Edible packaging developed
An edible polymer has been produced which could have revolutionary applications in packaging, according to London, UK company Toutmange.
Polytronlatahide is a flexible starch-based polymer that can be printed on with edible vegetable inks. Tests have shown the material to be food-safe and highly adaptable. The name comes from the Greek for "you can eat it all", Πρωταπριλιά.
"We already have one order from a confectionery manufacturer looking to launch a chocolate bar you can eat without even unwrapping it," explained Toutmange's R&D Manager Ron Dickinson. "The wrapper could either be an extra treat having eaten the main product, or you could just bite straight into the whole thing, depending on how hungry you are.
"We are also talking to a firm about packaging single servings of dry pasta and noodles which you drop whole into boiling water. In its default state the polymer tastes of nothing, but a range of flavourings are available, so there is a lot of potential."
These applications will save consumers a significant amount of time and energy in unwrapping, claim Toutmange, and will also be a huge boon to the environment. "There is no waste," says Dickinson, "no litter on the streets, nothing to take up space in your dustbin."
The polymer is treated with a nanolayer of fluostricine, a natural food-safe antibacterial, which will prevent the outside of the packaging being contaminated while in transit or sitting on shelves.
"Of course we do expect there will be initial consumer skepticism," Dickinson commented, "as it is difficult to adjust to the idea of eating a product without removing the packaging first. But we think people will get used to the concept very quickly, especially when they find out how tasty it can be."
Dickinson claimed Toutmange are currently developing an even more robust version of polytronlatahide suitable for heavy-duty packaging applications. "You could for instance go and buy a television encased entirely in strong protective packaging that you could then cook for dinner," he said.
"Large packaging boxes for things like TVs and computers can be awkward to dispose of, but a box for something that size could feed a family of six."
Stuart Patrick of The Polymer Society commented, "The development of Polytronlatahide looks very promising and has great potential. I can only assume that there have been sufficient studies carried out on the effects of this polymer on the human digestive system."
IOM3 packaging expert Gordon Stewart said, “I was skeptical when I first heard about this material, especially with the old joke about cornflake boxes being more tasty than the cornflakes themselves, but having seen a sample, I was impressed by the packaging’s strength. The flavour is not unlike rice paper. It took a few moments to chew, but then you would expect that.
"The inks also reproduced extremely well. You wouldn't know at a glance that it wasn't standard packaging.
"The only real problem I foresee in a retail context is with thieves consuming packs straight off the shelves. Normally shoplifters have to conceal items about their person but if they've already eaten the wrappings, and indeed the whole product, prosecution will be difficult."
- This article was an April Fool