Single Use Food Packaging

Innovation Practice

In 2018, the Australian government established National Packaging Targets, including a target of achieving 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging by 2025. Mars Food Australia engaged us to redesign one of their products and business model to phase out single use plastic packaging.


Australia's annual plastic production in tonnes


Or less of plastic is recycled


The year by which plastic waste in the oceans is estimated to equal the weight of fish

About the project

A range of food products are sold in single use plastic packaging. Mars Food Australia recognise that this is becoming increasingly unpopular with environmentally-conscious consumers and as a consequence, with their retail partners. Mars approached Asymmetric Innovation to design a product free from single use plastic to better align with these changing consumer preferences, but that would also fit within their current manufacturing and distribution models and would meet their commercial objectives. The key deliverables for this project were prototype products that had been user tested. The products had to be assessed against the company’s manufacturing limitations and meet their commercial viability standards.

The problem

This project was complex for several reasons. We discovered that there were several use cases across many user types, necessitating different solutions to be designed, tested and refined. However, the food company has invested deeply in Australian manufacturing capability, meaning new solutions need to be amenable to their current infrastructure and practices. To design these products required cutting-edge materials science expertise, industrial design support, and value chain and business model knowledge. Successful products could only emerge when these disciplines worked seamlessly together.

The solution

Asymmetric Innovation addressed this challenge through a design-led business model innovation approach. We conducted comprehensive ethnographic research to understand user requirements and worked with technical expertise to design products that met those requirements. We also designed a business model for incorporating the products into Mars Food Australia's suite of products. By working closely with their team and external technical specialists, we delivered four leading candidate products, including alternatives to single use plastics. We also helped the company to build stronger relationships with many of their retail partners. The company is continuing to develop these products and are in discussion with AI to continue working on these products as they roll out.