Updated: Jun 12, 2021
You have just completed the perfect dish and you have placed precise control on the cooking time and temperature, the seasoning of your protein is on point. You know very well that the taste is excellent. The completing effort now is to plate the food into the container.
It is important that the food you plated is exactly how it will look like when customer opens the container. If you can almost hear or imagine your customer saying "wow" as they open the food container while you are packing it, then you have probably been successful in displaying your food right.
The right packaging will not only attract your customers but also ensure your food is safe during delivery and safe for consumption.
In the world of “camera eats first”, customers nowadays take pictures of the packaging, the food presentation before even looking for the spoon. The packaging is as important as the food.
In this article, I will be sharing with you all the fundamentals you need to take note of when you are choosing the packaging for your food.
3 Most common materials for food packaging
According to Singapore Food Agency (SFA) regulation, all food packaging in Singapore is required to comply with the safety requirements as stipulated under Regulation 37 of the Food Regulations.
Regardless of the material of the food packaging you choose, the most important step is to identify that the food packaging has this logo to signify that it is safe from any toxic contaminants
Plastics are the most common food packaging around the world. Plastics have the physical property of being durable, lightweight waterproof, and shatterproof. It prevents food from spillage and does not fragment into dangerous shards when dropped.
On top of that, plastic packaging allows food to be properly sealed to prevent possible cross-contamination during the process of delivery.
Do you know plastics are made of long-chain polymers that are chemically linked together? With so many types of plastics packaging available, plastic packaging is the most suitable for the food that you plan to sell?
There are generally 7 types of plastic food containers that are manufactured from various plastic polymers with different heat resistance properties.
PP or polypropylene is the most commonly used plastic for disposable containers.
Summary for Plastic Container
Pros: Strong, durable, relatively cheap. Heat resistance, little care needed when putting hot food. Recyclable.
Cons: Not biodegradable. Bad for environment.
Styrofoam food packaging is made of styrene monomers. In recent years, there is a reduction in the usage of Styrofoam food packaging. As far as I can remember, mainly the mixed vegetable stalls at hawker centres or coffee shops are still using it.
Food sellers are worried that the residues of styrene monomers that are left behind from the manufacturing process would leach into the food when they are placed in the containers. This can cause various health risks.
According to Dr. Wong Kwok Onn from Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority, styrofoam containers are safe to use when used appropriately. Excess oil from fried foods should be drained and any boiling hot foods should be cooled slightly before placing into the Styrofoam containers.
As such, you will realize that most of the styrofoam food packaging is not sealed completely like plastic. On some occasions, you will also realize that the food seller makes a hole at the side of the box. This method is to reduce heat build up in the container.
Summary for Styrofoam Container
Pros: Cheap, lightweight, retain heat or slow down heat transfer for cold food.
Cons: Not biodegradable. Bad for environment, Care has to be taken for extreme hot food. Possible health risk.
The younger generation may not recognize this. One of my first encounters with paper food packaging is this Kachang Puteh. The Kachang Puteh seller simply uses an A4 paper, fold it into a cone that acts as a holder for the food or wrap it up for the customer to take away.
Now, due to the growing awareness of the environmental issue, paper food packaging has been booming alongside the packaging industry. More food retailers are seeking out eco-friendly packaging for their food. Food packaging suppliers are driving innovation to meet the surge of demand.
So, you will be able to find a variety of paper food packaging in the market for all types of food.
Summary for Paper Container
Pros: Cheap, lightweight, biodegradable.
Cons: Relatively more expensive. Not stackable. Can contribute to deforestation. Moisture can damage. Not as durable as plastic.
4 Latest trend of food packaging
The selection consideration of your food packaging for your food does not stop at understanding the characteristic of the food packaging material. It is also important to know the latest trend to give your food a competitive edge in the food industry.
1. Increase portability
The on-the-go packaging trend has increased in popularity in recent years. This trend shows no sign of slowing down. Consumers are sourcing for food options that are easier to grab, hold, eat or carry. The picture above shows some examples of the food packaging that added the portability feature in it.
This design is not only trendy but also reduced the need for an additional carrier.
