Horizons · Monday, April 18, 2016

A new label that solves the problem of food waste

Horizons

Although 1.6 billion metric tons of food are wasted each year according to a UN report, a British woman, Solveiga Pakstaite, has developed a solution: Bump Mark, a food packaging label that ages at the same rate as the food itself.

Initially, Ms. Pakstaite wanted to create something that would allow consumers with visual impairments to get information on the expiry date of their food. Currently, this information is only printed on packaging. Looking for a low-cost solution, the idea came to her to provide information on the real state of the food itself, and thus the Bump Mark label was born.

Bioreactive gelatin is the key

To create a label that reproduces the response of foods to the passage of time, Ms. Pakstaite opted for a biological substance that could model the food conservation process. Specifically, gelatin has the property of decomposing at the same rate as other protein-based foods. By modifying the concentration of gelatin in the active ingredient, its aging can be made to correspond with that of the foodstuff.

Little bumps that end waste

Thanks to its gelatin-based active ingredient, Bump Mark is able to report on the precise state of the food in question via the passing of a fingertip over the label. If the label is smooth, the food is still good. If you can feel bumps starting to form, caution should be taken.        

Product development

The original idea of a bioreactive label led to more than 20 subsequent versions being developed which responded to requirements related to user perceptions as well as technical requirements. Two years of research were needed in order to develop a satisfactory final version.

In 2014, Ms. Pakstaite was awarded a grant by the James Dyson Foundation, and some of the biggest names in the agri-food industry are already taking note of her work.

Eager to market her product, Ms. Pakstaite has been in discussions with retailers and technology development companies.

Want to learn more? 

Watch the James Dyson Foundation's video

Read the UN Food and Agriculture Organization study

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