upside-down, adding water, cutting containers open, or using spatulas. A handful even admitted to buying special tools to help them with this.

Because of consumers’ dislike to avoid waste, for manufacturers, this creates an opportune market if they can package their products with better evacuation. Consumers would perceive these as more appealing, and the repurchase point can be accelerated if cleaner packaging evacuation is possible.

Permanently Wet Liquid-Impregnated Surfaces

Squeezing out toothpaste in a bottle without (left) and with (right)

The technology for a permanently wet liquid-impregnated surface was developed in 2012. Although application for this was first used as a solution to prevent methane hydrate crystals from building up in gas pipelines, ways of applying this technology to other viscous liquid applications was soon explored.

Liquid wastage in consumer packaged goods became one of the first considerations as it would eliminate consumer problems and the bottles and containers were ideal for maintaining the slippery surfaces to overcome the problem.

Unlike in the case of superhydrophobics (that allows substances to slide across surfaces similar to how a lotus leaf repels water), liquid-impregnated surfaces better suit food applications being more long-lasting and non-poisonous. These surfaces are made by combining a textured solid that is a few microns thick and a liquid that is held in place through capillary forces to create a permanently wet slippery surface.

The technology allows for the creation of customised slippery surfaces with different properties depending on the application, and the materials chosen for the solid and liquid pairing can literally be made from food ingredients such as vegetable oil. What is more, hundreds of different FDA-approved ingredients have been identified with an ability to be combined to create these coatings.

These ensure the safety of the food product, and the coatings can also thus be used as lubricants in food processing. Additionally, the wet surface eliminates wastes effectively. It does this at the consumer level and is also capable of doing it on an industrial scale as well.

The Future Of Slippery Food Packaging

Liquid-impregnated surface technology is moving rapidly into the food and beverage industry. With its uncanny ability to eliminate product waste, it can save consumers’ money and eases their minds about environmental concerns, and at the same time creates brand-building opportunities for manufacturers. It can also be labelled as a food-grade lubricant, as it is safe to use in food manufacturing.

The future is bright for food-safe slippery packaging, and it will definitely be seen in the industry for a long time to come.