Italian packaging research company Innovation Utility Vehicle (IUV) has announced a new edible-biodegradable coating which will prolong the life of food without the need for plastic packaging. It developed the coating to replace plastic packaging in the food and beverage sector; the company aims to expand to other markets in the future.

The company said its coatings are made using natural, sustainable, low-cost components. The coatings have the potential to incorporate products providing health benefits for consumers.

IUV managing director Cosimo Maria Palapoli told Packaging Gateway: “The coating is colourless, odourless, and tasteless. For the purposes of European legislation, edible coatings are not – in the food industry – packaging, but a substitute for synthetic preservatives.

“Therefore, in a broad sense, it improves the overall quality of the product in terms of life, taste, aroma, and colour. It is also able to reduce transport costs in the case of exports, guaranteeing savings for those working in the sector.”

The coatings are made by thickening a liquid formula using food waste.

Palapoli said: “Our technology, applied as an edible coating, starts as a liquid formula. Therefore, by repeatedly dipping the food in sequenced tanks, it is possible to stratify and make the liquid adhere as a multilayer film.

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“We are able to trap and solidify food liquids in advance. The advantage of this lies in the possibility of being able to break down the use of plastic as the technology uses sources of mainly vegetable and natural origin. In a few words: plastic-free.

“The liquid formula is thickened through waste materials, such as residues from the processing of cereals, fruit, and vegetables. The waste materials can be extruded to obtain films dedicated to the packaging of dry food products such as flour, coffee, cocoa, tea, sugar, pasta, snacks, and single-portion biscuits; or even stationery items such as Post-it notes.”

IUV is currently focusing on the food and beverage sector but aims to soon use the Columbus’ Egg technology in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and fashion markets.