When it comes to design, nature is hard to beat - and with food packaging nature is no different. Can you think of a package more perfect than a banana skin or an orange peel? With millions of tons of plastic packaging adding up in landfills each year, it's time to try and replicate nature's designs with natural wrapping for manufactured food. Two new companies are currently developing fully edible and delicious wrappers for their products – a step in the right direction.
WikiCells - founded by David Edwards, a chemical engineer at Harvard - are currently working on products surrounded by soft skin that can be composed of an edible mixture of biodegradable polymer and natural ingredients. These ingredients include everything from chocolate to dried nuts and seeds. While currently still in the development stage at present, future products include a tomato membrane stuffed with gazpacho, a fanciful chocolate-flavoured skin filled with hot chocolate, and a wine-filled grape shell. At the moment WikiCells products are targeted towards food businesses and restaurants, but will soon make their way into supermarkets for the general public.
Another company developing edible wrappers is MonoSol, which has already produced water-soluble casings for washing detergent. They plan to use this same technology to create single servings of porridge, hot chocolate and other food items with no need to throw away the wrapper. In the future it's thought that this technology could be applied to packaging for everything from milk to yogurt, potentially doing away with the need for plastic packaging forever. This would be great news for the environment and consumers, as natural packaging is likely to reduce the cost of produce in the long-term. However, if you're not so keen on eating your bottle after drinking its contents just yet, Vegware and other similar companies are currently manufacturing fully compostable containers - a crucial first step towards eliminating the throwaway wrapper.