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Packaging Insights – Interview on the Bakery Category with Eduardo Gomes, Managing Director, Waddington Europe
1. What are the key traditional packaging requirements for bakery items?
The packaging of bakery products is determined by production, preservation, storage, transportation and marketing. Bakery products include items of different packaging requirements, from cakes, buns, biscuits, pastries and doughnuts to savoury items such as sausage rolls and pork pies.
Bakery items are most commonly found within an in-store bakery or as bought in items via a third party. Either way, packaging materials need to provide adequate protection against moisture loss/gain, retain the taste and aroma, and be hygienic and safe for food contact. They also need to have machinability, printability and be cost-effective.
When stored at ambient temperatures, most bread, rolls or products with a moist, spongy crumb undergo a progressive deterioration of quality and become stale. In general, the higher the moisture content of the product in its fresh state, the more pronounced are the changes. Products such as bread, yeast-raised sweet goods and cakes often found in the instore baker go stale much more markedly than do cookies and crackers, which have much lower initial moisture contents.
High volumes of costly food wastage, as well as its environmental impact, is always a risk, which is why a range of plastic materials in the form of films, laminates and thermoformed trays tend to be the traditionally favoured type of packaging solutions to meet the majority of in-store and long term storage bakery needs.
Packaging for long term bakery items tends to be a basic design, low gauge open rigid plastic tray with flow wrap and a highly decorated outer case protection where full print and branding is the key to sales. This option provides an efficient way to package, transport and market the individual brands.
Rigid rPET hinge-pack packaging for instore bakery is popular, due to its high clarity and 360-degree transparency to fully showcase the baked items within while protecting delicate items from being crushed. It is also splash, chemical and heat resistant and 100% recyclable all at a highly competitive cost. At Waddington Europe, we even have a patented vented hinge-pack for example that extends shelf life on Belgian Buns by controlling the amount of air entering the pack. There is a trade-off on the shelf life of the icing and the bun itself, and the venting provides a happy medium.
2. How has the pandemic redefined these requirements?
At Waddington Europe we found that the pandemic has in some cases increased demand for rPET rigid packaging, as retailers and consumers were reminded of its many benefits, enjoying the reassurance that their baked food is as safe and as well protected as possible.
On the flip side, we also saw a fall in demand on the foodservice side of our baked goods packaging business, simply because the coffee shops, cafes and bakeries were all forced to close during lockdown.
Naturally, an increased demand for plastic packaging means a higher profile focus than ever on the long term environmental impact of that packaging.
Fortunately, at Waddington Europe we have just launched Eco Blend ™ Pura - our premium range of 100% PCW recycled content rigid trays that are also 100% recyclable. These high clarity packaging products bring to life the ideal practice behind a truly circular economy, keeping plastic away from landfill by turning today’s discarded bottles, pots, tubs and trays into tomorrow’s baked good trays. We’re one of only a handful of suppliers on the market that can truly offer and maintain the supply of a reduced environmental impact, 100% recycled plastic solution at a competitive cost, which is great news for the bakery category.
3. What are the main different packaging differences for in-store bakeries and long-term storage?
In-store bakeries largely sell items by sight with high clarity being a key credential of design. Packs tend to be rigid plastic hinge-packs, offering a good level of protection as well as being resealable. Down-gauging the packaging is end-user driven from the perspective of the environment whilst the customer looks at cost. There are also transit trays with part-baked products in that get finished off in-store and packed into the final packaging.
A key critical consideration from the consumer these days is the impact of one use bakery plastic packaging on the environment. This has been the driving force behind Eco Blend ™ Pura - our premium range of 100% PCW recycled content rigid trays that are also 100% recyclable. These high clarity packaging products bring to life the ideal practice behind a truly circular economy, keeping plastic away from landfill by turning today’s discarded bottles, pots, tubs and trays into tomorrow’s baked good trays. We’re one of only a handful of suppliers on the market that can truly offer and maintain the supply of a reduced environmental impact, 100% recycled plastic solution at a competitive cost, which is great news for the in-store bakery category.
