Sealed Air, Food Safety and Sustainability

A Focal Point interview with Daniel Daggett
Sep 25, 2014 11:10 AM ET

The right packaging can make a big difference in sustainability gains by extending shelf life of perishable food. Sealed Air works to innovate in fresh food packaging, and Daniel Daggett, director of product stewardship and sustainability for the company, will discuss aspects of food safety and packaging at Focal Point 2014: Packaging at the Leading Edge. 

You can hear from Dan and 10 more expert speakers on the latest challenges and solutions in food and beverage packaging and converting.

Dan will present "Food Waste: Science, Solutions, and Perceptions." Ahead of the conference we asked Dan about Sealed Air's food packaging innovation and his own career track that took him from work as a state toxicologist to his current job as VP of Sustainability. 

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WIST: Sealed Air is best known for Bubble Wrap cushioning film but can you tell us some of your products and innovation in performance-based food packaging?

Daniel Daggett: While we may be best known for the iconic Bubble Wrap brand, Sealed Air is a diverse company with about 25,000 employees, sales in 175 countries and $7.7 billion in revenue.   The company has three main divisions, Product Care, Food Care, and Diversey Care.  Our portfolio of widely recognized brands, includes Cryovac food packaging solutions, Bubble Wrap cushioning and Diversey cleaning and hygiene solutions. 

Food packaging is provided by our Food Care division, which serves food and beverage processors predominately in fresh red meat, smoked and processed meats, beverages, poultry and dairy markets worldwide.  We partner with customers to provide integrated packaging and hygiene solutions that consistently deliver food safety, extend shelf life, and optimize total cost to help our customers enhance their brands in the marketplace.  Our solutions incorporate equipment systems that are frequently integrated into customers’ operations, consumables such as advanced flexible films, absorbent materials and trays.  The Cryovac brand, has a long history of providing innovative products to the market that minimize waste. From the very earliest products that employed barrier technology, such as Barrier Bags, to more recent meal portion packs, such as Simple Steps, or resealable packs such as Multi-Seal, Cryovac products work to minimize or prevent waste across the supply chain. In addition, packaging systems that minimize the need to re-wrap products such as Saddle Pack or that deliver more product out of the package such as Vertical Pouches, can reduce the food waste associated with consumer handling.

WIST: Sealed Air’s VP of Sustainability has committed to reducing food waste. Can you briefly describe some of the initiatives underway to help meet this commitment?

Daniel Daggett: Food waste is a significant problem that touches all aspects of sustainability; environmental, social, and economic.  At least 40% of food produced around the world is wasted before it’s eaten.  However, it’s a problem that can be solved since much of this waste could have been avoided either by food producers, retailers or consumers.  Sealed Air is working hard to provide solutions by focusing on the key areas of protection, freshness preservation, portioning, convenience, and monitoring.

In terms of protection, obviously packaging systems that provide a barrier can prevent spoilage and extend shelf life.  For example, new ultrathin flexible packaging films that block the transmission of oxygen, allow fresh meat products to increase shelf life from less than a week to 21 days or more. 
Freshness can be extended by using packaging to change the environment around a packaged, perishable food, the freshness of that food can be preserved for a longer time while eliminating food additives that work to stabilize food.  Food waste can also be minimized through portion packaging that allows food to be easily separated for variable food quantity demands while giving consumers flexibility to preserve remainders in unopened portions or re-closeable packages. 

Packaging can help make meals more convenient while reducing food waste.   The emergence of partially or fully prepared packaged meals provides a high level of consumer convenience but, more importantly, reduces the food waste associated with meal preparation. 

Finally, packaging systems are emerging that can be integrated with monitoring technologies to ensure the supply chain conditions have been managed to preserve product freshness.  Our TempTrip temperature monitoring solutions use patented RFID technology that allows for monitoring the temperature of packages during distribution and storage.  This technology is being used by retailers to identify and solve problems in the supply chain that can cause food waste.

WIST: You have an interesting career track, which has taken you from work as a toxicologist in a regulatory environment for the state of Wisconsin to your current role as a director of product stewardship and sustainability in the private sector. Can you tell us a little about how you made that transition and what drew you to your sustainability work?

Daniel Daggett: I started out as a Wildlife Management major at UW – Stevens Point, but transitioned to Biology and Chemistry after my freshman year.  I was naturally drawn to understanding biological systems, what keeps them thriving and how they can be disrupted by toxicants or pollutants.  That led me to UW – Madison, where I earned a Ph.D. in Environmental Toxicology while studying the effects of heavy metals on biological systems.  Although I had several opportunities to continue laboratory work, I wanted to apply my learnings directly to improving the environment and protecting public health.  For the next five years I was a Toxicologist for the State of Wisconsin, where I helped draft environmental regulations, conduct risk assessments, and educate the public on topics related to pollutants and human health. 

In 2001, I joined Johnson Wax Professional in Racine, WI, where I was responsible for making sure our cleaning products were safe for people and the environment.  Whether working for the Government or for industry, I’ve always used a pragmatic approach to integrate good scientific principles into policies and approaches that were win-win for public health and business.  That approach led me to a corporate sustainability role with JohnsonDiversey in 2006, where I helped the company integrate sustainable practices across our global enterprise. 

Essentially, I’ve been in that role ever since, now with Sealed Air as they acquired Diversey in 2011.  Sustainability leaders aren’t typically toxicologists, but my background in chemistry, systems thinking, consensus building, communication, and technical analysis has been assets in helping organizations solve complex problems in order to help protect lives and the environment.


About The Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology
The Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology (WIST) provides research, laboratory services and education to help businesses and organizations accomplish their goals in ways that make more sustainable use of natural resources. Technology and ideas developed by WIST and its partners will spur economic growth and help preserve a healthy environment for future generations. WIST is a multidisciplinary institute at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point with support from the UWSP College of Natural Resources and the College of Letters and Science.