Edible Containers

Restaurant Business is a trade magazine that covers new business, new research, new trends in the restaurant industry. It is often worth a skim if you enjoy eating out, cooking, or the food industry in general.

My Take

Last month, there was a piece that caught my eye because of its implications for user experience. They highlight the great convenience of the packaging on this delicious looking meal of spaghetti with basil and buffalo mozzarella. We have spoken before about why convenience is such a powerful feature. It is amazing how much we will give up in product functionality and efficiency for a little bit of convenience. Face it, we are lazy.

To hold up to the hustle and bustle of New York streets, owner Emanuele Attala and his partners developed a sturdy, no-spill carrier with a lid. The curved sides help guide the strands of spaghetti around the fork, facilitating twirling and lessening the risk of losing even a single caper on the ground, Attala says.

But when I looked at the photo of the product, I didn’t realize that the cone was made out of paper. I thought it was something edible. It got me wondering about some of the food innovations I have been hearing about lately involving edible packaging. It gives you the double whammy benefit of being convenient and eco-friendly.

But there are definite downsides as well. For example,

  • How do you keep it clean? There is no packaging outside the edible packaging to protect it. Plastic can be thrown away so I don’t have that worry (as much).
  • Will it leak? I can imagine having a very thin wrap of starch around my spaghetti and having the red sauce leak through and stain my white shirt. Plastic doesn’t give me that worry (as much).
  • Will the packaging affect the flavor? Studies show that even when food doesn’t affect the pure taste, a change in texture, temperature, mouth feel, and other indirect attributes can affect how the taste is perceived. Plastic doesn’t do that (as much).

So I did a quick search and found several great examples.

I have seen the thin wrapper made of starch or gelatin many times. These tend to have no taste so they don’t degrade from the taste of the food inside. They can also be rinsed so you can eat them clean. Wiki Foods has a wrap with this design for frozen yogurt or fruit. Loliware has a take on this that adds some flavor to the wrapper.

This is where I started getting creative on the packaging for the spaghetti dish. What would be a good complimentary wrapper in terms of taste and texture that would enhance the food, not just make it convenient and eco-friendly? How about a synthesis of the bread bowl with the edible cone? Bread bowls work with soup and garlic bread goes great with red sauce. Now all we need is to formulate our bread cone so that it won’t leak any sauce through the sides, even while walking down the street. Maybe this is where some added starch wrapping would help. If it was served by a waiter with clean hands and taken by a customer with clean hands, the hygiene would be OK. Otherwise, I need some help . . .

Your Turn

Two questions today.

First, is this a good direction to be thinking at all? Can we overcome my concerns about hygiene, leakage, and flavor profile?

Second, any ideas about making my bread cone for pasta work better? Not just the hygiene problem, but overall? I will split the profits with you.

Image Credit: Spaghetti Incident

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