During COVID, food safety become more important than ever to grocery retailers and their customers. Packaging suppliers responded with new products and a renewed commitment to delivering foods sold in the grocery perimeter that are as safe as they can be.

When the pandemic started, Hartsville, S.C.-based Novolex conducted a thorough review of its procedures that support its food safety compliance, said Tracy Bates, the company’s director of corporate quality. The company found that the stringent food safety procedures and protocols already in place ensured that packaging used for food remained safe for consumers.

“Due to COVID, there is more awareness around food hygiene and the health implications of contagious diseases,” Bates said. “As a result, consumer behavior has adapted, and grocery stores will continue to respond to these new expectations and embrace packaging solutions that prioritize consumer safety and communicate the benefits of doing so.”

Now more than ever – especially with e-commerce - it’s important for food sellers to convey to consumers their food is safe and secure, and one of the easiest ways to deliver on that expectation is by ensuring that packaging demonstrates to the consumer that the food, from the moment it was packaged, has not been compromised.

Grocery retailers and customers have always expected and valued food safety from Novolex packaging products, Bates said. Novolex manufactures food packaging with the highest quality control and food safety processes, and as the company seeks to set the industry standard on food safety, its facilities that produce containers for packaging of items sold in fresh grocery departments are certified to Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI)-recognized food safety standards.

“The certifications require robust food safety programs such as food defense and mandate strong manufacturing practices,” Bates said. “Our certified plants undergo third party audits annually as an external assurance that our food contact products are safe for our customers and their consumers.”

From the onset of COVID to today, consumers are paying more attention to the safety of their food and food packaging, which is evident in the higher number of tamper-evident packaging designs seen in grocery stores. Novolex, Bates said, has a wide variety of tamper-evident solutions for its customers designed for brands to communicate that food is safe and hygienic to consumers.

For example, the company’s Smart-Tab containers, created by its Waddington North America brand, are completely see-through and sealed, allowing customers to display their products to consumers while prominently showing the food has not been accessed since it was packaged. The containers can be used to store anything from nuts and chips to fresh fruit.

In addition, Novolex’s Waddington Europe brand also launched the TamperVisible Hot Fill product line, which is made from recycled materials. In addition to being tamper-evident, these containers can withstand temperatures of up to 185 degrees Fahrenheit, making them a perfect packaging option for soups, pasta, and ready-made meals, Bates said.


Food safety in retail foodservice packaging

Food safety and sanitation has always been the cornerstone of foodservice packaging, including retail foodservice, said Natha Dempsey, president of the Falls Church, Va.-based Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI).

“This industry was built on providing foodservice operators the vehicle to get food and beverages to consumers in a safe and sanitary manner,” she said. “COVID has elevated awareness of this fact.”

Like all food contact packaging, foodservice packaging is required to meet strict FDA standards, and packaging companies are required to comply with those regulations, Dempsey said.

In addition, the top attribute of foodservice packaging is performance. The ability for the package to perform is critical: customers want hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

“When consumers have a bad experience with their restaurant meal, both in the restaurant or takeout eaten at home, it can influence future trips.”

Tamper-evident and tamper-resistant packaging are more important than ever, post-COVID, Dempsey said. Due to the rise in meal delivery, there already had been an influx of packaging with tamper evident and tamper resistant features pre-COVID. These have expanded throughout the pandemic and will likely continue to do so in the future.