Transparent food packaging has gained significant adoption across the food industry as consumers are increasingly conscious of what they eat.
Transparent food packaging allows visual authentication of the food. Consumers tend to perceive that the food is of better quality and condition since food sellers are proud to flaunt their food.
Personalizing food packaging acts as brand marketing for your business or the food that you are selling. It allows your food to stand out from the crowd. Beautiful food packaging enhanced the user experience as it facilitates top of mind awareness which is beneficial from a business growth perspective.
Customization can be done by having customized bags, boxes, stickers, gift tags, or attach a card with your messages.
Even though this is an upcoming trend, Personalization can be expensive and it may not be affordable to small food businesses or may not be worth pursuing particularly if it is a big portion of the cost.
From my personal point of view, if you are just starting up as an aspiring home chef, there is no need for you to spend so much time designing your packaging and pay a high price for the food packaging. Concentrating in delivering the basics which is food taste and presentation is what matters to most people.
On the other hand, if you are an experienced home chef who has many followers and clientele, you may want to consider starting brand marketing for your food by customizing your packaging.
Here is a quick tip that you can adopt to personalize your food packaging. You can simply add a QR code that directs your customer to a web page, to collect feedback, or even to engage the customer to buy your food again. This strategy connects your customer and alleviates the customer purchasing experience.
The most critical feature of food packaging is that it should be functional. The meaning of functional for food packaging has grown far beyond just enclosing the food to protect it from contamination or damage during transport. Consumers are expecting the food packaging to maintain the freshness and taste for the food.
The pictures show the food that I ordered during heighten alert. On the left, the rice and all ingredients are packed in a single box. The rice tasted soggy, having absorbed moisture from the gravy. The experience could have been better if it is packed like the food on the right where the rice and the sauce are packed separately.
Food packaging also allow you to place a label on it.
According to SFA, the most crucial information that a home chef should provide is the time stamp. This time-stamp label is to indicate the duration and time that the food is safe for consumption and should be discarded if the duration has elapsed. In view of COVID, we also encourage home chef to indicate that they are fit and is not unwell when preparing the food by writing down their temperature on the label.
In addition, the home chef can also indicate on the food packaging if there is any special request or note stated by the customer during the order. The special request could be an allergy such as no prawn or no nut. By indicating the request of the customer, it shows that you care for the customer’s needs.
The primary purpose of food packaging is for enclosing the food to protect it from contamination or damage during transport. As consumer expectation increases shaped by increased awareness for environment care and global warming, food packaging has evolved as part of brand marketing in the food industry. In general customers do support companies that encourage protection to environment and use more sustainable and recyclable material. However, this often comes at a price.
If you are just starting, my personal recommendation is to use plastic containers as you battle to gain more customer base through the taste and presentation of your food. That's where your effort should be concentrated on. As your profit margin and customer base increases, you can then consider using more environmental friendly packaging.
Here's a local place that you can get all sorts of disposable food packaging.
Thanks for reading as always. We welcome your input, suggestions, or comments below. Let me know if the considerations in this blog are beneficial for planning your home chef business and you would like to know more about a specific meal or dish that you are planning to sell.
You can contact us on WhatsApp for discussion. Whatever your strategy is, Hommyliciouz is on this journey with you and will help you market your food for success.
I grew up with my grandma and one of my favorite times when I was young was in the early morning. I could get out of the house with my grandma patronizing the wet market. She would buy fresh ingredients which she would cook for the day. Her love for her family is poured into the food she prepared daily and can be felt by every generation she cooked for. Now with my own kids, I hope they can grow up being able to enjoy healthy home cook food too. As much as I enjoy cooking for my family, I find it a difficult juggle between my 9 to 5 job and preparing meals for my family. At the same time, at the weekend, I could spend more time cooking and I wish I can share my specialty for other people to enjoy.
I knew that in this digital world that we lived in, there has to be a better way and that’s the motivation for me to start Hommyliciouz .
The objective behind Hommyliciouz is to create a connection among people within communities where the passionate chef could provide fresh, home cook meals that are healthy and affordable.
We truly hope that you can enjoy this platform sharing love through cooking.
CEO of Hommyliciouz
Here are some of the articles that you may be interested in: