BioActiveMaterials – Sustainable and biobased packaging materials for safe food products

In the BioActiveMaterials project concepts are being developed to replace conventional, mineral oil-based and non-recyclable food packaging with biobased multilayer composites. These new materials should show suitable barrier values against oxygen, water vapour and mineral oils. Furthermore, they should have antioxidant and antimicrobial properties in order to additionally protect the packaged food as well as the packaging itself.

Three research partners (KCPK, Fraunhofer IVV, Fraunhofer IGB) and two industrial associations (IVLV, Wereld van Papier) are working together on the Cornet project, which is funded by the BMWi. The affiliated User Committee consists of small and medium-sized enterprises from Germany and the Netherlands.

Objectives: Less food waste, sustainable food packaging materials

Edible coatings can prevent premature spoilage or dehydration of fresh foods.

Packaging protects food and thus helps to reduce food waste. On the other hand, it also requires materials for production and has to be disposed of after use. Therefore, there is a great need to replace conventional mineral oil-based food packaging with biobased materials while still ensuring the safety of the packaged goods.

The goal of the BioActiveMaterials project therefore is to reduce food waste while using more sustainable packaging raw materials. The basic material will be paper. Biobased coatings give it new functionalities, which opens up additional application possibilities as a packaging material.

Schematic structure of the biobased multilayer laminates for food wrapper.
Schematic structure of the biobased multilayer laminates for sealable pouches.

Solution: Biobased coatings with antioxidant and antimicrobial properties

wrapping paper
© Fraunhofer IGB
Coated and printed wrapping paper with barrier properties.
coating dispersion
© Fraunhofer IGB
Production of the wax-containing coating dispersion.

In the BioActiveMaterials project, active coatings were developed on paper and, from these, initial demonstrators of typical packaging materials (sealed bags, wrapping paper). In addition to the functionality of the coated papers, their recyclability was also investigated.

Functional properties by combining protein layers and waxy coatings

At Fraunhofer IGB, we have developed various biobased coatings that provide a barrier to oxygen, water vapor and mineral oils as well as possessing antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. For this purpose, combinations of different protein layers and waxy coatings containing natural waxes such as carnauba, beeswax or candelilla wax as well as natural antioxidants were investigated. The latter serve to stabilize the films and can provide additional protection of the packaged goods through their antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.

Long-term stable dispersions for production of homogeneous coatings

For the production of homogeneous coatings, protocols were developed for the formulation of long-term stable and easily processable aqueous dispersions. Papers coated with these dispersions were produced on a pilot coating line of the project partner.

Effective barrier to oxygen, water vapor and mineral oils  

The investigation of the barrier properties of the best combinations showed 5 cm³/(m²*d*bar) for the oxygen transmission rate and 500 g/(m²*d) for the water vapor transmission rate. A good barrier effect was measured with regard to mineral oils.

Printing on the coated papers is possible.

Long-term resistance to water, on the other hand, is not yet given; further optimization is necessary for this.

Alternative: Edible coatings by spraying  

Alternatively, the wax-containing dispersions developed could also be applied directly to foodstuffs – as edible coatings. This is to be investigated in further joint efforts.

Project information

Project title

BioActiveMaterials – Sustainable and biobased packaging materials for safe food products


Project duration

April 2018 – March 2020


Project partners

  • Kenniscentrum Papier en Karton (KCPK), Sanne Tiekstra, Netherlands
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB, Dr. Michaela Müller, Germany
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV, Martina Lindner, Germany
  • Wereld van Papier, Tanja Storm, Netherlands
  • Industrievereinigung für Lebensmitteltechnologie und Verpackung e.V. (IVLV), Gabriele Gedik, Germany


We would like to thank the German Federal Ministry for Ecomic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and the Arbeitsgemeinschaft industrieller Forschungsvereinigungen (AiF) for funding the project "BioActiveMaterials" within the AiF CORNET program.