Sustainable packaging materials for processed fruits and vegetables in East Africa: A case study of Nairobi, Kenya
Packaging of processed fruits and vegetables contributes to reducing food waste and maintaining nutritional quality yet, at the same time, excessive use of packaging material creates environmental challenges. The purpose of this paper is to explore the views of different stakeholders including food processors and consumers on sustainability of different packaging materials used with several processed fruit and vegetable products available in East Africa. Four focus group discussions (FGD) and 14 key informant interviews were conducted in Nairobi, Kenya.
Thematic analysis was performed and consumer and processor views were categorized into eight themes: packaging material; communication; pack size; protection and preservation; convenience; price aspects; sustainability; and novelty and innovation. The results show that the issues of “packaging material” and “communication” on the packaging were most important. It became apparent that different understandings of the terms “sustainability” and “bio-degradable” exist, that “re-use” is seen as a normality, not necessarily as sustainable, and that there exist uncertainties about a package being “disposable”, “recyclable” and “reusable”. One major challenge for sustainable packaging appears to be how to communicate to stakeholders the concepts of sustainability and its benefits.
Overall, challenges in identifying and communicating sustainable packaging and ways to improve the sustainability of different product categories were found. The qualitative analysis recognised areas for further research using quantitative methods to find solutions for local plastic recycling and testing local sources for biodegradable packaging alternatives. Research is needed to potentially improve food packaging both for producers and consumers in East Africa.