If Willy Wonka were a hiker, imagine what kind of backcountry food he might dream up. Self-contained meals in edible packages? Dissolvable, single-serve coffee balls? Those fantastical-sounding products soon could be a reality. Several companies are developing packaging that eliminates waste—a possible boon for backpackers seeking lightweight, eco-conscious products.
“Sustainable design that is both smart and interesting for the user is a trend that is here to stay,” says Anna Glansen, cofounder of TomorrowMachine, based in Sweden. The company’s product line includes a lightweight, self-cleaning plate that would eliminate dishwater in backcountry settings, as well as edible containers for rice and cooking oils.
Some common household items, such as dishwasher and laundry detergent, already use a related technology for packets that dissolve in water. Monosol, an Indiana-based company that specializes in water-soluble packaging, is experimenting with wrapping instant oatmeal and coffee—two backpacking favorites—in its VivosFilm. Although those products aren’t yet available to consumers, “Benefits include reduced weight…and eliminating packaging waste as the primary package is consumed,” says Monosol’s Sumeet Kumar, who specializes in global business development.
The sky might be the limit when it comes to eventual uses of sustainable, edible food packaging, and at least one backpacking company has given the possibilities some serious thought. David Koorits of Good To-Go, a manufacturer of dehydrated backpacking food based in Kittery, Maine, says he has researched corn-based plastics for packaging meals. A lack of heat resistance has been a challenge to date, but Koorits says Good To-Go will continue to consider new, sustainable technologies—maybe even edible packaging.
“People who are active in the outdoors are most often also conscience of the environment,” he says. “The more we tailor to that, it’s beneficial to our customers.”