New experimental packaging shown to HRH The Prince of Wales as he opens Waitrose & Partners Food Innovation Studio

Thursday 4 April 2019

Waitrose & Partners has joined forces with Scottish biotec company CuanTec to work on a new film for food packaging made out of waste langoustine shells.

CuanTec - based in Motherwell and Oban -  takes waste langoustine shells created from seafood processing to make a natural polymer - which can then be turned into a flexible film. The material also has the potential to be both industrially and home compostable.

The new packaging, which is at an experimental stage, was shown to HRH The Prince of Wales during a visit to Waitrose & Partners Food Innovation Studio today.

Waitrose hopes the new packaging could be used as an alternative to conventional plastic film on some of its fish products in 12-18 months time, including Waitrose Duchy smoked salmon.

Dr Cait Murray-Green, CEO of CuanTec, said; “For us this technology represents the perfect virtuous circle. As well as protecting food on sale to consumers, it gives value to what would have been a waste product and takes single use plastic out of the food system, meaning that less waste goes to landfill.”

Karen, Graley, Waitrose & Partners packaging manager said; “While we are still at an experimental stage, the potential for this new packaging material is incredibly exciting. Conventional plastic films can’t currently be recycled, reused or composted - so finding an alternative which doesn’t go into landfill would be very significant in helping us reach our target of ensuring that all own label packaging is widely recyclable, reusable or home compostable by 2023.”

Waitrose & Partners was introduced to CuanTec during a pitch day to reduce plastic waste for its JLAB retail innovation programme. JLAB allows the John Lewis Partnership to work with start-ups and more established businesses on exciting new technologies and ideas.

Waitrose & Partners was impressed with the potential of the ‘langoustine shell film’ and is now actively working with the company to test the packaging on some of its food in the hope of bringing it to market soon.

This wouldn’t be the first time that a bi-product of the food industry has been used for food packaging at Waitrose. The retailer is already using vine leaves produced as a by-product of tomato growing to make punnets for its Waitrose Duchy tomatoes.


Waitrose & Partners

Waitrose & Partners is committed to making all its own-label packaging widely recyclable, reusable or home compostable by 2023.  The retailer is already over halfway to achieving its target to remove black plastic from its own label products by the end of this year - 100% of its fresh meat, fish, poultry, fruit and veg has already been removed from black plastic, saving 1300 tonnes every year.  Waitrose & Partners has now removed 5p plastic bags from its shops and will be replacing loose fruit and vegetable bags with a home compostable alternative. Waitrose & Partners was also the first retailer to pledge that all its own label cards, wraps, crackers, tags, flowers and plants will be glitter-free by Christmas 2020.

Cuan Tec

CuanTec Ltd is a Scottish blue biotechnology company. They extract chitin, a naturally occurring biopolymer, from shellfish waste. Using a clean, energy-efficient method, they convert this chitin into chitosan which is used in thousands of applications around the world, many in medical applications. Perhaps most excitingly, they convert chitosan into an antimicrobial, compostable bio-plastic, directly addressing the problems of plastic pollution and food waste in the world.
With operations only starting in 2017, they’ve grown from 3 people in one lab in Biocity outside Glasgow to a staff of 14 and an additional lab facility at the European Centre for Marine Biotechnology in Oban. In terms of the business itself, they have grown a small-scale research operation to large-lab production and look forward to a full production facility very soon.


Waitrose & Partners

Gill Smith,
Senior Manager, Corporate PR,
tel: 01344 825165 or 07887 898133