The apple principle: NakedPak launches edible fruit and veg packs, calls for UN action on waste
30 Sep 2022 --- Designer Naama Nicotra has developed The NakedPak, where food functions as a built-in wrapper, making every part edible and creating a true zero-waste food packaging system. Nicotra acknowledges the services of food packaging but urges customers to keep an open mind regarding her solution.
Dubbed “the apple principle,” Nicotra gained inspiration from how consumers currently treat fruits and vegetables without packaging: a quick rinse under the faucet and then they are ready to eat.
Nicotra says she is dedicated to living a sustainable lifestyle but noticed a gap in the market when it came to food packaging. “I find many solutions, but when it comes to food, and everything is already packed, I feel like I do not have another choice,” Nicotra tells PackagingInsights.
The edible packaging is made from agar, the essential ingredient in algae. “When combined with oil and water, it dried and then created something that looks and feels like plastic,” says Nicotra.
The food as the package
The agar forms a two-dimensional sheet that can be infused with different ingredients on its own or wrapped around another food item. The sheets can also be stacked to create three-dimensional structures.
However, the algae-based film is “not as durable as plastic, but it is edible and natural” while maintaining critical plastic features, such as transparency and sealability.
The food made in the NakedPak prototypes includes lasagna, soup, spaghetti, curry and ice cream. “I made a series to show the variety and options, all the possibilities. I focused on iconic dishes so it would feel international,” says Nicotra.
Zero Waste mentality
The NakedPak eliminates the need for food packaging, which leads to no waste being disposed of and ending up in landfills. If successfully adopted, the product could cause a significant dent in food packaging waste.
“I adopted the idea of a meal for one person. This is the age of calculated food,” says Nicotra, regarding the trend of consumers wanting to reduce their contributions to waste. “We don’t want to waste food. We use all parts of vegetables, and there is a focus around the topic of zero waste.”
Food packaging usually serves an essential function of keeping the items fresh and safe for consumption. “I understand why we need packaging for food. We want to keep it fresh, safe, wet, or dry, but I felt there was another solution,” expresses Nicotra.
“I think that nature provides us with great packaging,” she says, referencing what is considered a designer’s “perfect packaging,” a banana peel.
Some consumers still hold reservations about eating food that does not have any protection to shield it from outside elements. “People are very concerned with hygiene factors when it comes to food.”
Nicotra has heard people call her idea “disgusting,” acknowledging that “for traditional people and traditional food cultures, it can be challenging.”
To provide skeptics comfort in eating package-less food, Nicotra notes that all of the food is ready to eat once put in boiling water, and boiling water kills many different types of disease-causing germs and bacteria.
The look of the items also serve a function to Nicotra “it was important to me to keep the color. I feel like it brings it back to the kitchen.” The more appetizing the product looks, the more likely hesitant consumers will be willing to adopt the idea.
Even with the reservations, Nicotra has also received many words of encouragement. She recalls industry professionals and members of the public cheering her on to continue the NakedPak.
“I feel people are ready for these food and drink experiences. I hope to work on this project, and the more people who try it, the more they become convinced.”
Call to action
Nicotra cited a recent UN report warning the public on it being ‘“now or never” to take action against climate change as the driving force for her to create NakedPak. The packaging industry’s climate impact was her big push.
“As product designers and packaging industry designers, we have a responsibility to offer people more options,” she says, emphasizing that current options for food packaging contribute largely to waste and even items considered environmentally sustainable still contribute to landfills.
“I am aware that bioplastics and biomaterials are not as sustainable as we think.”
Regulations have been trying to reduce plastic waste from packaging, urging companies to use more recyclable materials. The NakedPak offers a solution to meet and surpass countries’ legislation. “With new EU regulations on plastic, people are looking for new options,” says Nicotra.
However, to integrate a solution such as NakedPak into the supply chain, the product must meet specific health and safety regulations. Nicotra “expects regulators to be a bit more flexible now and open their minds to new kinds of products” due to the global climate crisis.
By Sabine Waldeck
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