Published on 22 Nov, 2013
An edible film or coating is a thin continuous layer of generally recognised as safe (GRAS)-certified edible material placed on food or between food components that can be eaten as a part of the whole food product.
Edible packaging is a useful alternative to conventional packaging as it reduces environmental waste (such as paper and plastic). Use of comestible packages is a novel method for improving product stability, quality and safety by preventing loss of necessary volatiles, moisture, undesirable reactions and mould growth. Furthermore, it helps in keeping the food free from contamination, improving the appearance (example, gloss) and increasing convenience for consumers.
Edible packages are engineered to carry various flavours, colours, antioxidants, antimicrobial, and anti-browning agents to improve food safety, appeal, organoleptic properties and shelf life.
Edible films for packaging foods have attracted considerable research with close to 500 patents filed every year since the past five years. The figure below depicts the filing trend during the same period. As evident from the graph, more or less equal number of patents was filed in this technological domain over 2008–2012.
Figure 1: Filing Trend (Source: Aranca analysis based on Thomson Innovation data)
Numerous experiments have been conducted for encasing foods such as ice-cream, yoghurt, cheese, sandwiches and confectionary in edible wrappers. Furthermore, significant research has been undertaken to design good quality and safe edible films for packaging different foodstuffs. The most active assignees in this domain are Kraft Foods, Nestec, PepsiCo and Mars, followed by Wrigley, Conopco and General Mills. Figure 2 depicts the top assignees active in this research domain.
Figure 2: Top assignees in the domain (Source: Aranca analysis based on Thomson Innovation data)
Some interesting research sectors explored by top assignees in this domain are mentioned below:
- High resolution images on edibles provide a customisable process for printing;
- Open-ended edible containers for foodstuffs such as frozen confectionary and edible casing for foodstuffs such as sandwiches;
- Edible packages preventing moisture transfer from the environment to the food product or between different components of a food product; and
- Edible packages with antibacterial and antioxidant properties.
In terms of preferred geographies for patent protection, China, US, Korea, Europe, Japan and Denmark have been the key markets. China dominates the research space with approximately 678 inventions. Figure 3 illustrates this distribution.
Figure 3: Origin of Invention – Jurisdiction Spread (Source: Aranca analysis based on Thomson Innovation data)
In light of the insights mentioned above, research activity is expected to increase due to growing environmental awareness among consumers. Factors such as appeal, ease-to-eat and multi-functionality of edible packages are boosting research in this domain.