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Is Edible Food Packaging the Next Big Thing?

Two U.S. companies are scurrying to be the first to make edible food packaging widely and commercially available. But will consumers buy into the concept?

The Products:

Monosol, an Indiana-based company, has developed a product that works for dry goods, but still has not perfected the technology for beverages and other wet goods. The company is currently working on edible packaging for hot chocolate, oatmeal, and instant coffee.

A second company, the Harvard Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, studied the exterior of water-storing fruits like grapes, and subsequently developed a product called WikiCells.

WikiCells is described as a “natural food membrane held together by electrostatic forces and containing a liquid, emulsion, foam, or solid food substance possibly within an edible or biodegradable shell.”

So far, the company has created a tomato membrane containing gazpacho soup, an orange membrane filled with orange juice, a grape-like membrane holding wine, and a chocolate membrane holding hot chocolate.

So What?

Could edible packaging be the solution to our ever-growing plastic problem?

While edible packaging could certainly help mitigate our dependency on plastic and reduce the overall amount of waste associated with packaged foods, the concept does have its drawbacks.

The spread of germs during food handling and processing is a concern for some. After all, how many people actually touch the products you buy before you consume them?

But advocates point out that consumers would likely just need to wash edible food packages before consuming, much as they might wash an apple or tomato.

And what about some of the so-called “psychological barriers” associated with the packaging? Would the appearance, texture, and mouth-feel of the edible packaging actually be appetizing enough to keep consumers coming back?

Dr. David Edwards of WikiCells thinks so. He explained: “Our perspective is that eventually, the packaging of tomorrow will be the fruit of today.”

It’s certainly an intriguing idea, and it will be interesting to see how the field of edible food packaging progresses in the coming years!

Image Credit: freefotouk/Flickr