Bio-Based Food Packaging

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research


What it is

Biobased food packaging refers to packaging materials derived from renewable biological sources, such as plants, algae, fungi, and agricultural waste. These materials offer a sustainable alternative to petroleumbased plastics, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and minimizing the environmental impact of packaging waste.

Impact on climate action

Bio-Based Food Packaging under Reducing Food Waste combats climate change by offering sustainable alternatives to conventional plastic packaging. By reducing reliance on fossil fuels, minimizing waste generation, and promoting circularity, these innovations mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to a more sustainable food system.

Underlying
Technology

  • Biopolymers: These naturally occurring polymers, such as cellulose, starch, and chitosan, are extracted from renewable sources and processed into packaging materials. They offer biodegradable and compostable alternatives to conventional plastics.

  • Bioplastics: These plastics are derived from renewable biomass sources, such as corn starch, sugarcane, and vegetable oils. While some bioplastics are biodegradable, others are designed to be durable and recyclable.

  • Mushroom Packaging: This innovative packaging material is made from mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms. Myceliumbased packaging is lightweight, strong, and biodegradable, offering a sustainable alternative for protective packaging.

  • Seaweed Packaging: Seaweed extracts, such as alginate and agar, are being used to create biodegradable films and coatings for food packaging. These materials offer excellent barrier properties and can be composted after use.

  • Active Packaging: Biobased packaging can be further enhanced by incorporating active components, such as oxygen absorbers and moisture regulators, to extend the shelf life of food and reduce waste.

TRL : 7-9

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Nanotechnology: Researchers are incorporating nanomaterials into biobased packaging to improve barrier properties, enhance mechanical strength, and provide antimicrobial protection.

  • 3D Printing: 3D printing technology is being used to create customdesigned biobased packaging, allowing for innovative shapes, textures, and functionalities.

  • Edible Packaging: Edible films and coatings, made from natural ingredients like proteins and polysaccharides, are being developed to replace singleuse plastic packaging, completely eliminating packaging waste.

  • Biorefineries: Integrated biorefineries are being developed to efficiently extract and process biobased materials from various biomass sources, creating a more sustainable and circular production model.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Biopolymer Packaging Solutions
  • Bioplastics from Renewable Sources
  • Mushroom-Based Packaging Innovation
  • Seaweed-Derived Packaging Films
  • Active Bio-Based Packaging
  • Nanotechnology in Bio-Based Packaging
  • 3D Printed Custom Bio-Packaging
  • Edible Films and Coatings
  • Integrated Biorefineries for Packaging
  • Circular Economy Packaging Models
  • Compostable Food Packaging
  • Sustainable Barrier Properties
  • Enhanced Mechanical Strength
  • Antimicrobial Bio-Based Packaging
  • Moisture Regulation in Packaging
  • Oxygen Absorbing Bio-Packaging
  • Mycelium Protective Packaging
  • Algal-Based Packaging Materials

