A safer future for food on the go

Nina Happonen

Food on the go, together with home deliveries and take away fast food, is playing an increasing part in our lives. Increasingly upmarket, food on the go can now encompass pop-up street kitchens, celebrity chefs and fashionable design.

But the old favourites still prompt an emotional response way beyond the simple satisfaction of hunger. Burgers are the highlight of a child’s day out. For the British, fish & chips are a reminder of seaside holidays. And across the world sharing a pizza cements friendships or brings the family together.

In all these instances the food is eaten straight from the box or wrapping, and we even think it tastes better that way. And when we eat at the table we’re less inclined to dip into each other’s dish, and enjoy a shared experience.

Hygiene on our minds

Of course, we are concerned about the cleanliness of fast food venues and don’t want to buy food where hygiene doesn’t have priority. But what about the packaging? Is that grey, recycled board really safe for our pizza? Could there be a contaminant hidden in a rough or uncoated board?

For many years now, plastic boxes, trays and polystyrene foam clamshells have provided a cheap and clean solution for the single-use wrapping of fast food, designed to be disposable. But that disposability is not longer acceptable. Too much plastic ends up as litter and stays in the environment without biodegrading. And even if it is captured, it is difficult for retailers and consumers alike to know what can and what can’t be recycled.

Move towards sustainable packaging

As a result, there is a trend away from plastic towards board, now recognised as being made from renewable resources, as biodegradable and in demand for recycling. Provided the board is made from fresh forest fibres, it can make a wrapping that is pure and safe for direct contact with food.

But we recognise there’s more to a package than just the boards. When it comes to food safety, every element must be examined and risks designed out. Does the construction or creasing within the design increase the possibility of contamination? Have the printing inks and adhesives been chosen for safety as well as performance and sustainability?

Altogether I believe there’s a great future ahead for paperboards in wrapping all sorts of fast foods, street food and home deliveries. Consumers and retailers both like the ease in which it can be added to the recycling stream, and will also appreciate the reassurance that fresh fibre boards are inherently safe to dine off. It’s exciting to be meeting the needs of a growing industry and make it something we can all safely enjoy.

Nina Happonen's blog postNina Happonen

Commercial Director, Food and Beverages
Metsä Board, Cartonboard


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