Plastics have emerged as the material of choice for packaging of food and beverages. They have several unique advantages over conventional materials like paper, glass, and cloth. Plastics packaging material offer better shelf life and are safe to use. Plastics such as polyolefin are safe for food contact and prevent pilferage and contamination, thereby preventing food wastage.
Let us have a look at types of food products that use plastic packaging till the point of sale:
1) Food Grains, Pulses, and Sugar
Since food grains, pulses and sugar are hygroscopic and thermally active, these items need to be packed in a system that has adequate mechanical properties and that would sustain for a long time. In India, PP woven sacks (meeting BIS standards) are used for packaging and storing of food grains, pulses, and sugar.
2) Fruits and Vegetables
Plastic is the most acceptable form of packaging for fruits and vegetable owing to different reasons. The loss of fruits and vegetables in India is staggering high – 35%. Improper handling, lack of cold storages, high temperatures are some of the reasons for the loss. Also, fresh produce is sent to the local markets by trucks in wooden boxes, paper cartons, jute bags, and crates. However, these types of packaging are ineffective when it comes to dealing with the issues related to fruit and vegetable wastage. Plastics score over these traditional materials as they have excellent breathability, which help avoid rotting and sweating of fresh produce. Plastic packaging is hygienic, durable, chemical, and insect resistant, increase the shelf life of contents and offers excellent visibility of the products within.
3) Dairy Products and health drinks
Plastic packaging like plastic containers and PE pouches made of LLDPE/LDPE materials in 50-60 micron thickness are economical and durable packing medium for pasteurized milk. PP containers are also ideal for packaging of yogurt, clarified butter, butter, and sweets. Polypropylene jars are highly used in the packaging of health drinks. They are lightweight and take up less space during transportation and storage, thereby greatly reducing the cost of transportation and fuel. Besides, there is no scope of PP jars being damaged during handling.
4) Processed Food, Beverages, Bakery products, Edible Oil
Flexible plastic packaging has given impetus to processed food. This type of packaging offers better oxygen and moisture barrier properties. The longevity of edibles such as pickles, spices, cookies, loaves of bread are enhanced considerably when packed in plastic films and pouches. PET bottles are the choice of packaging for carbonated beverages while non-carbonated beverages such as fruit juices are packaged in PP bottles, PE bottles, pouches and PET bottles. Edible oil is packed in multilayer PE pouches or HDPE containers.