EXPERT COLUMN: Food Waste Prevention
The international community agrees: food waste is a problem of global proportion. The widespread inefficiencies caused by food waste highlight the need for packaging that prevents spoilage and extends shelf life, while still protecting the flavor and quality that consumers count on and providing the convenience they need. The metal can is an ideal format to help brands achieve these goals, proving its value as a waste prevention tool.
A Global Problem
The magnitude of product that is wasted throughout the food system is significant. In America, according to the NRDC, 40 percent of the country’s food is thrown away each year, equaling nearly 27 million tons. Similarly, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations found consumers in North America and Europe waste around 209 to 253 pounds of food per person every year. Globally, the FAO found that one-third of the food produced for human consumption is lost, adding up to about 1.3 billion tons. It’s clear that reducing the amount of food we waste will free up resources and energy, moving people toward a more balanced food climate with more sustainable outcomes.
Packaging plays a critical role in avoiding food waste. It provides physical protection to the contents inside as well as barrier protection to prevent spoilage. The inherent benefits of food cans, including resistance to breakage, shelf-stability, functionality and infinite recyclability, are all attributes that make them an attractive option to prevent food waste.
1. Shelf life extension
The food canning process, and the can itself, are designed to prolong the time the product stays fresh. During packaging, food is cooked in the can to destroy bacteria, leaving a low oxygen environment that inhibits degradation of the food and its nutrients. The can itself then serves as an additional barrier to block air and contaminants from reaching the food, meaning that it can stay in the marketplace or a consumer’s pantry longer before it spoils. As a result, less food is discarded due to expiration dates. It’s also worth noting that canned foods do not require preservatives. The heating process used after cans are filled and sealed ensures food quality and eliminates the need for preservatives to prevent spoilage.
2. Nutrient protection
The canning process locks in nutrients at their peak of ripeness and keeps them intact until consumption. In fact, research shows many canned foods can be as nutritious and, in some cases, more nutritious than their fresh and frozen counterparts.
3. Portion control
Portion control cuts down food waste, and food packaging helps achieve that objective. Single-serve formats are a good example, encouraging consumers to only prepare and consume the desired amount of food.
Cans possess an unprecedented safety record with regard to food-borne illnesses caused by pathogens like salmonella and E. coli. According to FDA records, there has not been an incidence of food-borne illness resulting from a failure of metal packaging in more than 35 years. Good packaging should be tamper-resistant so that the sealed can ensures a barrier to oxygen and air so that consumers can be sure that the food is safe and of good quality. The canning process, as mentioned earlier, alleviates these concerns.
5. Supply chain efficiency
Cans offer significant benefits throughout the supply chain, ensuring less food is wasted once it has been packaged. With fast filling rates and easy stacking, cans require minimal secondary packaging, which saves costs. Cans are also less likely to be crushed or to burst during shipping, protecting and preserving products. And as cans require no refrigeration or freezing to keep food fresh during retailing and storage, they are less likely to be discarded due to their contents having expired.
Hella Gourven is the marketing manager for Crown Food Packaging North America