Although food and packaging are not key players in the spread of COVID-19, pandemic-driven wariness is driving food brand owners and their packaging suppliers, as well as retailers and foodservice providers, to put more emphasis on hygienic packaging design.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website states: “In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging.” Nonetheless, consumers are concerned about that risk.
To assuage their fears, supply chain participants are developing more hygienic packaging for products ranging from freshly baked bread to canned soft drinks. The package designs span the technological gamut, with simple kraft bags at one end and controlled atmosphere packaging (CAP) at the other.
Here are several hygienic packages that illustrate the work in progress, starting with an option that stops pathogen growth.
1. InvisiShield Says ‘No’ to Germs
A CAP approach called InvisiShield protects fresh-cut produce from viruses, bacteria, and fungi. InvisiShield is activated within sealed packages, releasing an anti-pathogenic agent —undetectable to consumers — that significantly reduces pathogens without contacting the product. The solution uses 3-Phase Activ-Polymer technology, patented by Aptar CSP Technologies, a division of AptarGroup.
Next: Skin4Can Coating
2. Beverage Cans Get Hygiene Boost with Skin4Can
Skin4Can, a transparent polymer coating, sticks to the surface of beverage cans to provide protection from contaminants ranging from dirt to microorganisms. The recyclable, skin-like coating protects cans throughout distribution and merchandising. Skin4Can, from The EMS Group, is also compatible with tinplate food cans.
Next: WaveSafe Carrier
3. Multipack Carrier Makes Beverage Packaging More Hygienic
The WaveSafe multipack carrier for beverage cans, from WaveGrip, protects the tops of cans from contaminants throughout the supply chain. The flexible carrier, available in a range of colors, incorporates a layer of recyclable polyethylene that covers the can tops. A new version of WaveSafe is in development: Featuring antimicrobial properties, it is expected to launch in September 2020.
Next: Coca-Cola’s Topper
4. Paperboard ‘Topper’ Keeps Coca-Cola’s Cans Clean
The Coca-Cola Co. announced last fall that it was launching the KeelClip paperboard “topper” in the European Union for multipacks of up to eight beverage cans. Supplied by Graphic Packaging International (GPI), the topper covers the multipack completely, keeping can tops clean.
Next: Fresh Bagels
5. Supermarket Starts Bagging Bulk Bagels
COVID-19 has forced grocery stores to alter many aspects of their business to protect both workers and shoppers. In Chicago, Jewel-Osco supermarkets now pre-bag their fresh bagels rather than offering them in bulk bins. Each bag contains not one, but two bagels — a strategy likely to boost the total volume of bagels sold, even as it enhances safety.
Next: Safer Baguettes
6. Bakeries Say Bye-Bye to Unsealed Bread Bags
In-store bakeries are adopting more hygienic packaging for freshly baked baguettes and other loaves of bread, which were often packed in open paper bags in pre-pandemic times. Some stores are simply adding a pressure-sensitive sticker to loosely seal the conventional kraft bag (see image below).
The bread package shown above is more hygienic, by far. Bread is packed in a clear film bag that’s closed with a twist tie, and this package is slipped into a kraft bag.
Overkill? Not necessarily. Shoppers familiar with seeing bread in a kraft bag might look for that outer packaging first during a quick trip to the store.
Next: Back to Basics at Starbucks
7. Starbucks Nixes BYO Cups
With an eye to sustainability, Starbucks has for many years offered a discount to customers who bring their own reusable cup or mug. But the chain paused that "Bring Your Own" (BYO) program in March 2020 in efforts to combat COVID-19 and began pouring all store-prepared beverages into disposable cups. Despite the pause, consumers who bring a reusable cup to Starbucks (even though they don’t use it) or request a “for-here” ceramic cup still get a 10-cent discount.
Next: Clean cannabis cans
8. Cans Keep Cannabis Clean
Honest Marijuana is doing its part to keep its products free of contaminants and ready for curbside pickup (where permitted). The company packs cannabis flowers in squat ring-pull cans flushed with nitrogen. In addition to keeping the product clean, the packaging protects it from light and oxygen. An overcap is provided to reclose the package after the consumer removes the can end.