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New competitor to plastics? Stonyfield samples edible packaging

Would you like a side of edible packaging with your fries? Sure, that sounds bizarre at the moment, but some believe that give it a couple of years, the concept of edible packaging will have gained some big momentum in the packaging industry.

Would you like a side of edible packaging with your fries? Sure, that sounds bizarre at the moment, but some believe that give it a couple of years, the concept of edible packaging will have gained some big momentum in the packaging industry.

The latest example of this: Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls. In a blog article, the company calls this latest packaging innovation the "best invention to hit the frozen aisle since sliced bread. Ok really - they're WAY tastier than sliced bread. And more fun too."

This March, in collaboration with Cambridge, MA-based Wiki Foods Inc., the company is testing Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls at four Whole Foods stores in the Boston, MA area.

The Pearls' natural skins are crafted with organic fruit using the WikiPearl technology. The idea behind the edible packaging technology is to allow individuals to eat and transport food without plastic. (In numerous interviews with the national media, Harvard professor and Wiki Foods founder David Edwards has said that he wants to "move consumers out of the plastic era.")

The ingredients in the skin interact with each other in way that creates a solid outer layer that's less permeable to air than something like simple chocolate layer would be, Stonyfield said. This allows them to be washed, carried and handled without being damaged all while keeping the froyo safe inside.

"We've long dreamed of the day that after you eat the yogurt, you eat the cup too. Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls are the next step in our evolution. No spoon needed, just a delicious bite of beautifully crafted organic frozen yogurt served without any container.  Re-imagine all the ways you can eat your favorite organic dessert - in the car, on the beach, with the kids at the park - no spoon, no waste, no limits," said Stonyfield Co-founder and Chairman Gary Hirshberg.

Now have no fear, PP, PE, PET, HDPE. As of now, stores aren't equipped to sell an item that is packaged-free. Shoppers must by the buy Frozen Yogurt Pearls either in pre-packed cellulose bags made from wood fiber in the frozen aisle, or over the counter at Wikibars where they can be placed directly in shoppers' bags, egg cartons or in any container people bring in. 

However, Stonyfield and WikiFoods are working with retailers to design package-free solutions for the near future - "at that point, frozen yogurt fans will be able to find them in bulk at a fixed station or in a self-service dispenser, free of any unnecessary packaging and waste," the company said.

For their first-to-market test, Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls can be found exclusively at Whole Foods Market Fresh Pond (Cambridge), River Street (Cambridge), Charles River Plaza in Boston, and the new Lynnfield store.

Sure, edible packaging is a novel idea, but there are several issues with it: contamination, functionality, long-term stability, and pricing. While it might work as a somewhat cool marketing item for frozen yogurt, I don't see it overtaking traditional materials for items such as raw meat or bulk products like cereal. 

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