Despite the fact that the U.S. and the rest of the world has been dealing with the impact of coronavirus since March 2020, food safety and cleanliness in packaging must still be upheld.
China, in particular, might turn to flexible packaging, says Brendan Connell-French, Wood Mackenzie research associate.
“While efforts to limit the spread of Covid-19 are ongoing, attentions are also focused on measures to reduce the risk of future outbreaks. With the spotlight falling on food supply chain health and safety, this could drive new demand for flexible packaging in China,” he writes.
“The coronavirus outbreak is reportedly thought to have started at a wholesale seafood and meat market in Wuhan. These ‘wet markets’ can be a breeding ground for the spread of animal-borne diseases and viruses. In response to the risk, the Chinese government is reportedly considering a change to meat handling and distribution practices, and tighter regulations could lie ahead. And in our view, such a change would likely result in increased demand for flexible packaging.”
Michelle Sauder, senior marketing manager, Dow’s Food and Specialty Packaging division said that “Safety is top of mind for consumers and when it comes to food, it’s an expectation. Plastic packaging plays a critical role in food protection — delivering and extending the safety and quality of the food we eat throughout the supply chain.”
Packaging is designed to protect the product by keeping contaminants away from the food, and providing appropriate barriers to against moisture-vapor and oxygen transmission to extend the quality of the food inside, she notes.
Consumers are looking for ready-meal types of packaging, which will provide “easier, safer options for to-go type of meals and less interaction with others if possible,” says Megan Fletcher, market development manager, Ossid.
This makes sense, since those types of foods would be easy to find at the grocery store, and provide an alternative to takeout or delivery, which does require some human interaction.
COVID-19 has changed the handling of products in commercial manufacturing, as well. Heightened sanitation practices, more hand sanitation stations and mandatory temperature checks are becoming standard at some companies.
Constantia Flexibles has upped their sanitation game: Thomas Eck, SVP operations, says that their new hygiene measures include making disinfecting fluids available at all entrances, implementing distancing rules for canteens and locker rooms, and additional and more frequent cleaning in high-use areas.
Companies are coming up with new and innovative ideas to help out, too — a federal lab recently started using the plastic from Coca-Cola bottles to make millions of COVID-19 test tubes.
The finished bottles themselves aren’t being used, but the PET preforms, which would normally be blown into bottle form, are conveniently the same shape as a test tube used to hold a swab with a sample from a person.
Coca-Cola Consolidated Inc., the largest bottler of the brand in the U.S., says a facility in Charlotte, North Carolina, that is managed by a group of bottlers has produced more than 7 million tubes already for test kits, using the preforms.