"There’s no doubt about it. People’s views of packaging are changing," says Mark Barthel (left), special advisor on retail innovation for the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which aims to reduce packaging and food waste, and encourage recycling.

"As retailers, bakers and their customers become increasingly aware of their environmental footprint, the economic and environmental opportunities presented by packaging innovation are becoming increasingly apparent."

He continues: "Packaging optimisation - the process of designing out unnecessary materials - is one area of focus. Less materials mean lower material costs, less packaging for customers to dispose of and the saving of precious space in landfill sites. Often, it also reduces energy consumption. Not surprisingly, interest in packaging optimisation is gathering pace, as more retailers commit themselves to packaging reduction targets."

WRAP’s retail team was formed to work with the industry to reduce the amount of packaging and food waste that ends up in household bins.

The Courtauld Commitment, made with food manufacturers and larger bakery producers, seeks to reduce the 6.2 million tonnes of food thrown away by UK homes each year. In late 2006, Northern Foods joined up to the agreement.

"Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the impact that their lifestyle choices and purchasing decisions have on the environment and are looking to the products they buy to help them reduce their environmental footprint," added Barthel.