How to introduce eco-friendly food packaging into your delivery operation

Updated: Apr 30, 2020

Growing ecological concerns

The food, beverage and restaurant industry is a market very much driven by trends and customer demand. As the number of people ordering their food online is on the rise, so are concerns about sustainability and the impact of food delivery on the environment.

Two out of three consumers care more about sustainable food packaging than 5 years ago. A whopping 66% of all consumers will pay more for products from brands committed to the environment, half of which is willing to pay a premium for food sustainable packaging.

The inevitable truth is that with thousands of tonnes of plastic filling the world’s oceans, the need for eco-friendly, sustainable packaging – in the food delivery market in particular – is significant. Restaurants prepared to go the extra mile will not only stand out from their competitors, a whole new segment of customers is ready to rally behind those businesses that show they’re devoted to making a change.

“A whole new segment of customers is ready to rally behind those businesses that show they’re devoted to making an environmentally-friendly change”

Small changes, big impact While it’s understandable that implementing a whole new range of packaging materials doesn’t happen overnight, there are a few quick wins every restaurant offering delivery or takeaway can put into practice in no time at all:– Stop automatically adding handfuls of ketchup, soy sauce or other packets of condiments to your takeout. It’s better to ask the customer whether they even need or want condiments and, if so, use them in bulk.– Restaurants often include (plastic) utensils, straws and napkins in their deliveries. Customers who’re eating your meals at home most definitely don’t need all that extra stuff. There are delivery platforms such as Deliveroo already asking the customer whether cutlery needs to be included. This is a great practice and it may as well be extended to straws, napkins and other bits and bobs.– Remove any excess packaging or wrapping. Instead of putting your meal in a box, then wrapping it in foil to seal it, before finally putting it in a (plastic) bag, ask yourself if this is really necessary to keep the meal ship-shape or if you might be going a bit overboard.– Your food has been ordered online, which means your customers found your online menu – or at least we hope that’s how it happened :-). There’s no need to put a paper menu in your delivery meal.

Taking the next step Of course, sustainable packaging doesn’t stop there. With the ever-increasing community of eco-warriors comes a whole range of innovations to reduce waste and create recyclable, reusable, biodegradable and compostable packaging.Your restaurant should consider replacing plastic, Styrofoam and polystyrene packaging with eco-friendly alternatives already available on the market. Current options include plant-based plastics, based on corn, bamboo, wheat, bagasse (a by-product of sugarcane processing) and wood pulp, among others. These natural materials are abundant and renewable and they make for high-quality plates, cups, bowls, containers and so on.There’s even such a thing as paper made out of stone – calcium carbonate, more specifically, which is one of earth’s most abundant resources. Stone paper can be used to craft paper bags, food cartons and greaseproof paper wraps, to name just a few possibilities. And why not take it to the next level with palm leaf packaging? The palm leaves can be moulded into a shape, which you can then use as a container for fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts.

A range of manufacturers Have a look at some of the sustainable packaging already out there and see which products could work for your food items. If your restaurant is based in the US, you might want to check out Good Start Packaging, to give an example. Europe-based businesses or restaurants in the Middle East can get inspired at Vegware, one of the many innovative food packaging manufacturers. We’ve given you a lot of food for thought on how to step up your game when it comes to using environmentally-friendly, high-quality packaging for your food delivery operations. Considering how to reduce waste and improve sustainability is a topic close to a significant part of your current and future clientele. It also provides an excellent opportunity to make your restaurant stand out from the crowd and build a long-lasting relationship with consumers.