Marc Rodríguez Garcia, CTO at Xampla writes…
As a protein scientist, I’m more used to science labs and academic conferences than kitchens and consumer launches. But this week, the first of our products will be shipped to the paying public for the first time. It’s a cookable stock cube wrapper.
Recipe box company, Gousto, is including our product in its deliveries, as part of their package for making Indian Spiced Carrot & Lentil Soup. Where the consumer would previously have taken a stock cube from a plastic or foil wrapper, they will now drop the whole item – wrapping and all – into the soup.
This simple consumer experience is the result of 15 years of Cambridge-based research into the fundamental understanding of how proteins can be shaped into useful materials, such as transparent and flexible films. The result is a completely unique single-use plastic alternative made from common food ingredients such as pea protein.
Following a full year of product development and formulation working closely with Gousto, Xampla’s edible and cookable films are the first plant protein film in the world to go to market. Their potential goes well beyond stock cubes to applications across the food and drink sector. It will mean brands can still give customers the benefits of plastic in protecting the shelf life of a product, without harming the environment.
With 855 billion plastic sachets thrown away each year – enough to wrap the entire surface of the earth – the need for a sustainable replacement could scarcely be more urgent. Most sachets cannot be economically recycled: they end up in landfill or polluting the soils and the seas. Our stock cube wrapping shows the possibility that – for example – the ubiquitous ketchup and mayonnaise sachet could soon become edible alongside its contents. And if consumers don’t cook or eat the sachets, they can simply put them in the food waste bin.
Consumers are increasingly making choices about what they buy based on the sustainability of a product or service. The majority want to reduce their plastic use, and single-use plastics in particular are increasingly unacceptable. In a recent survey, 65 percent of consumers said there aren’t enough plastic-free options on offer for the products they buy, despite trying to avoid plastic packaging where possible. Fully 86 percent try to avoid plastic packaging at least occasionally.
Our mission is to work with the big brands to help them meet this consumer demand. Xampla’s customer-led approach is all about understanding what potential clients need – both to keep their food products fresh and to mesh with existing manufacturing processes.
We are lucky to benefit not just from cutting-edge science and research, but from a team of technical and commercial experts, many of whom have come from the industries Xampla is working with. Each product we develop goes through an in-depth trial and testing process, making sure we prioritise the client’s need and the end consumer’s needs in what we offer.
We refuse to compromise either on consumer experience or on the end of life of our product. Xampla’s packaging will always protect its contents as brands and consumers expect, but will always be made from completely natural or edible materials, which will safely break down if they reach the natural environment.
It has been a pleasure working on this product with Gousto, demonstrating the potential of this technology through stock cubes. The company is a fellow B-Corp, with sustainability at its heart: a recent study by environmental services company Foodsteps showed that dinners from Gousto already produce 23% less carbon emissions than equivalent meals from supermarket stores. Gousto shares our values, and we can use our scientific excellence to help them to deliver their sustainability goals.
COP26 is highlighting just how global the movement away from polluting industries is, and how all countries and industries are engaging in the largest trend of our generation – sustainability. Our launch this week is the first step for Xampla on the road to providing solutions in all sectors to the harm caused by single-use and microplastic.