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  • Hugo Walker

Packaging and labelling for F&B firms: challenges and solution

Concerns around sustainability have provided an impetus for manufacturers to change the way they package and label their products. Demand for sustainable and recyclable packaging is at an all-time high, and has translated into prospective legislation - discussions about whether single-use plastic should be banned in the UK have been ongoing since November.

Similarly, transparency is becoming more and more important to consumers. The success of apps such as Yuka and Giki, which aim to make the environmental and nutritional information of food and beverage products straightforward and easily accessible, hints at the demand for transparent messaging. More than ever, consumers want to know where their food is coming from, and what’s in it.

Transparency is important to consumers not only for nutrition and environmental reasons but for health and safety as well. The concern around allergens reached a peak after the tragic death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse in a Pret-A-Manger cafe and has led to new regulations surrounding ingredient labelling. Natasha’s Law requires food-to-go retailers to detail each ingredient of a product and emphasise the 14 main allergens, with the aim to avoid preventable allergic reactions arising from unclear labelling.

Challenges for producers

Needing to satisfy both consumers and regulations on this front is a new challenge for producers. The double pressure of providing delivery-ready and ready-to-eat packaging, which naturally leads to the greater sale of single-wrapped items, along with sustainability demands, is difficult to navigate for many producers.

Meanwhile, Natasha’s Law poses logistical issues for retailers, particularly small businesses. One of these issues is labelling space. Combining all the required ingredient and allergen information along with branding and sustainable packaging is a challenge on small items with less surface area for labelling. Equally, producing mass accurate labelling requires investment in labelling technology. For larger companies that may operate in multiple countries, abiding by different national labelling and packaging regulations poses administrative difficulties, too.

Tackling packaging and labelling with technology

One important way which producers can tackle sustainability and transparency issues on their packaging and labelling is through the use of product lifecycle management (PLM)

PLM can be used to bridge the gap between supplier and retailer. Via the supply portal, data about ingredients and allergens can be precisely and accurately relayed to the retailer, ensuring that labelling will be correct. Similarly, source optimization can be used to make sure that retailers have full knowledge of where each component is coming from, which, if messaged correctly, can translate into greater transparency for the consumer. Through this technology, communication between the supplier and retailer is enhanced, reducing the risk of logistical errors due to miscommunication.

PLM can also be used to streamline the production process. This means that new recipes can be developed and changed while communicating with the labelling and packaging side of the business. Intelligent tracking and smart labels ensure waste minimisation, which both saves on cost and boosts sustainability.

Despite consumer demand and regulations posing issues, these issues might be the motivation for companies to enhance their technology and systems, creating a more agile and resilient food and beverage industry.


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