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Simplifying sustainable packaging for the food and beverage industry

By Mark Kirby, Sales and Commercial Director 

As one of the oldest industries on the planet, the food and beverage industry is large, diverse, full of specialised machinery and continually evolving. Serving a huge variety of outlets from supermarkets to restaurants, events and institutions all whilst being tasked with solving some unique business challenges. Including having a time-sensitive supply chain, a unique demand for hygiene and safe food handling and tendencies toward price-sensitive products.

Food and beverage packaging can seem like a bit of a minefield sometimes, and that is why at Switch we hope to guide and support in making the process easy and simple, ultimately taking the pressure off. Especially with the recent surge in the food and beverage e-commerce packaging industry as companies responded to the pandemic and restrictions.



Selecting the right packaging materials is important for avoiding food contamination, ensuring amenability to harmful cleaning chemicals and avoiding overly porous materials where microbes can hide. Alongside needing to provide protection with tampering resistance. 

Historically, plastics such as polyolefins and polyester are the most common food and beverage packaging materials, containing ‘desirable’ features such as their ability to be created to be food-safe, transparent or opaque, be chemical and heat resistant but also be flexible, lightweight and durable.

However (and that is a big however), there is a global rising concern against the harmful impact of plastics towards the environment. Whilst plastics revolutionised medicine with life-saving devices, made space-travel possible and more, the vast number of disposable products overwhelm the world’s ability to disregard them. Taking up to 1000 years to fully decompose, resulting in an overflow of landfills and garbage patches at sea, intoxicating our marine and wildlife and posing health risks to humans. Studies suggest Food and Beverage packaging is a major source of the 269,000 tons of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.


plastic filled beaches


climate scales


Are there sustainable alternatives to plastic packaging? Yes! Companies across the globe are becoming more environmentally aware; recycling, reusing and swapping plastics for feasible alternatives. Popular solutions include paper-based packaging such as corrugated cardboard and sugarcane pulp and plant-based biodegradables including potatoes and mushrooms.

Corrugated cardboard is a recyclable and environmentally friendly packaging material. It is made from paper from either sustainable forest sources, or fully recycled paper. Manufactured with rows of air columns acting as a cushion for the items inside and the ridges within providing strength and flexibility to prevent breakages. The differing grades of corrugated cardboard can be adjusted to make it a perfect fit for any product, coming in all sizes and can easily be folded into different shapes. Also allowing for different coatings, treatments and adhesives and it can even become flame resistant making it a perfect alternative to plastic.

Sugarcane, is a type of perennial glass, cultivated for its juice and is used for many purposes such as fuel, cosmetics, medication and more. Sugarcane pulp, known as bagasse, is a very sustainable material, the extracted juice is evaporated to create raw sugar and molasses, the fibrous residue is collected, dried and pressed into a board to then be moulded into compostable packaging. Resulting in a recyclable, 180-day biodegradable turnaround and renewable material, with a high tolerance to heat. You can now see why sugarcane pulp is growing in popularity as the ideal material to replace plastic packaging, especially with large quantity orders.


Here at Switch, we strive for quality bespoke packaging designs with integrity and innovation at the heart. Everything we do across our company is for our environment. With the UK government being committed to eliminating the UK’s avoidable plastic waste by 2042, we believe businesses, especially within the food and beverage industry should use this time to make ‘meaningful changes’ with real long-term benefits for the environment.

We specialise in pulp, corrugated and solid board, all of which are renewable, biodegradable and compostable and each serve their purpose in the food and beverage industry. 


What is of particular interest is pulp’s growing popularity and reputation as the go-to sustainable packaging option for large, bespoke, heavy, small and fragile products and produce. Fully bespoke, customisable and with endless possibilities, this material has many benefits. Read more here.


Many companies within the food and beverage industry are trialling pulp packaging as a replacement of plastic. For example, Pepsi trialled moulded pulp as an alternative to plastic rings and Iceland trialled pulp for pre-packaged bread and potatoes and replacing polystyrene bases for Pink Lady Apples, all of which have had extremely positive outcomes.


Sustainable packaging

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climate scales


With our most recent project, here at Switch we had the opportunity to create sustainable packaging for an award-winning London-based restaurant, TOU. They wanted packaging which protected their delicious food inside, but that also aligned and reflected their sustainable brand ethos. Sharing very similar values and with our experience in the food and beverage sector, we made a great fit as their sustainable packaging partner. We are delighted to have created packaging for their sandwich boxes made from corrugated cardboard. Discover more about the project here.

To end, we have a few top tips from our Sales and Commercial Director, Mark Kirby:

  • Avoid over-packaging and ship smaller boxes
  • Avoid plastic saran wrap – it really is damaging to our environment!
  • Do your homework, research sustainable packaging alternatives and use recycled, biodegradable materials
  • Your quantities will help determine which sustainable material is most suitable
  • Lead the way and use innovative materials and designs
  • Choose a packaging partner who really knows their stuff


If you would like to continue this conversation around food and beverage packaging, feel free to drop  Mark a message.



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