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Sometimes new innovations sound more like a plot from a Science Fiction movie. For instance, one Harvard scientist is hoping people will take their package and eat it, too. Harvard scientist David Edwards, who also developed inhalable chocolate, inhalable caffeine and a tuberculosis vaccine in the form of a spray, has developed a new edible packaging technology that allows individuals to eat and transport food without plastic. Called WikiCells, the packaging encloses food and liquid in an edible membrane.

Heather Caliendo

March 5, 2012

2 Min Read
Is edible packaging the next competitor to plastic?

Sometimes new innovations sound more like a plot from a Science Fiction movie. For instance, one Harvard scientist is hoping people will take their package and eat it, too. 

Harvard scientist David Edwards, who also developed inhalable chocolate, inhalable caffeine and a tuberculosis vaccine in the form of a spray, has developed a new edible packaging technology that allows individuals to eat and transport food without plastic. Called WikiCells, the packaging encloses food and liquid in an edible membrane.

tumblr_m09ol6dGNb1qzv12bo1_500.jpgEdwards drew his inspiration for the bottle, based on how "nature creates bottles," citing grapes as an example of one of nature's "bottles." WikiCells imitate such natural packaging by enclosing food and liquid in an edible membrane. The membrane, which is comprised of a charged polymer and food particles, is in turn protected by a hard shell which can be broken away much like that of an egg.

Edwards and his team have developed a variety of different platforms for WikiCells that can be served as meals, drinks and snacks, including a tomato membrane containing gazpacho soup that can be poured over bread; an orange membrane filled with orange juice that you can drink with a straw; smaller grape-like membrane holding wine; and a chocolate membrane containing hot chocolate.

"In the near term, we will be encountering WikiCells in restaurant settings," he said in a statement. After that, Edwards plans to expand WikiCells to specialty stores and supermarkets. Eventually, he hopes to develop a product platform for WikiCells that would allow individuals to produce their own edible bottles.

While there are a couple concerns with this form of sustainable packaging such as contamination, functionality, long-term stability, and pricing, this innovation has generated some noise, so I thought it was appropriate to share.

The idea of edible packaging has been around for a while, however, as far as I know, there hasn't been any that have actually come to market. So, it will be interesting to see if WikiCells starts to hit specialty stores and supermarkets, and what consumer reaction will be. 

Personally, I'm not sure if I would ever be comfortable with eating packaging because it seems like an unnatural activity. It's like a banana peel or orange peel, sure it is technically edible, but do you really want to eat it?

Do you see edible packaging as viable competition to plastic packaging? Why or why not?

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