It sounds like an idea the weird, wacky Willy Wonka would’ve come up with — edible packaging — a food contained in a wrapper that you could just eat. Though it might sound like a food from the future, WikiFoods and Stonyfield have already collaborated on a frozen yogurt ball wrapped in a gel-like, edible skin made of fruit or coconut particles and a seaweed extract.
“Conceptually, it is edible packaging,” said WikiFoods’ senior vice president of marketing Eric Freedman. “The product could be merchandised on shelves with no packaging and no plastics.”
Ideally, the “WikiPearls” would be sold in bulk food bins. Consumers would come and scoop them into their own reusable plastic containers.
The key term there being “ideal.”
Ironically enough, they’re not being sold as is. Nashua Whole Foods, which sells the WikiPearls, has wrapped the yogurt balls in plastic bags, to some consumer relief.
“Well, I think you have to be careful,” said consumer Michael Bates. “I don’t mind having a little bit of packaging because it makes the product hygienic, and safer.”
Even though Freedman thinks the world is ready for a packaging paradigm shift, plastic and paper wrappers exist for a reason.
As wild an idea as a world without packaging may seem, Freedman is not alone in his beliefs. Just this month, Berlin saw the opening of Original Unverpackt, (or “Original Unpackaged”) — a novel supermarket that’s dispensed with disposable packaging.
Original Unverpackt allows consumers to bring in their own containers, which are weighed before they’re filled to ensure that shoppers get the fairest price possible. They then fill their containers with dry goods, like cereal, rice, or spices. Liquids, like juices or yogurts, are sold in containers that have deposits on them. About 80% of the store’s inventory is organic, with the goods’ origins printed next to their prices per kilo. Original Unverpackt sells no brand-name products, either.
Will they start selling products wrapped in edible packaging, though? It’s unlikely. For now, futuristic consumers will have to get their food-wrapped food from Nashua Whole Foods, or from Cafe ArtScience in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which will wrap soups, cocktails, and more in edible skins.