What are the options?

Packaging is generally an integral part of our everyday lives. In Germany, 225.8 kilograms of packaging waste was generated per capita in 2020.

Considering that a Doypack or cardboard boxes weigh only a few grams, this is a more than impressive figure. In the case of plastic packaging alone, each German produces 38.7 kilograms per year.

Food packaging is also ubiquitous today and has very important functions in practice. On the one hand, they protect the contents against external influences. In addition, they are important for transport and storage.

How sustainable can packaging be? And what kind of food packaging is there anyway? Here you get some answers.

What requirements must food packaging meet?

What matters is which food is involved. You can try a fairly simple experiment: Shortly before the checkout, simply look in the shopping basket and count the different foods - the selection is sure to impress you.

Today, food markets - whether discount stores, supermarkets or health food stores - offer a Width range of different types of food such as:

    • Milk and dairy products
    • Snacks
    • Bakery products
    • Cakes and confectionery
    • Sausage
    • Fresh meat
    • Pasta
    • Sauces
    • Vegetables and fruit

Packaging must meet different criteria for each type of food. For example, with fruit, simple bags are sufficient. Meat is a completely different matter. Freshly packaged, it must be specially protected. Finished packaged meat products are additionally packed in a modified atmosphere.

Particularly sensitive foods - either in terms of spoilage or external influences such as ultraviolet light - must also be packaged according to individual criteria. In general, food packaging must meet the following requirements:

    • Performing a protective function
    • Provide an aroma barrier
    • Transporting information
    • Suitability for transport and storage
    • Ensuring a presentation at the point of sale (POS)

The aroma barrier is important in the case of spices, coffee or cocoa powder, for example. Without it, the quality of the food would quickly deteriorate.

As far as the protective function is concerned, food packaging is particularly challenged. Here it is a matter of protection against:

    • Pollution and contamination,
    • Environmental influences
    • as well as damages.

But: This function must always be given in two directions. For example, certain substances must not escape from foods containing fat and oil. Meat preserved in oil or marinades is a good example of this circumstance.

Infographic food packaging

Sustainable food packaging

In recent years, an important criterion has been added: Food packaging should be sustainable. According to the BMZ (German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development), sustainability includes:

    • Economic efficiency,
    • social justice
    • and ecological viability

from the point of view of satisfying current needs. In this context, future resource requirements should also not be lost sight of.

This means that food packaging must no longer just fulfill its actual purpose, but also conserve resources and reduce the waste problem.

Doypacks and other bags - What are they suitable for?

Bags have various tasks as food packaging. Simple bags made of tubular films are used for transport - for example of loose fruit or vegetables. In parallel, Flat pouch are in use today for various foodstuffs, such as:

    • Scattered cheese
    • Snacks
    • Nuts
    • Dried fruit
    • Confectionery
    • fresh pasta
Bag packaging

Doypacks, alternatively referred to as Stand-up pouch , are used in a very similar framework. Two major differences to the flat bags are the filling quantity and presentation of the pack at the POS.

Flat pouch can usually be found lying or hanging in the displays. Doypacks can be stored upright. With regard to the possible applications, the choice of material is decisive. Here, pure plastic solutions or composite material can be used.

A combination of kraft paper and plastic or ethylene-vinyl alcohol copolymer (EVOH) is popular with manufacturers. The latter materials are used on the inside of the packaging as a barrier, but in parallel make it more difficult to recycle. For certain food products, bags made of monopapers can be used.

Depending on the package size, gusseted bags can be used. Especially for larger quantities or rather bulky products, these packaging materials are suitable. Due to the side gusset, they can easily increase their volume.

Thanks to various materials and manufacturing processes, you can use them to pack sliced bread or sandwiches, among other things. Even the non-food segment has discovered the gusseted bag.

Boxes and cartons as food packaging

Paper-based cardboard boxes and cartons are still very popular as packaging for food. A major advantage is the ease with which they can be printed.

This not only allows goods to be presented attractively at the POS. In addition, ingredients and labels can be placed on the cartons.

In addition, cartons and boxes offer high stability. Especially for smaller filling quantities, this food packaging is therefore very suitable.


Paper or cardboard has a third advantage: it can be recycled. Today, a significant proportion of paper is recycled via the paper cycle.

According to the Federal Environment Agency, more than 16 million tons of waste paper were used in paper production in 2020 alone. But: Paper and cardboard also have disadvantages.

Especially when it comes to very fine and free-flowing products, a combination of different materials is necessary for safe food packaging.

