Smart Food Label Fights Food Waste

Published on: 4 Aug 2017

Sainsbury'sA new type of smart food label will help to fight food waste by reminding shoppers when their food is likely to go off.

The label has been launched on Sainsbury’s packaging, and includes a colour-changing strip for an easy check.

New Ham Packaging

The new smart label is being launched on the Sainsbury’s own-brand ham as a trial product to see if it helps consumers to reduce food waste.

The ham is one of the best-selling pre-cooked meat products in the supermarket, but Sainsbury’s believes that customers often forget how long it has been open for and whether it will be fine to eat. This is backed up by figures from Wrap, the waste advisory body formed by the government. They say that 1.9 million slices of ham are thrown away each day in the UK – a total of 32,500kg. This adds up to £170 million of waste a year, so ham is clearly a big waste product.

HamThe food packaging team have come up with this innovative solution. The new label is activated only when the ham is opened, making it an invaluable tool for buyers to see how long ago they started eating it. It changes colour gradually from yellow to a distinctive purple.

The label is also temperature-sensitive, and will change colour slower when kept at cooler temperatures. Ham is best kept below 5C and will stay good for longer when this practice is follows.

“We’ve all been there; when we’ve found a pack of ham loitering on the bottom shelf of the fridge and can’t remember how long it’s been opened for,” says Jane Skelton, head of packaging. “We wanted to find a way to reduce waste of this family favourite while helping customers save money.”

Food Waste Initiative

PackagingThe packaging change is the latest in a number of changes that Sainsbury’s are bringing in as part of a £10 million initiative to waste less and save more. It’s a five-year plan which aims to halve the amount of food thrown away in British households.

Official statistics suggest that the average British household will end up throwing away £700 of food annually, and several supermarket chains are trying to solve this issue.

The new label has been launched on the seven-slice ham packs across all 601 Sainsbury’s stores. If the move is successful, it could also be extended to use on other types of food, including other pre-prepared meats.

Another innovative packaging idea which could be of interest for production and manufacturing jobs is a tactile bump which is currently undergoing another supermarket trial. This was developed by Solveiga Pakstaite, a graduate of Brunel University, who came up with the idea to show consumers when their perishable food has gone off. The designer won the James Dyson award in the UK for coming up with the invention. Since then, funding has been sourced to turn her idea into a commercial product.

Some of the other initiatives which are being suggested for food waste control include mobile apps which test the food you buy or keep track of it in your fridge and cupboards. Smart fridges and fridge cameras will also alert you when your food has started to perish, tracking smells and signs to assess the food as time goes on.

It is hoped that these measures will start to change the way that we approach food. There is also a call for more awareness as to what a ‘use by’ date really means and how to tell when food needs to be thrown away – as it may go off before or after this date.