How laser labelling is changing the market for food retailers

Increasing pressures on food retailers to reduce the amount of packaging used for their products is having a significant impact on the market as a whole, as changing customer expectations and the shift to more eco-friendly methods is continuing to influence the way supermarkets and other retailers operate.

Laser labelling has emerged as a relatively new way of marking fruit without the need for the production of adhesive labels, which are wasted in their tonnes each year. Marks & Spencer has become the latest brand to announce plans to ditch more traditional methods in favour of the more environmentally friendly approach to food labelling.

The brand has said it will save up to 10 tonnes of paper and five tonnes of glue every year as part of its new plans to label avocados with lasers rather than stickers following a successful trial. The high street retailer has confirmed it could start rolling out this new method to other fruits and vegetables in the near future. The labelling works by shining an intense light on to the skin of the avocado, which then retracts and discolours only the top layer of the skin, meaning the fruit itself is not damaged.

However, some fruits – such as citrus fruits – are difficult to mark with a laser. M&S trialled a similar laser technique several years ago using citrus fruits and a different technology, and while it looked effective and was quick to apply, there was a slight deterioration in skin quality, and the method was therefore discontinued.

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Other retailers, such as the Dutch fruit and vegetable supplier “Nature and More” and Swedish supermarket ICA also use the laser labelling system. As more retailers start to use this type of labelling, the current high cost of the machinery is likely to fall, which could further encourage the use of this system by mid-sized retailers.

So what is the driving force behind the rise of more eco-friendly packaging initiatives among food retailers? The first is delivery of customer’s expectations, while also removing costs from packaging materials, and the in-store cost from waste removal. Retailers are mainly reducing packaging by reducing the thickness of materials used, as well as utilising film-wrapped trays instead of boxes for many products.

Another method currently being used by many manufacturers is to reduce or remove excessive packaging due to the influence of retailers and consumer groups, this also gives the retailer the added bonus of displaying more product per square foot of shelving.

While the market for eco-friendly shopping remains fairly niche as organic retailers struggle to attract the mass market that is vital to long-term growth, the onus is certainly on bigger retailers to lead by example when it comes to promoting more environmentally methods. Households across the UK are expected to recycle and reduce their carbon footprint, and businesses should be no exception to the rules.

WF Denny is a national supplier and distributor of eco-friendly and biodegradable food packaging, as well as standard packaging and catering disposables, with over 90 years’ experience in manufacturing these items. WF Denny also stocks a wide range of partyware for consumers and is passionate about delivering a great service to businesses and the public alike.

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