These food packages are mostly made from cornflour and cellulose. Photo: Amelie Graf
A fresh design for food packaging
Food packaging is one of the most common everyday items which consumers rarely bother to think about. The next generation of designers thinks differently: Universities and institutes of higher education are taking a novel approach to packaging food and drinks.
An edible shell
Meal Bag is the name of a type of packaging that can even be cooked and eaten as part of the meal. Young product designer Amelie Graf developed the material herself from cornflour and cellulose, as part of her master's thesis in Product and Fashion Design at the Berlin University of the Arts. All its ingredients are food-safe. And so, spaghetti, legumes, spices or dried vegetables can be packed in a Meal Bag and then cooked in it.
The edible packaging is airtight and resists humidity to a certain degree. In hot water, it dissolves, while the cornflour makes the packaging usable as a thickener for sauces or as added fibre and calories. Alternatively, it can be composted, in which case it will disintegrate within a few days. With her concept, Amelie Graf wants to contribute further to a different way of thinking about packaging, and to an increased appreciation of materials.
The edible food packaging can be part of the meal. Photo: Amelie Graf
Swiss designer Sara Dietrich worked on a real world project for her bachelor's degree in design and art at Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts. She developed the corporate design for a new line of oat drinks made from Swiss raw ingredients for two Swiss gastronomic entrepreneurs. From the beginning, the design student worked with the two café owners to create a brand profile which established the basic framework for the brand's positioning. As independent entrepreneurs in the local coffee scene, both gastronomes want to deliver organic Swiss products to their own community. Gutsch, the new organic oat drink's brand name, is supposed to evoke feelings of regional pride and "Swissness". A "Gutsch" is a Swiss term for a small amount of liquid, akin to a slug or noggin – for example, a "Gutsch" of milk to add to your coffee.
Four packages form a pattern. Photo: Sara Dietrich
The final design boasts large graphic shapes present throughout the entire corporate design. Each of the four different types of drink is available in one of four editions, which feature iterations of the same shape, each rotated clockwise by 90 degrees further around the packaging. This allows the packages to be put together to form a pattern. To aid in sorting, a number has been added to the bottom of each package, showing the position of the package within the pattern.
A hot project
The Cologne ecosign/Academy for Design features projects in real world cooperation with business partners as part of the curriculum. One semester project had the objective to develop ecological solutions for packaging and storage for fair-trade Cambodian pepper from the Hennes' Finest brand. This pepper is sold in a package made of composite material, which was to be replaced by a sustainable solution. Jade Meyer and Charlotte Neff were awarded one of three prizes by the cooperative partner for their solution "Die scharfe Schachtel" (the hot box).
These requirements were set by Hennes' Finest: The sensitive Kampot peppercorns must be vacuum-packed. The two ecosign students went looking for a compostable packaging solution and found one in the Sustaina Pouch by the British company of the same name. The certified compostable vacuum bag is made from materials based on rice, potato starch and cornflour and was originally intended for use in sous-vide cooking. The outer packaging was made from sheaves of recycled whole cardboard produced by the family-owned business Horn Wertheim in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany. To make the package inexpensive to ship, it was constructed to fit inside a standard delivery bag. The outer packaging was also intended to stand on its own and look decorative. In addition, the current shape allows for easy filling into a different container, e.g. a pepper mill.
The illustration of a pepper plant on the packet not only shows how pepper grows – the peppercorns ripen in long spikes – but is also reminiscent of ornaments from Khmer art, thereby communicating the origin of the hand-picked peppercorns.
The design on the peppercorn package was printed using sustainable soya-based ink. Photo: Jade Meyer/Charlotte Neff
Excellent reusable idea
Sarah Klein, a fellow student studying sustainable design at ecosign/Academy for Design in Cologne, has developed reusable packaging that won last year's young talent award MehrWert NRW. This prize puts innovative solutions by students in higher education in North Rhine-Westphalia in the limelight.
ReWrap is a silicone wrapper for food to go which can be flexibly folded or wrapped and is sturdy, food-safe, dishwasher-safe and recyclable. The concept features a deposit system, but consumers can also purchase the packaging. Returned to the shop after use, the wrapper can easily be cleaned in the dishwasher and used again. The material is said to be able to be recycled up to 4,000 times.
The silicone wrapper for food to go is flexible, food-safe, dishwasher-safe and recyclable. Photo: Sarah Klein
A second life for old china
Berlin product designer Georgia von le Fort makes minimalist food storage containers from recycled waste porcelain. For her bachelor's thesis at the Berlin University of the Arts, she developed a method to make a firm material from porcelain fragments by grinding and sintering them.
The design of the containers makes use of the sintered material's open-pored surface. A serrated loose plate made of the same material absorbs cold water through its porous structure, cooling the inside of the container and increasing humidity. This process, whereby evaporation induces cold, allows the "Relics" to increase the shelf life of food like fruit and vegetables outside the refrigerator. The humid climate inside the container also protects certain kinds of vegetables from drying out. The containers can also be used without letting the plate soak. In this case, the ambient conditions are dark, airy and dry at room temperature, which allows storage of fresh food that is sensitive to cold, loses its taste due to cold or needs to ripen quickly.
The open pores of the sintered material help fruit and vegetables stay fresh. Photo: Georgia von le Fort