US: Edible packaging latest food tech revolution

US: Edible packaging latest food tech revolution

Edible packaging is being presented as the latest food technology revolution.

Two US companies are currently vying to be the first to commercially exploit the “untapped market” for wrappers you can munch.

Getting the greater share of the publicity currently is Dr David Edwards, who has turned his attentions to the development of WikiCells – an edible membrane made from a biodegradable polymer and food particles – that can imitate “bottles” found in nature, such as grape skins.

So far, Dr Edwards and his team at Harvard’s Wyss Institute have created a tomato membrane containing gazpacho soup, an orange membrane filled with orange juice that can be sipped through a straw, a grape-like membrane holding wine and a chocolate membrane containing hot chocolate. He believes pretty much any flavour is possible.

He recently told Harvard’s campus newspaper Harvard Crimson that his team was working on a prototype bottle that had an eggshell-like hard coating in addition to the membrane that could be peeled off or eaten whole. “In the near term, we will be encountering WikiCells in restaurant settings,” he told the paper. He then plans to expand WikiCells into shops and supermarkets.

He is beng hotly pursued by Indiana based MonoSol. It has already developed water soluble casings for washing detergents and is now looking at similar products for foods.

The potential for saving on waste costs are enormous. It is estimated that, currently the UK supply chain packaging waste costs in the region of £5bn, though the case has already been made that conventional wrapping will need to go around the new, edible wrapping or it will not be safe to eat.