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Food, meals and packaging

Annika Grälls
The challenge we face is to try to combine exciting and healthy food with environmentally friendly packaging for the growing "eat and go" movement.

Annika Grälls

We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities.

Oscar Wilde

The way we eat has changed. More and more people choose to eat alone in the company of the screen (on the TV, e-reader or computer) rather than together with the family. The dinner as a time when the family gathers and eats together has drastically reduced. Different leisure activities and jobs make it difficult to gather the family at a certain time and a reason for the need to meet has decreased may perhaps be that the screen have replaced some of the social contact. This is odd, although we have more spare time than ever, we do not find time to eat together. Neither do we find the time to cook every day, even though our kitchens never have been more lavish and sophisticated than today.

Meanwhile, food and eating have become a high-profile issue in the construction of each person’s individual trademark. With well-cooked dinners on the weekend and healthy street food during the week, the meal has become an experience that should always be viewed by cyber friends. The goal has instead become to fill the time with the essentials and get the most out of each unit of time as possible. This aspect makes us more susceptible to trouble than before and creates a fear of wasted time that you cannot get back. But also the commercial aspect is included in most things we do. Concepts such as edutainment that combines fun and learning in one; is it the answer to reduce the bad conscience of parents? Then it helps parents to become more popular, creates togetherness and increases children's chances of success - by a combination of pleasure and benefit. Astrid Lindgren's World is a good example of Activity Park where you get to play the tales and the story without reading the books.

The consequence is that the food has moved from its place on the plate at the dinner table to instead be eaten straight from the package - the pizza has long since, by many, eaten right out of the box. More and more meals are eaten in leap on the way to work, on the subway, on the bus, in the car or on foot. The food has evolved from traditional fast food to exciting "street food" with creative heights, although as a metropolitan phenomenon. However, the package that the food is served in has not had the same trend. The market for packaging is dominated by foam packs consisting of the toxic substance polystyrene. In some American cities, such as Washington and New York, they have decided to ban these packs, since the polystyrene is difficult to break down and impossible to recycle. Only in New York is the expanded polystyrene waste about 30 000 tonnes.

The challenge we face is to try to combine exciting and healthy food with environmentally friendly packaging for the growing "eat and go" movement. The food is the part of the movement that has come the farthest, although we in the Nordic countries have not been known for our street food plenty of initiatives in recent years have led to an increase in supply. But also a variety of food that takes into account both ecological and local aspects and which are developed with a large dose of creativity. The packaging industry is in its infancy when it comes to "eat and go". There is a lot of developing to do in order to create innovative food packaging that are environmentally sustainable and economically viable, in other words finding what is economically viable as well as profitable for the environment. Flying industry has substantial problems concerning the waste of plastic disposable items. Through a variety of innovative packaging solutions, maybe we can even create some training - edutainment around the meal.

So you can say that times change and we with them, or is it the other way around?

In the autumn of 2014, the Nordic Council of Ministers invited a group of leading players from across the Nordic Region to discuss their visions for the future of Nordic food. This essay formed part of this initiative #Nordicfood2024