The food packaging industry, like many industries, is in a constant state of change. New regulations, consumer concerns, and innovative food packaging solutions are emerging every day, and smart businesses are doing everything they can to stay ahead of the curve.

In our latest podcast episode, the C.A.P. Pack is joined by a guest host who helps us discuss the changes that we’re seeing within the industry and what’s on the horizon.

Sneak Peek for Episode #9

Check out the latest podcast to hear us discuss the latest innovations in the food packaging industry. You can watch or listen on our website or subscribe on Spotify, Apple, or Google. Want a sneak peek? Read on to see a little bit of what we cover.

Introducing Guest Host Zach Muscato

Zach Muscato has a long history within the packaging industry working to find high-quality, sustainable, and food-safe packaging solutions.

Currently, Zach is leading the charge for sustainability efforts at Plastic Ingenuity, an innovator in custom thermoforming solutions. However, his experience in the space spans several years, including time when he worked at Spartech and was first introduced to C.A.P Pack co-hosts Mike and Jonathan.

Challenges Faced by the Food Packaging Industry

The packaging industry is in a time of flux. Many challenges have arisen over the years: some are behind us, and some are just beginning to get addressed. What challenges have we seen the industry overcome?

In this episode, the C.A.P. Pack addresses some of the biggest and greatest challenges in the industry. Notable discussion points in this episode include:

  • The role of food packaging. If food packaging doesn’t keep your food safe and shelf-stable, it can’t truly be considered sustainable. The industry is faced with the challenge of finding sustainable solutions without sacrificing the main job of food packaging: protecting food.
  • Cost is always a factor. Every company in the food packaging industry has to contend with the cost of their materials. Zach explains that methods such as downgaging or lightweighting may help reduce cost depending on the application — but cost is a challenge that can’t be ignored.
  • Competing priorities. Business objectives don’t always line up. Zach explores one example: “Sometimes there are different stakeholders in the brand that may have competing incentives. Perhaps you're working with a purchasing group and they have a certain incentive to keep their material costs down. Then you have your operational stakeholders who want to make sure everything's efficient and runs well. You have your packaging engineers and you have your sustainability team. And their incentives may not always be aligned, especially when it comes to sustainability.”

The Push for Sustainability and Increased Recycling

Sustainability is a big priority for many brands — and the pressure is coming from all sides, from consumer perception about packaging to increased legislation and pushes for ESG policies.

But, as Zach asks, who pays for sustainability? “Is the consumer going to pay for it? Is it the brands? Is it someone else? I think the data shows that there are certain pockets of consumers that are willing to pay more for these types of solutions. There are certain pockets that are not, so not every brand is going to have the answer.”

And with concerns about sustainability come additional concerns about recycling and building trust with consumers. Natalie points out that many consumers truly don’t believe that recycling makes any difference — but without consumer input into the recycling stream, there is no circular economy.

Zach takes this point further, arguing that it’s the responsibility of the producers to educate consumers. “One of the most frustrating things I hear in our industry is ‘We just need people to recycle more.’ To me, that's counterproductive because we're taking this opportunity and letting it go — passing the buck off to someone else. The packaging industry needs to take ownership and build trust in the system. I feel strongly that if we tell these success stories, we build trust in the system, and we genuinely develop packaging that can be recycled in practice. [Then we can] share those stories with the consumer and they're more apt to take the effort to participate in recycling where it's available… In my opinion, as an industry, we have to build trust in the system to say, ‘This water bottle that you're drinking — if you put that in your bin, there's a very high likelihood that that's going to get turned into [something else]: another bottle, a thermoformed package, maybe it's your shirt that you're going to wear or your socks. Something's going to come of that. It's going to stay in circulation.”

Innovative Food Packaging Solutions

Throughout Zach’s and the C.A.P. Pack’s careers, there’s been no shortage of innovation in the packaging industry. Among Zach’s favorite recent innovations are changes with product labeling, the use of robotics and AI for smarter, better recycling, and the advances in materials used in packaging. “A lot of the type of work that [ICPG is] doing, taking these structures that are hard to recycle, they're highly functional. So how do you get that function without a significant trade-off and have a recyclable solution that can be circular? So kudos to you and other material suppliers that are working on those solutions and developing truly recyclable in-practice materials that we as a converter can take and make a package into.”

The Future of the Food Packaging Industry

With all of this change and innovation, where is the food packaging industry going? If you ask Zach and the C.A.P. Pack, the future is bright. Zach’s dreams for the future are highly focused on increased recycling and dedication to responsible resource use. As he says, “If I flash forward to 2030, I think a carbon footprint is going to be included on the label, just like your calories. Here's your price, here's your calories, here's your carbon footprint. I think there will be more transparency to the inherent carbon that's in a product and in a package, and I think there's going to be a lot more focus on goals related to removing carbon from supply chains… We've certainly seen a lot more of that. And we're putting a focus and resources in place to get a lot smarter when it comes to how we manage our carbon.”

Listen to Episode 9 to Hear More About the Latest Innovations in Packaging!

We had such a great time talking packaging innovation with Zach. Want to hear our full discussion? Check out the latest podcast to learn more.

Have thoughts on innovations in the industry? We’d love to hear from you! Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram to join the conversation! And be sure to listen and subscribe on Spotify, Apple, Google, or our website.


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