UPM Raflatac, a sustainable labeling company, says it experienced a 43% e-commerce sales increase and a 15-20% increase in grocery industry sales this year as consumers turned to takeout, food delivery and online grocery shopping, looking for labels with visible safeguards for health and protections for the environment.

"We knew packaging needs would change for our food industry customers given the COVID-19 shopping impact, and we are encouraged to see that sustainability has not taken a backseat," says Kyle Strenski, business director of food, HPC and beverage at UPM Raflatac Americas. "In fact, our 2021 order data shows that sustainable features for food labels are even more important now, as consumers and customers prioritize a more transparent and safe food system. Sustainability does not have to be sacrificed for safety or convenience."

According to Raflatac, the following are 2021 food label and packaging trends:

Tamper-Proof Labels for Contactless Food Delivery Containers, Pizza Boxes and More

Meal takeout and grocery delivery increased approximately 75% during this year, with meal delivery services increasing 70% in March compared to 2019. Food packaging can communicate health and safety practices and tamper-proof labels can provide restaurants, grocers and meal delivery service customers visible proof of responsible handling from preparation to delivery. According to Strenski, all major national food delivery companies and many national food and quick service restaurant chains are now using pressure sensitive labels on food packaging, with some restaurant customers, including Papa John's, advertising the packaging to emphasize a commitment to human health, safety and quality.

Smart Labels Improve Food Safety, Traceability and Inventory Management

U.S. regulators are calling on companies to maintain updated, digital data systems for tracing ingredients, vendor supplies, and inventory throughout the production process. High-tech QR codes and tracking data on shipping and transport labels for food items and supplies help improve inventory management, traceability and a faster response to potential food supply and system issues.

Food Safety Security 

QR codes and data tracking on food labels trace supply chains, vendors, retail destinations and lot codes. Temperature-sensitive thermochromic ink alerts retailers, producers and consumers if a material intended to be cold was outside of acceptable temperatures during transport, delivery or storage. Retailers and grocery customers use this data to ensure product quality and safety.

Increasing Sustainability While Maintaining Performance 

Consumer packaged goods and retailers have committed to an average of 25% recycled content in their plastic packaging by 2025. While a label may account for only 2% of a plastic package's weight, it can be the deciding factor in the material’s recyclability. With the shift to e-commerce and food delivery during COVID-19, some packaging details, including adhesives, ink integrity or label wrappers, are not sustainable. For example, ink quality or clarity on a delivery receipt or seal without temperature resistance means hot temperatures may cause some inks to smudge illegibly, impeding actual delivery, storage or quality. Reusable Plastic Containers (RPCs) contain durable labels that need to be washed off prior to their next use and the adhesive must separate cleanly to prevent potential exposure to bacteria. There are also sustainable labels that still contain non-recyclable plastic backing. Raflatac offers labels that reduce waste and designs that focus on sustainability.

For more information visit www.upmraflatac.com.