An interesting blend of potato starch, natural fibres, water and additives has been shown to be a highly suitable foundation for biobased packaging material. PaperFoam® is the name given to this flexible foam material, developed in cooperation with Wageningen Food & Biobased Research. The eponymous company in Barneveld is achieving success with sustainable and highly functional packaging. This includes egg cartons for Rondeel eggs (Rondeel is an innovative and sustainable chicken housing concept – ed.) and an internationally awarded champagne cooler for Veuve Clicquot.
The PaperFoam foaming material has various benefits compared to paper pulp, such as more shaping options: PaperFoam can also be used to make round packaging. In addition, the material is more sustainable. Its production uses less water and the CO2 footprint is lower. For low cost food applications the cost price of the product is still on the high side, so PaperFoam is looking into alternative and cheaper ingredients for its products together with Wageningen Food & Biobased Research.
New compounds for ‘Rondeel’ egg cartons
People buying Rondeel eggs will be familiar with PaperFoam: the cartons in which these sustainable eggs are sold consist of this material. The nature of the packaged product justifies the slightly higher cost price. According to PaperFoam director Mark Geerts, however, the cost price of the Rondeel packaging is still too high for standard eggs. In a project co-funded by the Province of Gelderland, the company is now partnering with Wageningen Food & Biobased Research to develop an alternative: “Together we are looking which alternative, cheaper ingredients are potentially suitable,” says Geerts. “The Wageningen scientists perform an extensive scan of possible ingredients, and we explore whether we can use them in our formulations.”
Right recipe for champagne cooler
PaperFoam has also developed a cooler for French champagne producer Veuve Clicquot using knowledge from Wageningen. Geerts: “Veuve Clicquot was looking for a biobased solution that was both attractive and functional: lightweight, insulating and water-resistant. Especially the later requirement was a challenge as champagne starts condensing when placed in a refrigerator. Normal biobased packaging based on starch would become sticky. We asked Wageningen Food & Biobased Research to find a solution to this problem.”
Wageningen scientists studied various possibilities to adapt the formulation of the material. After a series of tests the right recipe was found – a trade secret, according to Geerts. The end result is impressive: a beautifully designed, biobased packaging that cools the champagne bottle superbly. It won PaperFoam the Dieline Award, a prestigious American packaging award, in 2015.
Extensive starch knowledge
Geerts is very satisfied with the partnership with Wageningen Food & Biobased Research: “We work with a stable group of scientists who know what we need and apply extensive knowledge of starch and other bio-materials. Another major benefit to us is that Wageningen is nearby. We can easily drive there if we want to test a specific application.”