Can Bumpy Labels Reduce Food Waste?

Innovation in food labelling could extend shelf life

Market tests are being carried out on an innovative new label that could revolutionise the way we tell food has gone off, helping to reduce the amount of food waste we generate here in the UK.

A growing issue

Food waste is a significant problem in Britain, with over 7 million tonnes of household food being disposed of annually. This is a huge issue, both from an economical and environmental perspective, costing the average household around £500 per year and generating carbon emissions equivalent to a quarter of the cars on our roads.

There are a number of factors that contribute to the issue of food waste, one of which is UK food labels. Consumers often get confused over the meaning of ‘use-by’ and ‘best-before’ dates, and this, along with unclear or contradictory storage instructions, leads to a lot of food being thrown away unnecessarily.

An innovative solution

Foodtech start-up Mimica has come up with an innovative solution to the food waste problem, creating a ‘bumpy’ label that lets customers know when food is no longer safe to eat.

The Mimica Touch label is described by its inventors as “a biologically accurate food expiry indicator calibrated to experience decay at the same rate as food.” Using a special gelatine-based gel that is designed to deteriorate at the same rate as the food that’s inside, the label develops bumps when the product reaches the end of its shelf life, allowing customers to easily determine if their food has gone off and is ready to be discarded. The tactile nature of the label means that it can also be used by visually impaired shoppers.

Commercial trial

Mimica has teamed up with dairy co-op Arla to test the new label on a selection of dairy products and run a series of consumer tests in the UK. If these garner positive results, then the Mimica Touch label will be rolled out commercially for the very first time. Further trials with a cooked ham supplier are also planned for later this year.

It’s worth pointing out that it is a legal requirement for dairy products to display use-by information, and any products involved in the test or rollout would still need to carry these details alongside the Mimica Touch label. However, Mimica founder Solveiga Pakstaite maintains that the label will still help to extend a product’s shelf life.

Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Pakstaite explained, “At the moment, supermarkets use ‘worst-case scenario’ dates because they are not able to track exactly what temperatures food travels at in the supply chain and, on some occasions, accidents happen and food is kept at a higher temperature than required.”

”In most cases, the worst case scenario never comes, and so with the Mimica Touch, we would allow supermarkets to display the longer ‘expected date’ because if something does go wrong, then the label will turn bumpy and the product can be pulled off the shelf. By bringing in a biologically-accurate indicator, more often than not it will prove that our food lasts a lot longer than we think it does, and this has the potential to reduce enormous amounts of food waste.”

As market leaders in the labelling world we are always keen to embrace any innovations that could be of benefit to our clients and their end customers. And with tackling food waste a key priority for companies, governments and citizens alike, we are hopeful that this new technology can provide an effective solution to this ever-pressing issue.