Food packaging is omnipresent in our daily lives, making it possible to better protect food and reduce food waste. However, in the past decade, the packaging industry has experienced strong growth, with some notable evolutions: the increased use of plastics to replace other substrates (partly to better serve the end user) and a strong economic growth in emerging countries. Together with the use of single-use packaging, it causes a substantial environmental impact, and makes the management of packaging waste extremely challenging in terms of recyclability. Consumers and governments are therefore increasingly demanding sustainable packaging, driving companies towards more socially responsible packaging strategies.

During those same ten years, the food industry has also undergone a number of evolutions: an increasing attention to reducing additives in food, less intensive processes, such as mild pasteurisation processes instead of sterilisation processes, etc. These evolutions result in higher quality food with better retention of nutrients and sensory properties, but put pressure on the microbiological and chemical stability. In order to guarantee the required shelf life, a suitable packaging system must be used, both in terms of the type of packaging materials and machines, and in terms of the environmental conditions in which the filling takes place. Such a packaging system must be developed or selected specifically on the basis of the characteristics of the food to be packaged, the storage conditions during distribution, and storage further down the food chain. 

The MSc in Sustainable Food Packaging brings the three domains described above together and addresses the question of how we can keep food safe and preserve it for the required shelf-life using food packaging systems that are sustainable and balance the ecological footprint with ensuring access to high quality food and maintaining profitable food supply chains. This question is part of the larger (international) challenge to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns, by improving environmental and societal sustainability and increasing the circularity in food packaging systems.

Learning outcomes

The MSc in Sustainable Food Packaging delivers experts in sustainable food packaging systems and prepares students to design and/or optimise a food packaging system with a conscious and critical choice of resources and production methods, while at the same time considering the corporate or organisational culture, its mission and vision, and the broad socio-economic context. 

Graduates receive a MSc degree in Sustainable Food Packaging and will be part of a unique international network of specialists in state-of-the-art sustainable food packaging technologies.


The MSc in Sustainable Food Packaging is a one year programme but has a modular structure.

It is divided in five modules, allowing you to spread the programme over several years and study part-time. It does not follow the traditional semester system. Together with online teaching activities and evening classes, it offers you maximum flexibility to combine the programme with a career, family, hobbies, etc. 

You have two or three courses per block which allows you to process the content in a more focused and in-depth manner.
All blocks build upon each other in a logical sequence, but module 2 and 3 are interchangeable. This allows you to complete the programme in two or even three years. 
The exams for these respective courses take place after each modular block.

The full programme can be completed in three different ways:

Module 1
Sept - Oct - Nov

This course deals with the assessment and improvement of the sustainability of processes, products and systems, with a special focus on food and food packaging systems. Attention is paid to how the choice of production technology, ingredients, efficiency, logistics and avoidance of food waste contribute to a sustainable food system, and how far the choice of inputs (resources), process efficiency and avoidance of waste streams and emissions all contribute to sustainable technology.

Other topics include concepts of clean technology, industrial ecology, green chemistry/chemical engineering, pollution prevention and sustainability management.

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This course provides knowledge and insights into three key aspects within food packaging: 1) materials used for packaging focusing on functionality and production techniques; 2) filling machines for food and beverages and 3) filling conditions including hygienic design and guidelines. This course also zooms in on recent advances and trends in food packaging such as in the area of active and intelligent packaging and biobased and compostable packaging.

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Module 2
Nov - Dec - Jan

This course builds on the acquired knowledge from the course ‘Food Packaging Systems’ from a socio-economic perspective and gives students insight into how best put this into practice when developing a packaging strategy. Topics include competitor analysis, packaging supply, communication and branding, packaging strategy analysis, project and stakeholder management, etc.