The same applies to moist products and those containing oil or grease. For this reason, cartons and boxes are often provided with plastic inserts as packaging in the food trade.

The reason: cardboard and paper have only a very limited ability to protect food against external influences or to serve as an aroma barrier.

Jars and bottles - what are they suitable for?

Glass package with label
Glass bottles are versatile. They come in different designs and individual creations.

Jars and bottles are ideal as food packaging for liquids or pickled products. These include, among others:

    • Gherkins
    • Vegetable corn
    • various legumes
    • various fruits and vegetables

Beverages can be bottled without any restrictions: Starting with non-alcoholic beverages such as mineral water and juices to brewery products (beer, Radler) as well as wine or spirits.

In this context, bottles are in direct competition with beverage cartons. These are made from plastic-laminated cardboard and are usually coated on the inside.

However, the use of such composite materials is challenging from a recycling point of view, as the different materials would have to be separated beforehand.

Glass jars and bottles perform better due to their reusability. The reusable aspect in particular ensures a high sustainability factor. Unlike paper, used glass can be recycled as often as desired.

However, plastic packaging is now often used for mineral water, juices and soft drinks. The material is very light and much less sensitive to impact or shock than glass. Thanks to the deposit system, a considerable proportion of plastic bottles are now included in the recycling loop.


Due to their repeated usability, jars and bottles are considered particularly sustainable.


Food packaging viewing window and design

The eye eats with you! This can also be applied to your shopping. If you had two identical products, you'd probably go for the box that appeals to you more, wouldn't you? After all, purchasing decisions are not only made on the basis of price.

Therefore, food packaging fulfills the purpose of directly addressing consumers. Manufacturers resort to different strategies at this point. The design of the packaging is an important aspect, a special feel is also noticeable.

Since paper, cardboard and plastics can be printed, this means is used intensively for the design of the packaging. Another option is to integrate a viewing window into the packaging. Dry products in particular can be presented excellently at the POS in this way. Therefore, such packaging is ideal for, among other things:

    • Pasta,
    • Snacks
    • and confectionery


For fresh products or goods from the frozen segment, manufacturers usually opt for other forms of packaging.

Sustainable packaging for sustainable food

As already mentioned, sustainability is becoming increasingly important for the purchasing decisions of many consumers. Food packaging must also keep pace with this development.

This is sometimes only possible to a limited extent given the circumstances. In the case of liquids, oils and fats, for example, a barrier and protective function must always be ensured.


Organic films as sustainable packaging with barrier function?

This results in special challenges with regard to the environmental aspect. In general, the industry now offers appropriate solutions in the form of bio-films. These are used in the household segment, for example, as storage for organic waste.

The challenge: In connection with sausage and meat products, for example, it must always be clarified to what extent there are interactions between the ingredients of the moist/oily foods and the organic films during storage and transport. Some manufacturers work with cellulose-based films in this context.

Recyclability is the measure of sustainability

How sustainable a food packaging is in the end is strongly determined by the recycling cycles. Glass is recyclable to a very high degree, with a recycling rate of around 85 percent. In this context, it is surprising that the rate for plastic-based beverage bottles included in the deposit system is even higher by several percentage points.

The decisive factor in assessing the sustainability of food packaging is always which material is used. Especially the use of plastics - for bags or films - cannot be completely avoided in practice. After all, this is not only about ecological aspects, but also about food safety issues and the protection of your health.

The requirements that food packaging must meet are set out in great detail - including in the general recommendations for food contact materials from the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). 

Conclusion: The right packaging for every foodstuff

Food is essential for all of us. Until a few decades ago, shopping at the market or directly from the producer was a matter of course for many households - today it takes place much more often in supermarkets or discounters.

The challenge: Food must be safely packaged against contamination and other external influences. In addition, the packaging must protect properties such as aroma.

Each product brings its own requirements, which leads to challenges that manufacturers of the various food packaging have to solve. It is not only about the protective effect or possibilities to customize such a packaging.

Hand and sustainability

Sustainability is also becoming an increasingly important factor. You want to know how these problems will be solved even better in the future? We will stay on the topic for you and inform you regularly about innovations in our blog!



  1. What types of food packaging does the market offer?

    Among other things, food can be packed in bags, cartons, bottles or jars.

  2. What requirements must food packaging meet?

    Food packaging must protect the contents from external influences and preserve the aroma. In addition, they must increasingly meet demands in terms of sustainability.

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