Baked goods, meat, frozen food, cooked or prepared meals, seafood, spices, dairy products like cheese, condiments, raw ingredients and take-out food are all stored, sealed, shipped or otherwise enclosed in some variety of packaging at some point between their production and consumption.
A given food product’s properties require amenities and accommodations specific to certain packaging. For example, bananas typically require little more shelter than a cardboard box during shipment, while eggs, because of their fragility and sensitivity to temperature, require softer packaging and refrigerated shipping and storage environments.
Many beverages also require refrigeration and special packaging. Frozen juice, for example, must be able to expand and contract with temperature changes without damaging its packaging. For this reason, a combination of metal and paper-based packaging are often used; this kind of packaging also allows for easy opening by the consumer.
Packaging protects food from damage during shipping, prevents contact with dirt or contaminants and provides a means by which a food product producer can display its brand name, the product’s nutrition facts and other important information. There are many possible materials for use in food packaging.
Glass, aluminum and paper products are commonly used for food packaging. When possible, though, food product producers generally prefer plastic packaging. Plastic packaging is more durable and lightweight than glass; this makes it less expensive to ship and reduces the risk of product loss due to broken packaging. Also, because plastics can be engineered to varying specifications of flexibility, clearness, thickness and many other physical qualities, plastic packaging can be designed to suit the needs of many different food products.
High and low density polyethylene, polyethylene terephthalate, polyvinyl chloride, polypropylene and polystyrene are the most commonly used plastic materials in the fabrication of plastic packaging. Shrink wrap, which is a plastic film, is often used to cover produce in grocery stores. Snacks like candy and gum are often packaged in plastic blisters, and larger prepared food items like cupcakes and confections are often packaged in plastic clamshells that feature molded chambers for each item.