Packing a Punch: The Benefits of Food Packaging

By: Tony Flood   Date: 7/21/10

You buy food all the time, I bet you've never once thought about it.  That is, the true benefits of what food packaging actually brings to you, me, our family and friends and the intrinsic value effective packaging has in keeping food at prices we can all afford.  In this post, I would like to share with you a few key takeaways from a short course I took at the recent IFT Annual Meeting in Chicago over the last few days. 

We've all had experiences where we were able to stack, store and transport food safely from one place to another.  That is the main goal of food packaging - to contain food and to carry it wherever we want to go, and to maintain its safety and overall nutritional content.

According to my colleague, Dr. Melvin Pascall of The Ohio State University, there are four main functions of food packaging.  They include:

1) to contain food;
2) to protect and preserve food;
3) to transport it, which also adds to convenience;
4) to effectively communicate and sell the product inside.

To contain food:

There's a lot of science behind the types of packaging that is most effective for different types of foods.  For example, liquids, powders and even solids would all have different chemical reactions with different packaging compounds.  That's why packaging approvals are perhaps the strictest in the world - all with one goal in mind and that's to ensure our safety.

To protect food:

Ever wonder why beer and oils are in colored bottles and containers?  That's to protect the integrity and quality of the product inside.  In the case of beer and oils, light can cause damage and even rancidity to the product.  Equally important is the significance of keeping foreign objects out of the food, thus keeping the food safe and free of external contaminants - both man made and naturally occurring.

To preserve food:

Keeping food safe and extending the shelf life is of equal importance.  Food preservation is what helped me survive Washington, DC's "Snowmegedden" of 2010.  I was able to eat safe and nutritious food that had been in my cabinet for quite some time.  Canned tuna, frozen microwavable meals - you name it.  I was fine in my apartment without having to venture out in the snow.

To communicate:

That's right; packaging can be and IS used to effectively communicate information about the product inside.  Whether it's cooking instructions - which we should all follow at all times - or nutritional content or even allergen information, I have found the food package an effective way to give me information about what's inside.

 So there you have it.  Food packaging packs a punch when it comes to benefits to me and my family, especially in regards to safety, quality and convenience.

 What do you think about food packaging?  Share you thoughts with me on specific types that you think brings convenience, safety, quality and value to you.