In the ever-evolving landscape of food packaging, sustainability has risen to the forefront as a vital concern for brands. A recent report by Think With Google, published in October 2021, reveals that a staggering 82% of consumers place a high priority on sustainability. [1] This statistic underscores the growing demand for eco-conscious practices and products in the market.

Consumers are no longer content with just the contents of their food; they are increasingly curious about the journey it takes from production to disposal. They want to know the steps that companies are taking to embrace environmental responsibility and minimize their impact on the planet.

In the realm of food and beverage, the prospect of sustainable packaging offers a promising solution to this demand. By adopting sustainable practices, companies can not only reduce their environmental footprint but also resonate with an eco-conscious consumer base.

What Is Sustainable Food Packaging?

Defining sustainable food packaging entails a deliberate reduction of excessive materials, a strategic shift away from plastics, a focus on localizing supply chains, and the incorporation of eco-friendly alternatives wherever possible. This approach aims to leave a minimal ecological imprint, taking into account every stage of packaging design, production, transportation, and disposal.

Right size packaging- A core principle of sustainable packaging is the concept of “right-size” packaging, where only the necessary amount of material is used to safeguard the product. This not only minimizes waste but also prevents unnecessary costs, particularly avoiding the “air tax” associated with non-essential air pockets in packaging.

Reduce carbon footprint
Reduce carbon footprint with sustainable packaging

Reducing carbon footprint- This is another fundamental facet of sustainability in packaging. This entails a comprehensive assessment of energy sources throughout the packaging process, including warehouse operations, transportation distances, and the emissions generated by third-party vendors.

Sustainable certification- To ensure the materials used are environmentally responsible, sustainable food packaging suppliers prioritize sourcing from responsibly managed forests. Certifications from organizations like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) guarantee the use of sustainable forest-derived materials.

Renewable materials- In the realm of materials, sustainable food packaging often favors alternatives like renewable paperboard over traditional plastic. Biodegradable substrates such as hemp, cotton, and other eco-friendly options are gaining traction as well. Incorporating post-consumer recycled materials is a valuable step towards reducing single-use waste and promoting recycling.

Advantages of Sustainable Food Packaging

Beyond its environmental benefits, sustainable food packaging offers numerous advantages for businesses. These alternatives tend to have fewer toxins and allergens, a crucial consideration in the food industry where safety is paramount.

Furthermore, as an increasing number of consumers seek eco-friendly options, adopting sustainable packaging can cultivate strong consumer loyalty. Brands that align with consumer values and ethical commitments are more likely to foster lasting relationships with their customer base.

By fully embracing sustainable food packaging, brands simplify the decision-making process for environmentally conscious consumers, making it easier for them to choose your products over less sustainable alternatives. This appreciation often translates into vocal brand advocacy from satisfied customers.

Types of Sustainable Packaging Available

 A crucial step in the journey toward more sustainable food packaging is the choice of materials. Prioritizing safety and sustainability, brands are opting for materials that are renewable, recyclable, and have a low environmental impact.

100% recycled paper- It stands out as a cost-effective and popular choice for sustainable packaging. It mirrors the performance of traditional materials while reducing carbon footprints and ecological impact.

Straw and recycled cotton fibers- It offers sustainable options for marketing collateral, stationary, and greeting cards, although their applications may be limited.

100% recyclable metallized paperboard- For those seeking more innovative options, 100% recyclable metallized paperboard provides a film- and plastic-free substrate that emulates paper qualities and can be embossed or debossed effectively.

Hemp- With its distinctive texture and clear sustainability signal, has emerged as a recent trend in sustainable packaging. While it may have a modest reliance on paper to bind its fibers, hemp presents a renewable alternative for various packaging forms.

Straw and recycled cotton fibers- It offers sustainable options for marketing collateral, stationary, and greeting cards, although their applications may be limited.

Casein– An unexpected contender in sustainable packaging is casein, a milk protein that preserves and wraps food effectively. With less porosity than conventional plastic film, casein ensures both sustainability and enhanced food freshness.

Soy and vegetable-based inks- They present another avenue for sustainability, contributing to the overall eco-friendliness of packaging. These biodegradable inks offer visual design benefits while remaining cost-effective.

Considering barrier coatings, windowing, and airflow in the packaging design process further enhances the overall sustainability of the product.

Why Is SQF Certification Crucial 

As brands transition to sustainable food packaging, one critical aspect to consider is the certification of printing and packaging manufacturers. The Safe Quality Food (SQF) certification ensures that the chosen supplier meets global health and safety standards, safeguarding both the product and the consumer.

Demystifying SQF Certification 

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), established in 2000, addresses the mounting food safety challenges of the 21st century. With the objective of harmonizing and enhancing food safety systems globally, GFSI endorses “certification program owners” (CPOs) that adhere to its stringent standards. The SQF certification is one such certification under this umbrella.

Manufacturers with an SQF certification demonstrate adherence to the highest global safety standards in food processes. The certification encompasses industry, customer, and regulatory requirements across the supply chain, spanning from production to consumption.

The SQF Food Safety Program covers six categories of codes: primary production, food retail, manufacturing, food packaging, storage and distribution, and quality.

Benefits of Collaborating With an SQF-Certified Food Packaging Supplier 

An SQF certification serves as a reliable indicator when seeking a packaging partner. It affirms the manufacturer’s capacity to handle food products safely and underscores the suitability of their packaging for direct food contact. Moreover, the certification reflects the manufacturer’s dedication to quality, given the meticulous and ongoing nature of the certification process.

Choosing Sustainable Packaging For Your Brand

As brands navigate the realm of sustainable food packaging, creative solutions abound. The options are diverse and ever-expanding.

Before finalizing a partnership with a printing and packaging provider, other pertinent questions should be considered regarding the impact of design on shelf life, the role of packaging in branding, and the array of design possibilities.

Embracing sustainable food packaging facilitates the delivery of food and beverage products to a broader market while embracing environmentally conscious approaches. As consumers increasingly seek products that align with their values, the shift towards sustainability in packaging becomes not just a responsibility but a strategic advantage for brands willing to adapt and lead the way.


[1] Think with Google 3 surprising ways people prioritize sustainability in the wake of the pandemic Kim McNamee, Jenny Fernandez/October 2021


I'm a Post Graduate in Food, Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics. Currently I'm thriving in my role as a Senior Sub-Editor at Food Infotech Magazine. My passion-driven research and engaging interviews with industry leaders captivate readers, bridging the realms of taste, health, and innovation in gastronomy while sparking curiosity about the future of food.

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