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2024 Sustainable Packaging Trends in the Horeca Industry

The Horeca industry (Hotels, Restaurants, and Catering), believes food is more than sustenance; it's an experience that starts long before we take the first bite. Picture this: you've had a tough day, and you decide to order dinner at your place. Nothing seems to make you happy until you see your food elegantly packaged in cute containers. Your frown turns into a smile, and your eyes, catch the taste of the food before your tongue even does.

In the past, aluminium foil was the go-to material for keeping food safe and warm for hours. However, as sustainability becomes a top priority, a new horizon is being added to the broad spectrum of food packaging materials. Let's dive into the 2024 sustainable packaging trends revolutionizing the Horeca industry.

2024 Sustainable Packaging Trends in the Horeca Industry
2024 Sustainable Packaging Trends in the Horeca Industry

Sustainability Is a Brand New Trend For Packaging

Packaging is crucial for food products, serving different purposes and using various materials. Today, we have a wide range of packaging materials available. Packaging has several basic functions, such as protection, transportation, and trade. In addition to these, packaging should be economically and environmentally justified.

The functions of packaging are derived from the characteristics of the materials used. Over time, packaging has evolved, becoming more complex. It has gone from basic protection against deterioration to sophisticated functions like allowing gaseous and water steam to pass through or even active packaging with absorbers or emitters, and intelligent packaging that communicates with the environment.

Packaging is necessary and useful, but it also has an impact on the environment. That's why it's important for packaging development and materials to improve environmentally, reducing negative impacts on the environment. Conducting a packaging life cycle analysis helps estimate the impact of packaging on the environment.

Aluminium Packaging

Aluminium packaging remains a staple due to its durability, recyclability, and ability to preserve food. However, advancements in technology have made it even more sustainable, with thinner gauges and improved recycling processes.

Aluminium is a light, silvery-white metal extracted from bauxite. It acts as an excellent barrier against humidity, air, odors, light, and microorganisms. It also possesses good elasticity, flexibility, and heat conduction. These advantages make aluminium extremely valuable as a material for recycling, with the ability for several recycling cycles without changes in performance and negative impacts on the environment.

Clay Packaging

Clay packaging, often overlooked, is making a comeback due to its natural properties. Clay pots and containers not only keep food fresh but also add a rustic charm to the dining experience. They are biodegradable and can be reused for a variety of purposes, making them a sustainable choice for Horeca businesses.

Packaging materials made from petroleum-based products are harmful to the environment and health during their production and disposal. This has led to a growing demand for eco-friendly and sustainable alternatives like polysaccharides, proteins, and lipids. However, developing packaging films from biomaterials poses challenges such as processing methods, scalability, mechanical properties, shelf-life, stability, and cost-effectiveness.

Nanotechnology has become essential in the food industry, offering opportunities to enhance food product quality and safety. Nanofillers, nanoparticles, or nanoscale materials added to polymers can improve the mechanical, barrier, thermal, and functional properties of packaging materials. The high surface-to-volume ratio of nanofillers increases their reactivity, adhesion, and interaction with the surrounding matrix, enhancing functional properties.

Eco-Friendly Packaging

Eco-friendly packaging options, such as compostable plastics and plant-based materials like Bagasse are gaining popularity. These materials decompose naturally, reducing the environmental impact of traditional plastics. They are a great choice for businesses looking to reduce their carbon footprint.

Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) are products that sell quickly at relatively low prices, like those found in supermarkets, hypermarkets, and convenience stores. Packaging in the FMCG industry not only packages products but also communicates effectively between consumers and brand owners.

Due to increasing environmental concerns, many FMCG industries are considering using eco-friendly packaging. This type of packaging supports sustainable development and addresses consumers' environmental concerns. Failure to use eco-friendly packaging may affect consumer purchasing intentions and competitiveness, especially as governments introduce new environmental policies.

To address these concerns, over 40 industry leaders have endorsed a global strategy to ensure that 70% of plastic packaging is reused and recycled globally. The remaining 30%, equivalent to 10 billion garbage bags per year, needs redesign and innovation. Poor management of supply chains can lead to serious environmental and social effects, making improved practices beneficial for businesses.

The benefits of using eco-friendly packaging include improving sales, developing sustainable supply chains, reducing environmental impacts, lowering packaging costs, enhancing brand image, and transforming consumer approaches to FMCG. Implementing sustainable supply chain management by using eco-friendly packaging is crucial for reducing environmental impacts.

Glass Packaging

Glass packaging has long been favored for its ability to preserve the flavor and quality of food. It is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without loss of quality. With advancements in glass technology, packaging has become lighter and more energy-efficient to produce, further enhancing its sustainability.

