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Managing the incorporation of consumer food waste into the packaging development process: : a cross case analysis of the UK packaged food sector

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

There is a growing body of research which acknowledges the environmental impact of food waste and its relevance in the determination of sustainable packaging development. In particular, food waste stemming from consumer homes contributes substantially to the waste stream and Greenhouse Gas emissions in the UK. Despite this, both in practice and literature, sustainable packaging development remains focused on the minimisation of packaging waste levels. Yet, little attention has paid to the development of packaging functions which perform in the reduction of post purchase food waste. Furthermore, whilst the environmental impact of the package is a consideration in much of packaging development literature, both the packaging and food product development literature fail to consider the environmental impact of the product. Recent research highlights the necessity of assessing the environmental impact of the Product Packaging System, as opposed to the product or packaging in isolation. Based on these limitations this research had two objectives: (i) to explore how the environmental balance between food and packaging waste is managed; and (ii) to examine the processes undertaken when incorporating consumer food waste in to the packaging development process.

External stakeholders in the packaged food sector such as consumers, retailers and NGOs are found to impede food waste reduction efforts as a result of demanding packaging waste reduction. Within organisations this drove a packaging waste centric environmental strategy which over time created path dependency within the firms, limiting their ability to engage with food waste reduction. The prioritisation of packaging waste reduction resulted in firms acting counterintuitively and resisting increases to packaging levels, even in cases when it where it may be environmentally justified by food waste reductions. These factors limited the volume of food waste reduction opportunities NPD teams explored and inhibited innovation within projects.

This research contributes to ENPD literature by providing a new understanding of the development of packaging to reduce consumer food waste, thus exploring a unique and environmentally complex relationship. The framework developed contributes to NPD and packaging development literature by providing a new perspective through which to view food packaging development. The findings also have implications for firms, highlighting the need to assess the reactivity of their environmental strategy in order to prevent limitations on innovation and aid in the adding of value to packaging.
Original languageEnglish
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Award dateJan 2019
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ID: 14418039