Beyond consumer convenience: Overcoming urgent environmental and health issues through resealable food packaging

Food brands and manufacturers have a duty to reduce food and plastic waste, and realise healthy eating. Resealable packaging achieves both goals

Much is said today about the convenience of resealable food packaging to consumers, and how the many types of options on the market are enhancing the shelf life of food. Studies find that 81% of consumers prefer resealable packaging over fixed options, with 54% prepared to pay more for it. They also highlight a raft of benefits to retailers, food manufacturers and consumers, including less food and plastic waste, and reduced spending by consumers.

Yet despite high demand from consumers, uptake by food brands and manufacturers remains low. In 2019, the global closed bag market, which includes resealable food packaging, was valued at about US$177 million — a mere 0.5% of the global food packaging market that was valued at about US$302 billion during the same year. While market analysts predict robust growth of the resealable food packaging sector in future, fixed options will grow significantly more.

In Asia Pacific, for example, the resealable food packaging sector is expected to grow by 3.5% annually during the first five years of this decade. However, food demand will grow by 15% annually during a similar timeframe. As the amount of fixed packaging being produced rapidly rises, the challenges associated with this growth will worsen.

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Environmental crises

Supermarket
Different plastic packaging food in the supermarket

About one-third of food produced for human consumption is wasted annually, with up to 80% of this generated at the consumer level. Presently, the world wastes 1.6 billion tons of food, with this figure rising to 2.1 billion by 2030. Within 10 years, the world will spend US$1.5 trillion on food, which it will not use nor recycle.

Excessive volumes of food waste is accompanied by humongous amounts of plastic waste. Currently, of the 78 million tons of plastic food packaging that is produced globally each year, only 14% (11 million tons) is recycled, with 11.5% (nine million tons) of it discarded into the Earth’s oceans. With food production tipped to double during the next decade, this is a challenge food businesses cannot ignore.

Fortunately, many of the foods that become waste at the consumer level can benefit from resealable packaging: Currently, 30% of cereals are discarded, as are 20% of dairy products, and 45% of fruit and vegetables including nuts. Packaging-related food waste today comprises up to one-quarter of total household food waste. A 25% uptake in use of resealable options could lead to food and plastic wastes falling by 400 million tons and 20 million tons respectively each year, and consumers saving US$375 billion annually.

There is also an opportunity to further reduce plastic consumption within the resealable food packaging market: Finger-lift tape, for instance, uses 90% less plastic than zippers.

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Health risks

Fixed food packaging is exacerbating numerous health issues. Since 1975, for example, obesity has almost tripped, with one-in-10 people classed as obese today. In Asia, up to 60% of the population are considered overweight or obese. Presently, more people die from being overweight and obese than being underweight.

Resealable food packaging plays an essential role in portion control. On one hand, it helps tackle rising obesity by prompting consumers to eat in moderation, rather than consume an entire packet of food; and on the other hand, it can support millennials who want to eat more healthily than older generations, preferring foods such as fruit- and vegetable-based products, which are sold in resealable pouches and can be eaten on-the-go.

Resealable food packaging also spurs greater hygiene. Consumers do not have to move food from one packet to another, or from a packet to a plastic container, where during this process residue is transferred to human hands and surfaces, which if left unattended spreads harmful bacteria and creates health risks.

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Internal challenges

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Lift-and-Reseal_lifting-the-label_web

While the business, environmental and health cases for resealable food packaging are compelling, food brands and manufacturers are challenged to make the switch.

A foremost concern is the potential brand damage caused by altering product appearance. However, resealable packaging usually has minimal disruption on the look and feel of packets. Finger-lift tape, for example, can be transparent or in the colour of the brand. In addition, research finds that products, which feature a resealable option are perceived to be of higher quality than rivals that use fixed packets.

Food brands and manufacturers are also wary that such new features will interfere with packet production, and that they will affect food contents. Yet many resealable options impact neither, as machines that fix resealable tape to product packets can easily be integrated within pre-existing assembly lines.

Retailers are understandably concerned about the high costs associated with relaunching a new product or feature. However, with demand for resealable food packaging rife among consumers, such companies will probably gain by switching from fixed options. There is also the added benefit of showcasing a brand for an extended period of time, as packets are resealed and handled on multiple occasions. 

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Health and environmental stewardship

The global food industry is at an inflection point. It will need to double the amount of food it produces within 10 years, and must simultaneously help reduce volumes of food and plastic waste, which if left unchecked will spiral out of control. The industry also has the responsibility of ensuring that society is healthy — both in terms of the amount of food that people eat, and by encouraging food to be handled hygienically.

Resealable packaging can meet these diverse and pressing needs on a global scale. As a worldwide manufacturer of adhesive products and solutions, tesa ® has a rich history of helping the food industry capitalise on consumer demand for resealable packaging, while simultaneously promoting good health and environmental stewardship. Founded more than 125 years ago, the company is a proud member of that United Nations Global Contact, a pact committed to promoting sustainable and socially responsible business practices.

To enquire about our resealable food packaging solutions, drop us an enquiry below or reach us at +65 6697 9888.

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