Supermarkets can help consumers reduce food waste with new ‘freshness timer’

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Insignia Technologies is helping UK supermarkets encourage consumers to reduce food waste with the launch of its new automatic ‘After Opening Timer’ which provides a clear visual indicator as to how long a packet of food has been opened for.

Smart ink visual indicator

According to the Waste & Resources Action Plan (WRAP), around 10 million tonnes of food waste is generated every year in the UK, 70% of which was intended for consumption. When thrown into landfill, food waste produces a large amount of methane. As it rots and degrades, it emits this greenhouse gas which is known to contribute to global warming.

Insignia’s ‘smart ink’ has been developed as an extension of its original smart label product, and aims to reduce food waste by providing consumers with a visual indication of how long a food packet has been open, encouraging them to use the product whilst at its optimum freshness and preventing food from being thrown away unnecessarily.

Insignia’s After Opening Timer is intended for foods packaged within a modified atmosphere, such as cooked meats and cheeses. Food packaging manufacturers can print its smart ink into the lidding film of the packaging and, once opened, the ink changes colour over time to indicate how long the pack has been opened for. Existing guidelines for food consumption err on the side of caution, so Insignia’s technology can provide greater accuracy on how fresh a product is and extend the length of time the consumer has to eat packaged food after opening it.

The launch of this new ink technology coincides with Food Waste Action Week 2021, an initiative hosted by WRAP that intends to wake the nation up to the environmental consequences of wasting food.

David , founder and CEO at Insignia Technologies, said: “As the climate emergency intensifies, UK supermarkets have a clear role to play in helping to reduce the amount of food wasted by consumers. Every day in the UK, 2.2 million slices of ham are thrown out, many of which will still be edible. Our printed ink technology can provide a solution.

“By including our After Opening Timer on the packaging film, we are enabling supermarkets to give the everyday consumer a simple visual reminder that not only prevents food from being thrown away too quickly, but also brings peace of mind to consumers that their food is still safe to eat.

“Consumer research revealed that 55% of people are more likely to purchase food with our After Opening Timer, with 74% saying that having the indicator visible prevents them from worrying about how long a packet of food has been opened for. We believe our technology will be vital in changing consumer behaviour and tackling the issue of unnecessary food waste, which is undoubtedly one of the biggest economic and environmental challenges the world faces.”

The printed indicator can be calibrated to the recommended timescales of each food packaging manufacturer. It is also temperature sensitive, meaning the rate of colour change will decrease at a colder temperature as storing foods like cooked meats below 5°C results in a longer open life.

Of the new smart ink technology, Dr Graham Skinner, product development manager at Insignia Technologies, said: “Traditionally our colour changing technology was printed as labels that needed to be applied to the inside of the lidding film. However, this created an additional step for food packaging manufacturers. As a result, we decided to develop our product further by creating smart ink that can be printed into the lidding film in the same way that other branding design is. This makes the process of packaging and manufacturing foods much simpler and easier.”

He continued: “At Insignia, we care greatly about the environment and climate emergency which is why we have ensured that our smart ink can be printed into lidding film that is recyclable.”