$10m invested for edible packaging technology

A company has invested $10m to launch a food packaging technology that could finish the need of plastic containers.

WikiCells Designs encloses food or drinks in similar ways to the natural skins that protect fruits such as grapes, apples, oranges or coconuts.

It has a membrane made of charge particles (of edible substances) bound by electrostatic forces; this surrounds a liquid, foam or solid food and is then wrapped in an edible or biodegradable hard shell.

Robert Connelly, the chief executive officer of WikiCell Designs and co-founder, said they had demonstrated products including mousses, juices and even solids like vegetables.

He added: “We are likely to launch products with partners who have well known branded products and directly to consumers on our own.

“It is not confirmed yet what those products will be but we will be in a limited market testing and entry starting this winter with ice cream, cheeses and yoghurts”.

He said it was far too early to discuss the location of the products’ production in what quantities but more will be revealed by the end of the year.

WikiCells Designs has already announced this week that it had closed a deal with Flagship Ventures and Polaris Venture Partners and plans a full global market launch by the end of 2013.

The company said Noubar Afeyan of Flagship Ventures and Terry McGuire of Polaris Venture Partners will join the board.

Dreamt up in 2009 by Professor David Edwards, a biomedical engineer from Harvard University, the technology has already been demonstrated for ice cream, yoghurt, cheese, mousse, soup, juice and cocktails this year.

Edwards identified stability issues with room temperature but Connelly said they had made significant progress, particularly for refrigerated products.

He said: “There is still room for further development and we expect to be at a point where the stability and overall technology can be scaled for mass production, shipment and storage within a year”.

The WikiCell product was developed through Edwards, designer Francois Azambourg, Wyss Institute director and Harvard professor Don Ingber, and a group of designers and scientists at Le Laboratoire, Paris.

The edible packaging technology allows the transportation of food without the need for plastic containers which can also be washed at certain times.

Connolly continued: “In some consumer acquisition settings we will require an outer “shell” which will protect the inner from contamination and damage.

“But this can also be completely biodegradable since the WikiCell packaging prevents the food or beverage from touching the outer shell and this prevents the food and beverage from being touched by the outer shell or anything else”.

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