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Lessons in Flexible Retail Packaging from the U.S. Army

US Army MRE in Flexible Pouches

Since 1981, the United States military has been providing nourishing meals to its enlisted soldiers via Meal, Ready-to-Eat rations. These packaged meal alternatives help keep up endurance, strength, and motivation.

As any hard worker knows, hunger can be a highly detrimental distraction, leading to a loss of focus on the job. It’s important for the men and women defending our country to consume adequate nutritious goods that are easy to carry, open, and ingest during the stressful times in battle.

Until the ‘80s, the military used bulky cans or cardboard cartons for its combat rations. You can see why improvements have been made in terms of the food packaging — cans and boxes are heavy and don’t aren’t practical or conducive to soldiers’ lives during wartime. These brave fighters need healthy food packaged in lightweight containers that can be easily carried on their person and keep rations protected from outside contaminants and debris.

Scientists at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center are looking to further innovate the type of food packaging used for combat rations by switching away from foil bags. Non-foil materials are preferred because they have less of an impact on the environment and reduce weight and burden on the warfighter. Meal rations generate a lot of waste, and the eco-friendlier the food packaging, the better. The military made the wise decision to switch to flexible retail packaging for their soldiers’ chicken, rice, stew, noodles, and other nourishing meals that can be eaten on the go. Now, choosing food packaging made of structurally sound, environmentally friendly structural elements should remain a top priority.

Army Meals in Flexible Retail Packaging

In an effort to leave less of a negative impact on the earth, the military previously explored using paper for materials (like strapping for ration cases). Maintaining this same mindset can help point researchers in the right direction in terms of the packaging for replacement meals. There is a seemingly endless selection of options in the flexible retail packaging world — including kraft stand up pouches, which are made from environmentally friendly paper exteriors, laminated with multiple protective layers that keep food fresh and shelf stable.

Food Saver bags are another option used for vacuum-sealed food that is not exposed to oxygen or moisture, thus preserving the quality of the meals inside. No matter which flexible retail packaging option the military chooses, they can be sure today’s stand up pouches and bags are made from food-grade, FDA-approved materials that won’t harm consumers.

It’s so important to keep soldiers’ food safe and free from water, hot temperatures, chemicals, and bacteria as they live and fight in rugged and uncertain environments. Choosing strong, flexible retail packaging made of environmentally sound materials is key to ensuring the meals are protected and the packages aren’t littering and harming the earth. Stand up pouches and barrier bags help maintain the vitamin and nutritional content of food and can easily slip in a pocket or bag without putting an extra burden on soldiers.

We can learn important lessons from the military regarding the safety of our food and quality of life on our planet. If flexible retail packaging is the preferred option for our brave warfighters’ meals, it should also be the standard for all consumers around the country. It’s the best solution for keeping food fresh and protected from outside elements while producing less waste and enhancing the quality of the goods inside.

(Photo Sources: Boston.com, FoodBeast)

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Topics: Food Packaging

Brittany Nader

Written by Brittany Nader

What LEGO’s Sustainable Packaging Teaches Us About Overseas Innovation

Since 1949, children across the globe have fawned over tiny, plastic, interlocking bricks.

LEGOs are a not only a classic toy but a staple in many households. Many kids beg their parents to take them to the majestic LEGOLAND, an amusement park where all their wishes and dreams could come true.

Why Nestlé, Unilever & PepsiCo are Banning Oxo-degradable Plastic Packaging

Originally marketed as an eco-friendly packaging material, new evidence regarding the potentially negative impact of oxo-degradable plastics has led a number of companies and governments to restrict their use.

More than 150 companies and global organizations, including Nestlé, Unilever and PepsiCo, have recently endorsed a total ban on the material in light of its potentially negative environmental impact.

Oxo-degradable plastic packaging, which includes select plastic pouch bags, is often marketed as a solution to plastic pollution because it claims to degrade into harmless residues within a period ranging from a few months to several years. However, oxo-degradable plastics do not degrade into harmless residues, but instead, fragment into tiny shards of plastic that actually contribute to plastic pollution.

Often, consumers think that because a material is biodegradable, it can be composted or even littered on the ground, because, it is thought, the material will break down into nothing over time. This actually ends up leading to an increase in pollution, since consumers don’t end up recycling or repurposing the material, and misconceptions about how the plastic will degrade leads them to end up putting it back into landfills.

What is important to note in this case is that although oxo-degradable plastics are biodegradable, being biodegradable does not necessarily mean that a material is eco-friendly. Although these plastics do break down over time, the tiny pieces they break down into are still plastics that contribute to pollution — they do not degrade into nothing or into another usable substance.

For companies looking to make the switch to sustainable packaging, it is important to consider that sustainable packaging does not necessarily mean biodegradable packaging, and vice versa.

Why New FDA Guidelines Could Bring Big Changes to Pet Food Packaging

Today’s consumers are demanding transparency and accountability from all types of products, and pet food is no exception.

Greater scrutiny over pet food ingredients, and an increasing demand for responsibility, sustainability and complete transparency from pet food manufacturers is driving change within the industry. As the consumer demand for “clean” pet food labeling evolves as a major topic within the world of pet packaging, FDA guidelines are shifting.

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