The coronavirus pandemic has spurred a fresh spurt of growth in sustainable and hygienic food packaging, making room for creative yet cost-effective alternatives in the food and beverage industry in India. Arguably, food companies will need to adopt technologies and alter processes in order to address the consumer’s growing concerns about food safety in light of the pandemic.
A study of the latest developments, challenges, and policies in food packaging revealed the following factors as being essential for food start-ups moving forward:
· Eco-friendly packaging. Food delivery — for a consumer — is no longer a matter of convenience but one of necessity. Post COVID-19, restaurants’ pivot to take-out and delivery has reignited the focus on hygienic and environmentally sustainable packaging that can be reused or regenerated into new products. A delivery cloud kitchen should consider using packaging that focuses on using recycled materials, high-pressure packaging technology, digital packaging, and/or 3-D printing techniques. These activities can be outsourced to save money, time, and other resources.
· The sustainability-hygiene trade-off. One of the many challenges facing food entrepreneurs is in addressing the perceived trade-off between packaging that is environmentally sustainable and hygienic. Although one may believe that disposing of single-use plastics may be prudent, two facts are curious. Firstly, several studies confirm that coronavirus is not transmitted by ordering food. Secondly, a study by the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that the virus disintegrates faster on environmentally friendly material such as cardboard, as compared with plastic on which it survives for up to 72 hours.
· Adherence to hygiene protocol. In any case, ghost or dark kitchens optimised for delivery will need to observe the highest standards of hygiene both while packaging food as well as delivering it to the customer’s doorstep. Using biodegradable or compostable packaging material coupled with the maintenance of hygiene will ensure that both objectives are met simultaneously.
· Innovative and lateral thinking. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented an opportunity for entrepreneurs to drastically alter their approaches to doing business in ways that are profitable, hygienic, and sustainable. This may be a good time to invest resources in design thinking — even in packaging — to ascertain the most prudent options both from a business and consumer perspective. This may lead to packaging that is user-friendly, appealing, cost-effective, sustainable, and hygienic.
With food delivery offering a silver lining to the food and beverage industry in India and abroad, food brands adopting the cloud kitchen or smart kitchen alternative will need to innovate in more ways than one. As such, the design, material, and quality of food packaging will not only communicate one’s brand values to the consumer but will also be the differentiator among competitors, and therefore, be a key driver for growth and profitability. Reinforcing one’s commitment to health and safety, and recalibrating one’s supply chains is likely to give an edge to enterprising food brands.
Moving forward, consumers of food delivery will pay close attention to how food businesses navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the brands to which they are loyal. Sustainability, hygiene, and quality will continue to be significant considerations, as customers adapt to the new normal.