Glass is a versatile material that finds extensive use in the hotel industry, especially for packaging food items. It is an inorganic, non-crystalline solid formed when molten material cools quickly without crystallizing. Glass has unique properties such as transmitting, reflecting, and refracting light, making it ideal for showcasing food items.


Physiochemically inert, ensuring that it does not react with food and maintains its original flavor

  • Transparent, allowing customers to see the contents, which can enhance the presentation and appeal of food items

  • Impermeable to gases and liquids, ensuring that food items remain fresh and protected from external contaminants

  • Versatile and attractive, available in various shapes, sizes, and colors to suit different food packaging needs

  • Suitable for sterilization, ensuring food safety and hygiene standards are maintained


  • Fragile and heavy, requiring careful handling during transportation and storage

  • Difficult and expensive to dispose of, compared to other packaging materials

Chemical Composition

Glass is primarily composed of fused silica, silicon dioxide, and alkaline earth metals like calcium, sodium, and potassium. These elements give glass its unique properties, making it ideal for packaging food items in the hotel industry.

Paper Packaging

Paper packaging is a versatile and sustainable option for the Horeca industry. From paper bags to containers, paper-based materials are biodegradable and easily recyclable. They can also be customized with branding and designs, adding to the overall dining experience.

The food processing industry carefully selects packaging materials based on the specific requirements of the food product. Factors such as heat sealability, processability, printability, strength, barrier properties (water, oil, and gas), cost-effectiveness, sustainability, and legal requirements are taken into consideration.

Various materials, including paper, plastic, glass, aluminium, wood, or combinations thereof, are used for food packaging, each with its pros and cons. Paper and paperboards are particularly popular, accounting for 31% of the global packaging market segment. They are widely used in food packaging for containment, protection, convenience during storage or consumption, and communication of relevant information to consumers, including marketing aspects.

Environmental Friendly

Paper has an environmentally friendly reputation, making it a preferred choice for food industries. Approximately 47% of the total paper and paperboard produced in 2000 was used for packaging applications. Paper is predominantly used at primary (direct contact with food products) and secondary (transportation and storage of primary packages) levels. To maintain the sustainability of natural resources, the use of recycled paper is necessary.

Legislation and Policies

Strict legislation and better policies need to be developed for migration limits of toxic chemicals into food, disposal techniques, and the usage of recycled paper for food packaging applications. Similar to plastic identification codes, a paper identification code could be developed based on the material used, additives incorporated, and the number of recycling treatments.


Recycling and better disposal techniques can be alternatives for sustainability, but waste reduction and minimization of usage will be the best choice. Paper packaging offers a sustainable and environmentally friendly option for the food industry, aligning with the growing trend of sustainability in the Horeca industry.

The Final Thought


What are sustainable packaging trends in the Horeca industry?

Sustainable packaging trends in the Horeca industry include the use of eco-friendly materials like paper, compostable plastics, and plant-based materials to reduce environmental impact.

Why is sustainable packaging important?

Sustainable packaging is important as it reduces waste, conserves resources, and minimizes environmental impact, aligning with consumer preferences for eco-friendly products.

How does clay packaging benefit the Horeca industry?

Clay packaging is biodegradable, and reusable, and adds a rustic charm to food presentation, making it an environmentally friendly and aesthetically pleasing choice for the Horeca industry.

What are the advantages of glass packaging?

Glass packaging is inert, transparent, impermeable, and suitable for sterilization, making it ideal for preserving the flavor and quality of food items in the hotel industry.

Why should the food processing industry consider paper packaging?

Paper packaging is versatile, biodegradable, and easily recyclable, making it a sustainable option for the food processing industry.

How can businesses ensure their packaging is sustainable?

Businesses can ensure their packaging is sustainable by choosing materials that are recyclable, biodegradable, and have a minimal environmental impact throughout their lifecycle.

What role does legislation play in sustainable packaging?

Legislation can influence sustainable packaging practices by setting standards for recycling, waste reduction, and the use of eco-friendly materials in packaging.

Are there any challenges associated with sustainable packaging?

Yes, challenges include finding eco-friendly alternatives that meet performance requirements, addressing cost considerations, and ensuring consumer acceptance of new packaging materials.

How can businesses educate consumers about sustainable packaging?

Businesses can educate consumers through labeling, marketing campaigns, and providing information about the environmental benefits of sustainable packaging choices.

What are some future trends in sustainable packaging?

Future trends may include advancements in biodegradable materials, innovations in recycling technologies, and increased use of renewable energy sources in packaging production.


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