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Advanced biomaterials for smart food packaging


Develop bio-based materials with new functionalities for food packaging. The new materials need to provide the following objectives:

  • Prove performances at least equal to existing, comparable packaging materials in terms of mechanical properties and temperature resistance or in terms of liquid/oxygen/UV/CO2-barriers or antimicrobial activity.
  • In order to improve end-of-life options:
    • provide biodegradable or compostable alternatives; or
    • provide mono-material (easily recyclable) alternatives while matching the same properties (e.g. barrier) of existing multi-material ones.

Proposals should address a small number of well-focused applications, identifying the benchmark products to prove the better characteristics of the developed materials.

Proposals should include the direct link with end-market actors to provide clear requirements of the developed products and materials. Proposals should comply with existing legislation for food contact.

For specific applications, biodegradable packaging should be the preferred route. Design for recycling at end-of-life must be part of the early development stages for non-biodegradable packaging material.

The projects should cover any Technology Readiness Level (TRL) from 3 to 5. In the case of a pilot scale project (TRL 5), proposals should present a credible cost estimate for the proposed processes with a preliminary assessment of their competitiveness when scaled up. The new bio-based material should be at a competitive price to enable subsequent downstream steps for the production of films and flexible food packaging to suit market applications.

Proposals should also include an environmental and socio-economic assessment, for example with an LCA. In particular, when targeting TRL 5, proposals should include an LCA in order to evaluate the environmental and socio-economic performance of the developed products, with particular focus on the end-of-life phase.

It is considered that proposals with a total eligible budget in the range of EUR 2-5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals with another budget.

Bio-based packaging materials with advanced functionalities are gaining ground as compared to traditional paper bags and board boxes and fossil-based plastic containers, films, wrappers and bottles. Users in the end-markets are increasingly demanding advanced, 'smart' and even 'active' packaging to help increase the shelf-life of food. Improved characteristics like barrier to oxygen and UV, physical strength, resistance to temperature variations can help reaching these goals. Society and users are also demanding to improve end-of-life options for packaging material (such as being biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable).

The interest in new and smart food packaging is increasing by both brand owners and consumers. The latter group is vesting more interest in healthy food and in functional food in its quest for a longer and healthy life. Brand owners are seeking to gain marketing edge by taking leadership in meeting these needs in their respective fields. The challenge is to convert these market developments into a sustainable supply of useable material with functionalities that will outperform existing packaging materials while assuring consumer confidence by addressing safety concerns.

A key challenge for ensuring market uptake and realising the full potential impact of bio-based materials useable in new food packaging concepts is to prove their ability to meet market demand. The hurdle of a significant 'first mover' risk must be taken by providing a proof of concept of their successful and sustainable production. Establishing such new value chains requires bio-based (manufacturing) industries to seek a closer cooperation with market actors to understand the specific market demands, and with biomass feedstock producers and suppliers to ensure the long-term supply of the required sustainable feedstock for the desired bio-based materials.

  • Improved mechanical and/or functional properties of the developed packaging products in a specific field as compared with state-of-the-art.
  • In case the project focuses on biodegradability or compostability: contribution to fulfilling the European objective of reducing the recyclable content in landfilled waste down to the targets as per the EC’s Landfill Directive, by showing reduction in landfilling as end-of-life option for packaging material as compared to baseline. Biodegradability other than under industrial conditions should also be considered.
  • Reduction of costs, on a life cycle analysis basis, as compared to on-market materials.
  • In case the project focuses on the preservation of food products: Increase of at least 10% of the shelf-life of the targeted products.
  • Opening new markets for new applications of biodegradable materials.
  • Contribution to the BBI JU Key Performance Indicators (KPI), specifically:
    • Creation of at least 1 new cross-sectorial interconnection in bio-based economy clusters (KPI 1).
    • Set the basis for the creation of at least 1 new bio-based value chain based on the innovative products developed (KPI 2), new bio-based materials (KPI 5), and for new demonstrated consumer products based on bio-based chemicals and materials (KPI 6), or significantly improve the production process of existing ones.