There were some interesting reports in August about a breakthrough in food packaging. A team of scientists in America have developed an alternative to non-biodegradable, thin, film plastic used to package so much of our food. The new product is derived from a protein called Casein that comes from milk. Now it is still very early days, the product is very much at the testing stage, but their research suggests the new product is not only biodegradable and free from the chemicals used in plastic film but also more air-tight and so better at preserving food. It is also edible although we’ll see just what it might taste like! How long it will take to produce this product commercially is unknown and, of course, just what it will cost will be a huge factor in whether it is eventually used by industry or not. That aside it’s an eye-catching breakthrough and worth keeping an eye on.
Earlier this year I was speaking with a dairy farmer, he’s literally farmed for his entire life, taking over the family farm while still in his teens and now hoping one of his three sons will do the same with him. He was explaining how he was diversifying his herd that has always been pure dairy Holstein Friesians, by introducing Hereford beef cattle and creating a sort of hi-bred. I’m no expert on farming or animals and this surprised me but his reasoning was logical and unsurprising; he simply could no longer make a living from dairy alone. We talked at length about the fall in milk prices in recent times and his inability to provide for himself far less bring one of his sons into the farm on a full time basis. By introducing beef cows to the herd his cows maybe produced less milk but they became more valuable. Simple economics drives farming as much as it does every other business.
I thought of this conversation again last month when I spoke with a client of ours. They produce and supply a vital ingredient to bakeries and other food production businesses. They told that me that since Brexit the price of butter had gone up by around £1,000 a tonne. This surprised me until it was explained most of the butter used in food manufacturing in the UK comes from Denmark and Holland, so the drop in value of Sterling against the Euro made a huge difference. The irony that dairy farmers were leaving the industry whilst the price of butter soared wasn’t lost on me.
Like all innovation using it early gives a commercial advantage. In a sea of ‘me-too’ brands the brand with the clever new sustainable packaging has a story to tell over its rivals for a short time at least. That this might also help rejuvenate struggling dairy farms is a happy coincidence.
You can read more about dairy based cling film here.