Finnish food packaging firm Huhtamaki is planning to test a pilot version of a renewable fibre-based ready meal packaging in the UK, as part of the development of an alternative to existing plastic ready meal trays.

The fibre-based packaging is being tested with two Italian style ready meals at an undisclosed UK retail chain.

Developed by a three-party consortium, including Huhtamaki, Södra and Saladworks, the new tray is designed to serve as an alternative to black plastic packaging, which poses problems for the waste processors’ lasers that identify materials for recycling.

"As the demand for ready meal consumption is on the rise throughout Europe, companies are focusing on sustainable solutions."

As the demand for ready meal consumption is on the rise throughout Europe, companies are focusing on sustainable solutions.

Huhtamaki Fresh project manager Steve Davey said: “We hope this novel solution will be well received and that this project will be a tipping point for the adoption of bio-based packages in this segment. We know that alternatives based on renewable materials are needed.”

Made using Durapulp, the packaging is suitable for sensitive substances, such as food and designed in view of the demand for alternatives to plastic packaging.

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The consortium developed the renewable packaging concept with financial support from the European Union (EU), and the project is expected to continue until 2020.

In a separate development, Huhtamakihas acquired a 70% stake in Irish paper cup manufacturer Cup Print Unlimited Company for €22m.

The deal will allow Huhtamaki to have better access to the growing market of short-run custom-printed cups and also scale up its online commercial activity.

Additionally, the short run capability will enable the company to offer improved support to its customers’ promotional activities.