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Having launched a number of new packaging products in recent times - all aimed at the food to go sector - Colpac’s commercial director, Andrew Grimbaldeston (pictured), reports that they have learnt a lot more about their customers, while also drawing attention to the latest trends, waste disposal and sustainability initiatives that are likely to shape packaging development in the coming years.

 

What are food to go operators requesting from their packaging suppliers at the moment? 

The hot food to go category is witnessing significant growth. This sector is looking to make the most of the developments in food and internet technology to provide much more choice across all day parts.

For instance, sizes are being pushed out against both ends of our Stagione® range (main picture) with the launch of the 150ml and 250ml supporting requirements for single proteins, desserts, and the travel market. We are looking at developing the range still further, to cater for further food to go operator requirements.

But it is not just hot food to go that is driving this growth. The increased awareness around food provenance is extending into packaging and the continued growth of “fresh” really fits across our ranges.

The takeaway and delivered food sectors have grown exponentially as a result of COVID. Through our existing product ranges, we are well placed to support this development, and we have won new accounts in different parts of the world to supply the expansion of businesses entering this market.

We have been very active with our customers, helping them create solutions for their clients to respond to business needs. One of the consequences for us has been an even better understanding of our customers and the strengthening of relationships that derives from working so closely in such demanding times.

Apart from the upsurge in takeaway, have there been any other changes/impacts due to coping with the effects of Covid?

Hygiene factors have also been impacted through COVID with foodservice operators looking to increase tamper evidence and packaging security in general. Our Stagione range features tight fitting lids, as well as the ability to either heat seal or attach tamper evidence labelling, for example.

Our foodservice customers also report that they have faced considerable challenges during the pandemic. In response, they have showcased creativity and flexibility and we have worked with them to repurpose packs for delivery as well as supporting businesses as they introduce entirely new concepts.

We feel that Stagione, as part of a bento box and tiffin style propositions, helps create premium delivery options consistent with the menu and brand offering. This fits into our areas of expertise - providing flexible packaging solutions that enable our customers to not only protect and deliver their food, but which enhances their brand, reflects their values, and showcases their food at its best. 

Give us an example of a business Colpac has designed/created for in the food to go sector…

We have worked with one of Europe’s largest specialist food companies to reach a new generation of customers with a sustainable packaging solution for the launch of an innovative noodle brand. Westmill Foods required packaging which would not only be able to carry its eye-catching designs but would also meet the sustainable and convenience demands of consumers. 

We worked closely with Westmill Foods, who carried out extensive testing before selecting a 16oz souper pot design. The PP coating eliminated the risk of leaks when the consumer added water to the noodles. The entire pot, including the lid, is also recyclable as one unit once any food waste was removed. 

The pots were manufactured with a white base colour which would effectively carry the striking black branding Westmill Foods had developed for Noodl PLUS to offset vivid product images. The pots were then heat sealed before adding a paperboard lid which continued the product branding. A matt coating was the final touch to complete the distinct brand of the Noodl PLUS pots, which are on sale online via Ocado.

What do Colpac see as the major packaging challenges for food to go operators in the future?

The balance between mega trends such as reducing food waste, resources, and energy alongside the consumer demand for increasing amounts of choice and convenience all play out in packaging. For example, performance versus recyclability, reduction of plastic use and engaging their customers in assessing the most appropriate and achievable packaging solution.

Changes in legislation are due to come into force affecting packaging use and disposal – what do food to go business, particularly the smaller, independent ones, need to be aware of/make sure they comply with? 

There is a huge amount of legislative change in progress currently. We have a dedicated team within Colpac who have responded and are working on responses to three DEFRA consultations for extended producer responsibility (EPR), a deposit return scheme (DRS) and Consistency of Waste Collections for households and business. This is a big commitment and cost, but it is important that we, along with companies of any size, add their voices alongside the concerns of the industry. 

We are constantly reviewing this in the UK and beyond to identify opportunities for our customers to meet their sustainability goals and gain from these changes. We regularly work with waste companies and visit their facilities. Our focus is on ensuring that our customers can utilise our products, confident that they fit into existing recycling processes. Currently, there are significant gaps in provision.

A good example is managing food contaminated waste, especially with burnt-on food, which is unlikely to be recycled whatever the material. There is a big opportunity to reduce landfill and incineration with these materials and create a value-added circular solution through anaerobic digestion or composting. However, we need a coordinated national and local government response to make it happen and every company can play their part to achieve this.