Waitrose Partners to Innovate Private Brand Packaging

Earlier this month Waitrose was officially announced that it has joined forces with Scottish biotec company CuanTec to work on a new film for food packaging made out of waste langoustine shells.

CuanTec – based in Motherwell and Oban –  takes waste langoustine shells created from seafood processing to make a natural polymer – which can then be turned into a flexible film. The material also has the potential to be both industrially and home compostable.

The new packaging, which is at an experimental stage, was shown to HRH The Prince of Wales during a visit to Waitrose & Partners Food Innovation Studio.

Waitrose hopes the new packaging could be used as an alternative to conventional plastic film on some of its fish products in 12-18 months’ time, including private brand Waitrose Duchy smoked salmon.

Dr Cait Murray-Green, CEO of CuanTec, said; “For us this technology represents the perfect virtuous circle. As well as protecting food on sale to consumers, it gives value to what would have been a waste product and takes single-use plastic out of the food system, meaning that less waste goes to landfill.”

Karen Graley, Waitrose & Partners packaging manager

Karen Graley, Waitrose & Partners packaging manager said; “While we are still at an experimental stage, the potential for this new packaging material is incredibly exciting. Conventional plastic films can’t currently be recycled, reused or composted – so finding an alternative which doesn’t go into landfill would be very significant in helping us reach our target of ensuring that all own label packaging is widely recyclable, reusable or home compostable by 2023.”

Waitrose & Partners was introduced to CuanTec during a pitch day to reduce plastic waste for its JLAB retail innovation program. JLAB allows the John Lewis Partnership to work with start-ups and more established businesses on exciting new technologies and ideas.

Waitrose & Partners was impressed with the potential of the ‘langoustine shell film’ and is now actively working with the company to test the packaging on some of its food in the hope of bringing it to market soon.

This wouldn’t be the first time that a bi-product of the food industry has been used for food packaging at Waitrose. The retailer is already using vine leaves produced as a by-product of tomato growing to make baskets for its private brand Waitrose Duchy tomatoes.

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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.