Packaging for long term storage goods (think Mr Kipling products), generally tend to be a low-cost carrier tray, with flow wrap, and a protective highly decorated outer case. This option provides an efficient way to package, transport and market the individual brands. The rigid plastic trays in these instances tend to be low gauge trays and basic in design.
4. What are the biggest trends you are witnessing in the bakery packaging sector? What are the main consumer demands your company addresses, and how?
While rigid plastic is a popular bakery packaging solution, it’s fair to say that plastic has been under the spotlight of late, and the biggest trend by far has been driven by the consumer; the environmental sustainability of plastic packaging.
As one of Europe’s leading rigid packaging providers, we do understand why. As a company and personally as an individual, it’s impossible to trivialise the impact of waste plastic that finds its way into our natural environment, and subsequently, consumers want more environmentally sustainable packaging options.
It’s also the reason why we strongly believe that plastic has an important role to play in the global circular economy.
That’s the driving force that has instigated the development of Eco Blend ™ Pura - our premium range of 100% recycled baked goods plastic trays that are also 100% recyclable. Made entirely from post-consumer plastic waste, the innovative new recyclable range brings to life the ideal practice behind a truly circular economy, keeping plastic away from landfill by turning today’s discarded bottles, pots, tubs and trays into tomorrow’s baked good trays. We’re one of only a handful of suppliers on the market that can truly offer and maintain the supply of a reduced environmental impact, 100% recycled plastic solution at a competitive cost.
As the availability of the raw materials needed in the production of plastic increasingly becomes an issue, our rPET ranges offer a viable alternative. In the past 24 months alone, we’ve managed to process more than 39,000 tonnes of recycled plastic meaning that we avoided using 39,000 tonnes of virgin material in our production pipeline as well as opening up more possibilities for infinitely recyclable, more efficient, affordable and sustainable products. We also implement continuous light-weighting improvement programs with our customers to offer down gauging options.
Sustainability is a practice we also preach internally as a business. With all three sites achieving ‘Zero Waste To Landfill’ status, as well as other initiatives such as closed-loop water systems, used for cooling tools in production and filters on every external drain to prevent plastic pellets from entering into the water system as part of a ‘Pellet Retention Scheme’ which is linked to Operation Clean Sweep, the company is leading the way in reducing the manufacturing and environmental impact of plastic food packaging.
5. How important is it for your packaging to add a clear plastic window so that people can see the baked goods? On the one hand, this clearly has marketing benefits to engage consumers, but on the other hand, plastic is widely being demonized.
Waddington Europe doesn’t produce paper packaging. As a leading producer of thermoformed packaging, our rigid PET packaging solutions offer complete transparency to showcase baked food items to maximum effect, so plastic windows are not an issue.
And that’s the biggest benefit of our completely transparent rigid PET trays and hinge-packs; the whole packaging product can be recycled back into new packaging again. rPET actually has a lower production carbon footprint coupled with a lower cost than some packaging alternatives.
Waddington Europe has also just launched Eco Blend ™ Pura, a new highly transparent rPET rigid material ideal for baked goods, with all the benefits of traditional PET, but which is made out of 100% recycled post-consumer waste (PCW), and which is also 100% recyclable.
The carbon footprint of producing 100% post-consumer PET is 60% lower than manufacturing virgin PET and this includes the energy required to collect, recycle, and remanufacture the plastics. 
And of course, food that isn’t effectively marketed, purchased and consumed often simply goes to waste. Food waste which ends up in landfill produces methane gas which is over 30 times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide. If food wastage was a country, it would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world. 
For all these reasons Eco Blend ™ Pura is an ideal and environmentally responsible marketing option for baked goods.
 Source: https://www.azocleantech.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=919
 Source: Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations
6. What kind of innovations are needed/called for regarding steam venting on hot baked goods?
There are some rigid PET materials for hot filling available on the market, but they tend to be more expensive and in order to avoid further cost from the new plastic tax would need further innovation to incorporate at least 30% recycled content.
As for the innovations around airflow there are numerous rigid packaging designs currently available from Waddington Europe for bakery items.