London-based graduate Solveiga Pakstaite has created Bump Mark, a packaging label for food that decays at the same rate as the produce inside of it, alerting users as to when food is past its use-by date.
The tactile label is made using gelatine, which is layered over a bumpy plastic sheet. While the gelatine is fresh it retains a solid, jelly-like form, but as it decays, it slowly turns to liquid – allowing the plastic bumps underneath it to protrude.
Because gelatine is a protein, it breaks down at the same rate as many protein-based foods, such as meat and fish. "The label simply copies what the food in the package is doing, so the expiry information is going to be far more accurate than a printed date," says Pakstaite.
More than nine in 10 Americans discard food prematurely, largely due to misleading expiration labels, according to a study by the Natural Resources Defence Council and Harvard Law School in the US.
While the patent-pending design is currently only in prototype form, Bump Mark offers a more intuitive solution for detecting food freshness, as well as providing a user-friendly design for visually impaired consumers.
For further insight into strategies for alleviating food waste, see Rebranding Budget, and for a broader view of the implications, see our coverage of Food Vision 2014. For more on waste-reducing packaging solutions, see Packaging Futures: Sustainability, Shape-Shifting Packaging and Packaging to Survive Modern Life.