Packaging Innovation
April 17, 2017

Natural branding: the best packaging is no packaging!

As tiny as they may be, those sticky labels you find on fruit and vegetables do make up a fair share of the food packaging waste pile. Concerned with the environment and catering to the increasingly eco-conscious consumer, Belgian supermarket chain Delhaize has turned to natural branding and is now running a trial to replace self-adhesive labels in the produce aisle with laser marks.

Organic products call for sustainable packaging

Consumers who shop organically do so because they are driven by environmental awareness. It makes little sense, then, to package organically grown fruit and veg in unsustainable plastic containers and foils. While replacing plastic with cardboard is definitely a sustainable option worth considering, selling produce without packaging at all is even more eco-friendly. Unfortunately, EU regulations require all loose food items to be labelled, hence those sticky labels on apples, courgettes and what not. But that’s where natural branding comes in … Natural branding is making its (laser) mark Using laser technology, natural branding permanently removes pigment from a product’s outer layer, leaving a laser mark. The technique has been around for quite a few years now, but it wasn’t until recently that food suppliers and supermarkets such as Delhaize discovered the many advantages natural branding has to offer. Not only does natural branding eliminate the problem of sticky labels falling off, the technology also emits less than one percent of the CO2 needed to produce labels of a similar size. And, evidently, the laser marks do not affect quality or shelf life whatsoever.

So long, 13 tonnes of packaging!

While food laser machines don’t come cheap, they are much more cost-effective than self-adhesive labels in the long run. As laser marks don’t require any glue, ink or paper and eliminate the need for other packaging materials altogether, says Delhaize, using a food laser easily saves up to 13 tonnes of packaging each year. For now, Delhaize’s natural branding stint only applies to butternut squash. The supermarket chain has made it clear, however, that it will be introducing at least twenty other laser-marked fruit and vegetables (including courgette, cucumber, squash, celeriac and fennel) before the start of summer.   Inspired by Knack