Food packaging

Packaging is one of the most important links in the food supply chain as it is an essential element to address the challenges of sustainable food consumption.

Food packaging

Food packaging should reduce food waste by protecting and preserving the quality and safety of food products and extending the shelf-life. On the other hand, packaging faces major challenges when it comes to its effect on the environment (e.g. pollution, resource utilization, greenhouse gas emissions). A Circular Economy and its principles are highly promoted by the European Commission as a holistic solution to reduce the environmental footprint of packaging. In the European Plastics Strategy, ambitious targets were set to address the problems and challenges of packaging throughout their entire value chain, taking into account the entire life cycle (e.g. 70% of all packaging waste needs to be recycled by 2030 (EU Directive2018/852)).
In 2020, 20 million tons of plastic packaging were produced in Europe of which approximately 40% or 8 million tons for food packaging. In 2018, however, recycling rates of plastic packaging waste in Europe ranged between 26 and 52%. Consequently, there is still much work to be done to reach the European targets by 2030. While the concept of circular food packaging has been taken up by various initiatives at European and national or regional level, its implementation remains limited due to the high degree of required cross-chain collaboration. The need for such a cross-chain collaboration is even more necessary taking into account other important trends in food packaging being the transition towards smart packaging in close relation with optimal logistics processes, traceability and shelf-life monitoring.

To overcome the barriers and accelerate the transition towards sustainable food packaging,
intense cross-sectorial cooperation along the whole food packaging chain (such as food processors, packaging suppliers, sensor suppliers, logistics, retailers, etc.) supported by the government, is essential. Such cooperation has been proven successful in Flanders (Belgium), where a cross-sectoral collaboration was established in 2018 between Pack4Food (Coordinator), Flanders’ FOOD, Catalisti, VIL and SIM, to determine a joint vision and strategy regarding the ‘Food packaging of the future’.
This collaboration has led to a roadmap ‘Food packaging of the future’ with three key topics: circular
packaging, smart & personalized packaging and packaging & logistics. The consortium will build on this Flemish collaboration by adapting and scaling-up this roadmap to a European level, involving all relevant parties along the whole food packaging value chain from all over Europe with the focus on sustainable and smart food packaging.
The objective of this Thematic Smart Specialization Partnership is to establish a European collaboration in a quadruple helix structure between (i) regional supported clusters, (ii) company organizations representing the whole food packaging value chain (e.g. food and packaging companies, packaging machine suppliers, sorting- and recycling companies, and other relevant stakeholders), (iii) relevant RTO’s and (iv) consumer organizations. In addition, a European network of living labs will be set-up, as central player in the innovation ecosystem of this Partnership. These living labs are innovation driven organizations that facilitate collaborative innovation between the different stakeholders in the food packaging value chain to develop, improve, test, validate and demonstrate new packaging technologies and innovations for the agri-food and packaging industry, and where relevant training sessions and workshops will be organized.
In this way the barriers for the agri-food and packaging industry can be lowered to access and implement new sustainable and smart packaging technologies and innovations. This will support them to build new value chains, and thus facilitate and accelerate the European transition to sustainable and smart food packaging. This Partnership is unique in Europe by building a strong network within a quadruple helix structure, for different disciplines and expertise within food packaging throughout the whole value chain.

Thematic working areas

Expected contribution to SDGs
•    SDG 2: Zero hunger
•    SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
•    SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production
•    SDG 13 Climate action
•    SDG 17: Partnerships for the goals 

List of regions involved

Country Region Partner
Belgium Flanders
Pack4Food - Flanders’ FOOD
Poland Zachodniopomorskie Natureef
Spain Catalonia
Ebro Valley
Packaging Cluster
Cluster FOOD+I
France Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
Pays de la loire
Bretagne Développement Innovation (BDI)
Italy Emilia-Romagna Clust-ER Agrifood
Latvia Latvia Food products quality Cluster
Lithuania Lithuania Lithuanian food exporters association (LitMEA)
Slovenia Slovenia CCIS-CAFE
Hungary Hungary OMNIPACK
Finland Helsinki-Uusimaa CLIC
Sweden South Sweden Packbridge

Contact details of the leading regions

Contact details of DG REGIO