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  • Writer's pictureMeyrick Consulting

Consumers trash Food Packaging

Crisps and chocolate hit the headlines as food packaging causes problems

When you buy something to eat you assume it’s safe for consumption. Mind you the adage ‘assume makes an ass of u and me ‘ is often not too far off the mark.

Think back to the horsemeat scandal as one such example. We thought we were buying one thing but were actually being sold something quite different. We look at the ingredients, look at the picture and then make a quick decision: ‘that’s on the menu for tea tonight.’ Much relief follows; we toss the packet in the trolley and off we trot.

However, with so much food being processed or ‘done to’ in one way or another, consumers want to feel safe in the knowledge that what will end up in their stomachs is safe to be there. Yet, it’s not just the ingredients we need to be concerned over but also what goes into the packaging and how that packaging may, or may not, interfere with the foodstuffs it contains.

The sale of pre-prepared foods has risen exponentially in recent years. In the 1990s food was still being predominantly cooked at home; that’s all changed. In the UK we buy a staggering number of pre-cooked meals and expect them to be leak, tamper proof and hermetically sealed, recyclable while also being easy to open. Food manufacturers are always looking at new ways to package what they produce. Sometimes the packaging causes a significant problem. Recently Montezuma Chocolates were hit by plastic contamination. As a consequence products were recalled.

The Food Standards Agency was involved once it was discovered a truffle had been contaminated by plastic from a mould at Montezuma. This is where traceability is essential to make it easy to find out the exact batches that might be at risk. Recalls happen more often than we might imagine. With so many processes being undertaken in food production there are probably too many steps to avoid every problem. Five months ago yoghurt and chicken products were pulled from shelves when there was found to be rubber and plastic contamination.

crisps - love 'em or hate 'em they are super popular in the UK

Sometimes just the packaging of a product alone can hit the news. Walkers crisps caused mayhem when consumer started posting empty packets into post boxes to complain about the packets not being recyclable. Royal Mail was forced to ask people to at least put these packets in an envelope before posting! Just imagine the mess as fatty deposits contaminating ordinary mail.

The manner of the protest may have left something to be desired but it hit the headlines and got the publicity for the fact that Walkers crisps creates around 420 000 packets in an hour. That is a lot of material destined straight for landfill.

Once again, it’s consumer pressure that has forced action and PepsiCO UK are bringing in a national recycling scheme. Empty bags can now be left at national collection points of sent free of charge to TerraCycle for recycling.

The protest group 38 degrees has also been involved and its executive director, David Babbs was delighted at the outcomes. However he did have a warning that consumers were not hoodwinked by PR stunts they want to see clear action. Babbs stated that 2025 is too far out and that fully recyclable crisp packets should be on the menu much sooner.

However, it’s not just packaging that grabs the headlines. The usual suspects such as listeria and listeriosis continue to be troublesome. During the summer sweetcorn traced back to an Hungarian factory prompted a call to cook frozen vegetables thoroughly.

As consumers we rely heavily on food producers. Most people don’t even think about the quality of what is being consumed until something happens to make them question it. We rely on convenience, packaging and accurate ingredient lists. Is there something more that can be done to create a more simplified approach to all this? What suggestions have you come across?

Packaging is big business and there are many challenges ahead. That’s why the Food and beverage Industry needs great people to take products, brands and environmental issues forward. If you are struggling to find the right person for the right job then Meyrick’s Consulting may well be able to help you out. Why not book a call and talk through your specific food industry recruitment needs.

Here are 3 ways I can help:

  1. Click here to download a copy of my free report Click Here

  2. Click here to register for a free webinar Click Here

  3. Click here to book an appointment directly with me Click Here

I look forward to working in a creative and optimistic manner to fulfil your recruitment needs.

Finally, I would love to tackle the food packaging issue on my podcast. If you would like to be a guest do let me know.


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