Flat-pack fusilli? ‘Shape-shifting’ pasta developed to reduce packaging

By Flora Southey contact

- Last updated on GMT

'Flat-pack' pasta enables manufacturers to use more efficient packaging and maximise box space, say researchers at the Hebrew University. GettyImages/JacobVanHouten
'Flat-pack' pasta enables manufacturers to use more efficient packaging and maximise box space, say researchers at the Hebrew University. GettyImages/JacobVanHouten

Related tags: Pasta

Researchers in Israel have developed ‘pre-programmed’ pasta that transforms into popular shapes when boiled in water.

Food manufacturers can be more efficient in packaging their products. According to a recent study conducted by Forbes Insight, and commissioned by display manufacturer DS Smith, 25% of what companies ship worldwide is inefficiently utilised empty space.

From an environmental perspective, inefficient packaging accounts for 122m tonnes of CO2 per year. Looking at the bottom line, the study suggests that eliminating empty space in packaging has the potential to save approximately $46bn annually.

A team of researchers have been working on this exact issue within the dried pasta space, conscious that a lot of inefficiently used space exists in boxes of dried macaroni or farfalle – otherwise known as ‘bow tie’ pasta.

Their solution is a technique for pasta manufacturing that enables shapes to be ‘pre-programmed’, meaning they are made as flat sheets, but become a specific shape in boiling water.

In so doing, the pasta sheets can be packaged in smaller-volume boxes. ‘Flat-pack’ pasta enables manufacturers to use more efficient packaging and maximize box space, they noted.

“Our shape-shifting pasta technology has the potential to transform the manufacturing, transportation and storage process,” ​said Professor Eran Sharon from the Hebrew University Racah Institute of Physics, Faculty of Science, who led the project alongside Dr Ido Levin from the same institute.

“The potential of this technology is immense, and I look forward to seeing it outside of the lab ‘wowing’ consumers and providing a positive impact to consumers and businesses.”

Tech transfer company Yissum is now looking to commercialise the innovation. For Dr Itzik Goldwasser, CEO of Yissum, the global packaging industry is ‘long overdue’ for innovation. “Professor Sharon and Dr Levin’s shape shifting pasta can deliver a creative solution with a major impact.

“The ability to reduce shipping and storage costs, while also adding carbon savings that enable a rebranded pasta as an environmentally friendly choice is a win for everyone involved.

“We’re excited to help this project make the jump from lab to grocery aisle in the near future.”

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