Taking a stroll through the grocery store, a consumer will find so many different packaging materials used for food products. Depending on whether a product is fresh, frozen, or requires specific packaging, what you get in terms of how a product is presented and protected is incredibly diverse.
Here are some common packaging materials used for food products:
1. Glass materials
Glass is a preferred packaging material used for food products by many brands, providing storage for beverages and jams among other products. Though glass can be more expensive to use in food packaging, numerous reasons exist as to why it’s used. It minimizes risk of contamination, and keeps food fresh for an extended period of time.
2. Foam materials
Foam food containers are somewhat controversial due to the lack of recyclability on most packaging foam. Why foam is used in the first place though is because it’s cheap, a decent thermal insulator, and is lightweight. Foam is also an easy material for consumers to toss in the waste bin post-use.
3. Metal materials
Metal is frequently used to package foods such as canned vegetables and canned soups. Overall, metal’s an excellent barrier and can seal these foods for long-term, guaranteeing no exposure to air or contaminants. Metal is highly recyclable as well which is an added bonus. Typical metals used in this context are various types of steel and aluminum.
4. Aluminum foil materials
Aluminum foil is created from multiple layers of laminated aluminum. It is very flexible, still technically a metal, and preserves and protects food in the same manner as any metal would. Aluminum foil is being used less and less, however, due to its wrinkling, ripping, and marking.
5. PVC materials
PVC, aka polyvinyl chloride, is a type of plastic and a fine packaging material for fruits and vegetables as well as baked goods. PVC is advantageous for its ability to keep food fresh on a store shelf, protects food products over long distances, and is a diverse material.
It is made transparent, opaque, sometimes chemical-resistant, sometimes heat-resistant, and flexible. It is the one of the most adaptable packaging materials available albeit not the most eco-friendly choice.
6. Polystyrene materials
Polystyrene, or PS, is another type of plastic. It is known for its thermoforming properties. PS is malleable, strong, and low-cost. Polystyrene is made from petrochemicals and though it is common, it’s also very non-environmentally sustainable. Polystyrene can be developed into packaging foam or used in other iterations to keep food safe and contained.
7. Polyethylene materials
Polyethylene terephthalate, aka PET, is what plastic bottles are made from. The use of PET dominates beverage packaging, providing a cost-effective alternative to glass. Unlike other packaging plastics, polyethylene is recyclable. It is in fact one of the most recycled materials in the world. Each year, in the United States alone, more than 1.5 billion pounds of PET is collected and recycled.
8. Cellulose materials
Cellulose is a form of biodegradable packaging for food products made from the cell walls of vegetables and fungi. Like plastic, cellulose is transparent. It is also eco-friendly and totally recyclable.
Cellulose packaging is most common with confectionery and pastry products, allowing the food to breathe. Why this is important is placing these products in sealed bags potentially can deform the look. With cellulose, you don’t have that same problem.
9. Paper materials
Paper is one of the best food packaging materials in the world. It is often used for dried foods alongside cardboard. Paper can be manufactured from a wide variety of products, from recyclables to non-recyclables.
Paper is often combined with waxes, resins, and lacquers as coatings and laminates to further heighten its ability to protect the food it is assigned. Types of paper include Kraft paper, sulphite paper, and others.
10. Cardboard materials
Cardboard and similar paper products are considered some of the most durable packaging materials. Cardboard works well in transportation, can prevent moisture from getting to the product, and protects foods well. Cardboard is often lined with wax paper and/or combined alongside additional materials to further protect the contents of what’s inside.
11. Corrugated cardboard materials
Corrugated cardboard is made from two layers of paper product with a central corrugating material. It is meant to withstand impacts and potential crushing damage. It is a great option whenever there’s a food that cannot be squished. Think eggs, freshly picked fruits, and more. Corrugated materials of all kinds are the best way to avoid accidental impacts wrecking a product.
Polyamides, aka Nylon, is used in food packaging where strength and toughness is needed alongside heat sealing, moisture protection, and transparency in material. Polyamides is usually used in boiled products in bags, some frozen foods, fish, meat, vegetables, and processed cheese.
13. Oven-safe trays
Oven-safe trays and aluminum foil food containers are designed to be able to withstand high amounts of heat. These are commonly used with premade frozen meals or microwave dinners among other food products. To be able to withstand the temperature tolerance, the type of materials used for this form of packaging is unfortunately non-recyclable and in-part chemical-based.