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  1. TIPA:
    • Technology Enhancement: TIPA offers innovative bio-based and compostable packaging solutions for the food industry. Their technology focuses on developing flexible packaging materials that mimic the properties of conventional plastic but are made from bio-based, renewable resources such as plant-based polymers. These materials are designed to degrade naturally in composting environments, reducing the environmental impact of food packaging.
    • Uniqueness: TIPA stands out for its commitment to providing fully compostable packaging solutions that offer the same level of performance and functionality as traditional plastic packaging. Their technology addresses the growing demand for sustainable packaging options in the food industry while ensuring that products remain fresh and protected throughout the supply chain.
    • End-User Segments: TIPA’s bio-based food packaging solutions are targeted at food manufacturers, retailers, and consumers who are seeking environmentally friendly alternatives to conventional plastic packaging. Their technology is particularly well-suited for fresh produce, snacks, and other food products that require lightweight, flexible packaging with excellent barrier properties.
  2. Full Cycle Bioplastics:
    • Technology Enhancement: Full Cycle Bioplastics specializes in developing bio-based plastics from organic waste streams such as food scraps, agricultural residues, and wastewater. Their technology focuses on using microorganisms to convert organic waste into biodegradable polymers, which can then be used to manufacture a wide range of plastic products, including food packaging.
    • Uniqueness: Full Cycle Bioplastics differentiates itself by offering a closed-loop solution for plastic production, where waste materials are upcycled into valuable resources. By utilizing organic waste streams as feedstock for bioplastic production, they help reduce reliance on fossil fuels and mitigate the environmental impact of plastic waste.
    • End-User Segments: Full Cycle Bioplastics targets food packaging manufacturers, brand owners, and retailers looking to adopt sustainable packaging solutions that align with their environmental goals. Their technology offers a circular economy approach to plastic production, enabling the creation of biodegradable packaging materials from renewable resources.
  3. Ecovative Design:
    • Technology Enhancement: Ecovative Design specializes in mycelium-based materials, utilizing the root structure of mushrooms to create sustainable alternatives to traditional packaging materials. Their technology involves growing mycelium, the vegetative part of mushrooms, on agricultural byproducts such as corn stalks and hemp fibers to form durable and biodegradable packaging materials.
    • Uniqueness: Ecovative Design stands out for its innovative use of mycelium as a natural adhesive and binding agent for packaging materials. Their technology offers a renewable and biodegradable alternative to petroleum-based plastics, with the added benefit of being compostable and non-toxic. Additionally, mycelium-based materials can be customized to fit specific packaging requirements and are suitable for a wide range of applications.
    • End-User Segments: Ecovative Design targets food and beverage companies, e-commerce retailers, and other businesses seeking sustainable packaging solutions. Their mycelium-based packaging materials are particularly well-suited for protecting fragile or perishable food products during transit while minimizing environmental impact.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. Wageningen University & Research:
    • Research Focus: Wageningen University & Research is a pioneer in the field of Bio-Based Food Packaging, focusing on developing sustainable materials and packaging solutions to reduce food waste and environmental impact throughout the supply chain.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves the utilization of bio-based polymers, biodegradable materials, and renewable resources to design innovative packaging with enhanced barrier properties, mechanical strength, and shelf-life extension capabilities. They also explore active and intelligent packaging technologies, such as antimicrobial coatings and oxygen scavengers, to preserve food quality and safety.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in fresh produce packaging, dairy products, and ready-to-eat meals, offering eco-friendly alternatives to conventional plastics and reducing the environmental footprint of packaging waste. By advancing Bio-Based Food Packaging technologies, Wageningen’s research contributes to promoting circularity, reducing plastic pollution, and achieving sustainability goals in the food industry.
  2. University of California, Berkeley:
    • Research Focus: University of California, Berkeley conducts pioneering research on Bio-Based Food Packaging, leveraging its expertise in materials science, biotechnology, and sustainable design to develop innovative packaging materials and manufacturing processes.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses the synthesis of bio-based polymers from renewable feedstocks, such as agricultural residues and algae, for producing biodegradable and compostable packaging materials. They also investigate nanotechnology-based approaches for improving barrier properties, moisture resistance, and antimicrobial performance of bio-based films and coatings.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in snack packaging, beverage containers, and convenience foods, offering consumers sustainable alternatives to traditional plastic packaging and reducing reliance on fossil fuels. By pioneering Bio-Based Food Packaging solutions, UC Berkeley’s research supports the transition towards a circular economy and addresses the global challenge of plastic pollution in the food sector.
  3. Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV:
    • Research Focus: Fraunhofer IVV is engaged in innovative research on Bio-Based Food Packaging, focusing on developing functional materials, processing technologies, and packaging concepts to enhance the sustainability and performance of food packaging solutions.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves the integration of bio-based polymers with advanced additives, fillers, and processing aids to tailor the properties and functionality of packaging materials for specific food products and storage conditions. They also investigate recycling-compatible packaging designs, smart labeling systems, and life cycle assessment tools to optimize packaging performance and environmental impact.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in meat packaging, bakery products, and confectionery, offering recyclable and compostable alternatives to conventional plastics and reducing the carbon footprint of packaging waste. By advancing Bio-Based Food Packaging technologies, Fraunhofer IVV’s research supports the transition towards a circular and resource-efficient packaging industry, aligning with sustainable development goals and consumer preferences for eco-friendly packaging solutions.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Biobased food packaging is increasingly being adopted by food companies and retailers, driven by consumer demand for sustainable products and growing regulatory pressure to reduce plastic pollution.

  • Food brands: Utilizing biobased packaging for a wide range of food products, from snacks and beverages to fresh produce and ready meals.

  • Restaurants and cafes: Switching to compostable food containers and packaging made from biobased materials.

  • Retailers: Offering products in biobased packaging and promoting their commitment to sustainability.