It looks like packaging engineers will have a lesser deal with a few fruits and vegetables as manufacturing companies have started replacing sticky labels on such products with a laser mark. They call it “natural branding”.
In collaboration with Swedish supermarket ICA, Dutch supplier Nature & More has run a trial on this more environmentally friendly way of ‘packaging’ fresh products on organic avocados and sweet potatoes. In the UK, M&S has also used the laser mark on coconuts.
A point of concern is on the shelf life or eating quality of the products. This should not be an issue at all as the mark becomes invisible once the skin is removed. The mark also doesn’t penetrate inside the goods.
Peter Hagg, ICA business unit manager, says that by using natural branding on all the organic avocados they would sell in one year, they will save 200km (135 miles) of plastic 30cm wide. That’s considerably small but he believes that is significant in saving plastics and energy.
Stephane Merit from Laser Food, the company behind the laser technology, reiterates the impact of using natural branding.
She tells that with millions of stickers used on food produce around the world in a day, the technology could make a “significant reduction in the amount of paper, ink, glue” being used as well as the cutting the energy used to produce and transport them.
Natural branding also creates less than 1% of the carbon emissions needed to produce a sticker of similar size.
Another advantage of this technology is the much more secured label of the product, which often fails with previous methods because of the stickers falling off.
Nature & More takes pride in forwarding this packaging technology. Michaël Wilde, the company’s sustainability and communications manager, says, “Up to now, no one has used this technique with the specific aim of cutting packaging. It was used for novelty – which is nice, but a gimmick at Easter or Christmas isn’t going to pay off.
“What we are saying is, by buying this product you’re saving plastic,” he adds.
Wilde admits that an initial investment of spending for the expensive laser machine could hold back supermarkets in this sustainable endeavor. But he trusts that the industry will take on their corporate social responsibility and realize the savings in resources, carbon emissions and energy.
Companies involved are now looking at expanding onto other products, including those with edible skin such as apples or nectarines.
Source: The Guardian
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