NEWS: Waitrose champions new food film made from langoustine shells

18-04-2019

UK up-market retailer Waitrose , part of the John Lewis Partnership, has joined forces with a Scottish biotec company, CuanTec to develop 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 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’s Food Innovation Studio recently. The retailer hopes this new packaging could be used as an alternative to conventional plastic film on some of its fish products in 12-18 months time, including its Duchy brand 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.”

Karen, Graley, Waitrose’s 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.”

According to Cuantec’s website, the company is the first to develop a process to extract chitin, a fibrous substance found in the exoskeleton of arthropods, from langoustine using biological fermentation—rather than chemical means—on an industrial scale. The process uses harmless bacteria and no harsh chemicals. Other advantages of the product include anti-microbial properties and a clear film without the yellow tinge associated with other chitosan products.

Waitrose 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 it has used a bi-product of the food industry for food packaging at its stores. The retailer is already using vine leaves produced as a by-product of tomato growing to make punnets for its Duchy tomatoes.