Small scale production seems to always face the same challenge. What to do for packaging? The alternatives are expensive with inflexible conditions and hard to find. That is for starters.
Is 3D printing technology one of the answers? Yes, says Anita Redd who chose to 3D print a unique packaging solution for her product Anita’s Balm. She was having trouble finding a suitable jar and came up with the idea of making one herself. Using 3D technology and a biodegradable material she came up with a unique jar for her product. This gives her product an edge at POS and solves her problem to find a supplier of suitable packaging. As a small scale producer you simply don’t need as many units as the full scale producer.
It might not be for everyone but it will sure be helpful for some.There are no shortcuts for the small scale producer that only needs limited quantities of packaging material. 3D printing is a solution and digital printing is another useful technology for the scale challenged producer. It opens up for personalized packaging or at least unique labels at a reasonable cost.
The latest in edible packaging I think is the “water blob” from Ooho. A compound made from brown algae and calcium chloride creates a portion package or a gel sphere around a mouthful of water. A drip sip. It is cool, innovative and thought provoking right out of the bottle. Just swig a blob when dry.
A similar solution comes from Wikipearl who promise to enfold both food and beverages in bite-sized and portable spheres or blobs. All ready for on-the-go eating or drinking. It is just as cool and pioneering as Ooho. Wikipearl is one step ahead and will soon go commercial at selected Whole Foods. I am interested to see how they solve the obvious secondary packaging challenge. You will always need some kind of protective packaging around the fragile balls of liquid to avoid flooded glove compartments and handbags.
The Ooho team are even encouraging consumers to make their own edible packaging blobs. Instructions are provided and we can all make our own packaging-free portable picnic.
If you combine this with the idea of 3D printing of food we can all be independent producing consumers.
3D printing has changed the world as we knew it and is said to spark the third industrial revolution. When a 3D printer for home use is available for less than $1000 it won’t take long before it becomes mainstream. Which is both fun and inspiring.
But what is more interesting than fun, at least for the moment, is 3D printing of food. Yes you can seriously print food, layer on layer. Not for home use yet though. The need originates from the question, “How to feed an astronaut on his way to Pluto?” Apparently there is now printable food stuff available with a best before date somewhere around 2044 or just after you are safely back again from outer space.
At present the main reason for printing food is the Star Trekiness and the coolness factor. But there are a few things speaking for this technology of printing food products. I am not saying home-printing is around the corner but the technology does enable us to use ingredients such as proteins from algae, beet leaves, or even insects. With a growing global population to feed this could be one of the answers we are looking for.
It is also a way to truly personalise food. If you are sensitive to certain ingredients you can design and make your own food with your own formula. Great for people with allergies and similar.
The convenience factor, that offers food made at exactly the right moment in time. You set the machine for dinner and activate the thing with an app as you leave work and upon arrival you have a freshly printed steak. All you have to do now is to ask your local grocer to fax you a bottle of wine.
Printing your own food will give you and your favourite restaurant an enormous freedom to design both shape and content. Apart from the technical challenges there are a few cultural as well. Are we ready for printed provisions? You could probably survive on a daily pill of concentrated nutrition but we don’t want to do that. This is different but still far away from the main stream.
So, what has this got to do with packaging? Well, nothing much but it is still intriguing.