Edible packaging: Interview of David Edwards

Recommendations and views of CNE on environmental claims concerning product packaging
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CNE’s position on the comparisons of environmental impacts of packaging made from different materials.
Nov 2012

Edible packaging: Interview of David Edwards

At a time when “edible packaging” is being increasingly talked about on blogs, Henri SAPORTA, Chief Editor of Emballages Magazine (Packaging Magazine) met one of the pioneer research scholars in the field.


35_Pic01Is it really about packaging or part of the product?

Technical innovation can still develop before we can find a proper name for it.

Conseil National de l’Emballage (French Packaging Council)

In “Le Laboratoire” (the laboratory) located in the heart of Paris, David Edwards is currently developing WikiCells, food that can be eaten with its packaging. The American researcher is anything but a beginner: for instance, with the designer Philippe Stark, he designed the Wa/hh Quantum Sensations, a spray that makes you feel inebriated without the side effects of alcohol, as well as the Whif and the Aeroshot. WikiCells has just been awarded the Grand Prix SIAL Innovation. Emballages Magazine has met David Edwards, a scientist who wants to invent the food of the future.



Henri Saporta: How did you come up with the idea of WikiCells?

David Edwards: It dates back to several years. I am a professor at Harvard University in the United States. There, in 2008, I made my students work on the biological cell and the transportation of water. This research helped discover the CellBag concept, a kind of flask made up of a biological envelope developed with the Wyss Institute. CellBag was presented in November 2011. With CellBag, the idea was to extend the principle to all food products.

This was implemented through the WikiCells project, according to which the content and the container are inseparable like an egg and its shell or a coconut. We have worked with the designer François Azambourg to create WikiCells. Several patents were filed for this technology.


HS: How do you obtain WikiCells?

DE: The principle is to package food products in an eatable wrapper made up of microparticles of the product. It is possible to make ice cream, yogurt, cheese but also sodas and alcoholic beverages. The process is adapted to solid, pasty, liquid and even emulsion products. The package is made directly in a machine that we are currently developing to make big and small series. We could also create vending machines. Food can be preserved for about 15 days in a refrigerated environment. In order to ensure food hygiene, WikiCells are protected by biodegradable outer packaging made with tapioca or bagasse.


HS: Will WikiCells be available soon?

DE: We are opening a WikiBar to make the consumers taste the products. We have settled in the heart of Paris in a place called “Le Laboratoire”. This space, open to the public, is dedicated to R&D. It should open at the beginning of next year. Last September, our financial partners granted us 10 million dollars to develop WikiCells.


HS: Why did you settle in France?

DE: France is a more favorable environment to develop projects dealing with food and taste than the United States. Moreover, my wife is French and my children go to school in Paris.