Some Doubts about Pet Food Packaging
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Pet parents will always have the same expectations when buying pet food – it must look fresh, smell nice and taste good. You cannot achieve this if your packaging doesn’t give you the extended shelf-life that is required for pet products today, usually a minimum 12-18 months from the packing date. Only suitable packaging will protect the integrity and palatability of the food. If you think about it, pet food is mostly made of fat, starch and protein. It is therefore extremely sensitive to oxygen and moisture. If your pet food packaging doesn’t give you the necessary barrier properties, you will not be able to control oxidation and mould.
Are paper bags suitable for pet food?
Pure paper bags are best suited for dry foods that have little or low barrier requirements, especially oxygen. Paper bags are simply folded and glued, the construction does not allow for an “airtight’ package.
There are also a lot of misconceptions surrounding paper packaging and whether it actually is sustainable.
When choosing a paper bag for pet food, the reality is that, in all cases, paper bags need to be coated in plastic or polymer to make them suitable for packing pet food. How much plastic and the type of plastic can’t be determined until customers relay the type of food they’re looking to pack. However, when pet food is packed in paper bags, it often needs an inner layer or coating to protect the outer bag from grease and to keep the food fresher. It also enables the bags to be heat-sealed after packing.
Normally “paper bags” end up like a multi-layered plastic bag to achieve the desired performance, and unfortunately, very difficult to recycle.
Are there any benefits to packing pet food in compostable or biodegradable bags?
Compostable packaging is usually made of paper and other materials that claim to be suitable for composting in a compost heap and return to the earth within a short period of time. The reality however is that these bags are only industrially compostable as they need to meet certain environmental factors – high temperature and humidity, before the materials start to decompose.
Biodegradable packaging is using materials such as paper and bioplastics, which are derived from renewable plant materials like corn or potato starch. Bags would decompose naturally in the environment over a longer period of time. The makeup structure of biodegradable plastics makes them more easily break down by natural microorganisms.
As such, biodegradable plastics are perceived to be more eco-friendly but still comes with its downside. Biodegradable plastics are made from plants such as soybeans and corn. Therefore, there is a risk of soil contamination as the crops are typically treated with pesticides.
Compostable and biodegradable bags both come with disadvantages as they are not designed to perform and keep your products fresh longer. You need to consider that the biodegradation process is not something that can be switched on or off. The process begins when the product is produced, therefore it is essential to know exactly for how long the biodegradable / compostable material will retain its protective properties.
For example, most datasheets for PLA (Polylactic acid) film state clearly that it should be used within 6 months of manufacture. This is a very short period when you consider the processes involved and the shelf-life requirements. You would probably need to fill all the bags and sell them in a very short time frame to meet the manufacturer’s guidelines.
This is possible for fresh produce which this material was designed to pack, but not possible for oily, fatty or moist products like pet food that require a long shelf-life.
Of course, customers can choose compostable or biodegradable options but these are not recyclable. Plastic packaging is, as you can re-use or recycle it at the end of life. Plastic bags can be repurposed into something new.
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