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In this course the various – microbiological, physiological, chemical and physical – phenomena leading to deterioration of packed foods are discussed, with a special focus on the role of packaging. Topics include basic aspects of food microbiology (microbiological aspects of food preservation with a special focus on how packaging influences the microbial behaviour) and food chemistry (chemical, biochemical and physicochemical processes involved in agricultural raw materials and in foodstuffs, and during the transformation of agricultural raw materials into derived products). Special attention goes to the kinetics of shelf life determining factors.

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Module 3
Feb - Mar

Food contact materials and food packaging materials in particular are not inert. Due to their interaction with the food matrix, substances are migrating from the contact material to the food. This may affect food safety and the sensorial quality of food. In this course, the factors impacting the transfer of substances from the contact material to the food are presented. Various types of materials are included: plastics, elastomers and rubbers, metals, glass, paper and board. There also is a focus on methodological approaches to evaluate the transfer of (volatile and non-volatile) substances from food contact materials, including chemical analytical approaches and the mathematical prediction of the migration from plastic food contact materials using dedicated software.

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The purpose of this course is to provide students with insights into the wide range of physicochemical techniques to process end-of-life food packaging, with a focus on reuse, materials reuse (recycling), energy recovery and disposal. The technical and organisational aspects of waste prevention, transformation and disposal are dealt with from an environmental, legal and economical perspective. Special attention is paid to specific material streams which constitute a challenge in society’s transition towards a circular economy, such as plastic end-of-life packaging. The course aims to empower students to tackle the food packaging and material reuse challenges that today’s and tomorrow’s food industry encounters.

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This is an advanced course on setting up a quality management system, dealing with multiple perspectives of the definition of quality (e.g. safety, customer requirements, sustainability, physical-mechanical characterisation, etc.) towards a Total Quality Management System. Different standards applied in production and trade of food contact materials are discussed (e.g. BRC, ISO). Building blocks in quality management such as traceability, good practices, quality assurance and quality control (including product and process control, sampling plans) are explained. Technical quality of paper, cardboard and plastic packaging materials/concepts are studied hands-on.

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Module 4
Apr - May

This course focuses on the design of food packaging and problem solving approaches in packaging creation. The vulnerabilities of the product to be packed are used to determine the requirements that will lead to possibilities for a solution. The process of decision making is viewed from the perspective of all stakeholders, and stage gate models are introduced to go through the different steps in the process. Aspects like the influence of design on choice behaviour, convenience and sustainability are part of the design process. 

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This is an integrating course unit combining the knowledge and skills learned throughout the previous course units. In this course, case studies are provided by companies or other stakeholders within the food packaging chain regarding sustainable food packaging. A group of students then designs and/or optimises a food packaging system, taking into account functionality and the embedding in the food and packaging chain, with a conscious and critical choice of resources, production methods and the end-of-life of the packaging system (circularity). The proposed packaging strategy should take into account the corporate or organisational culture of the external organisation, its mission and vision, and the broad socio-economic context. Students should integrate requirements from sales, purchase, production, quality, marketing, sustainability and supply chain within the food packaging system. 

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Module 5
Deadline: mid-June

The master’s dissertation is industry based, in collaboration with an external organisation. Students have the opportunity to not only enhance their research skills, but also their employability by tackling a real-life research question. Although students are expected to start their dissertation projects from the very beginning of the programme and continue during all modules, the fifth module leaves room to write the document. Dissertations must be handed in at the end of the third module and defended at the end of the programme.

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Tuesday & Thursday

16:15 – 20:30

online educational activities: the student is free to choose to follow the lesson ‘live’ or deferred


08:30 – 17:30

compulsory ‘on campus’ with a focus on applying and integrating knowledge during active educational activities

Rest of the week± 1,5 days per week

master’s dissertation (in a company or other external organisation)

Extracurricular and networking activities

In order to build long-term relationships and a (learning) network, students will be working together on business cases and group assignments, will be able to take part in social activities (organised by the programme committee), jointly go on guided company tours and field trips, etc.

This network – during the course of the programme and afterwards – will be composed of students from different disciplines, with different backgrounds and from different parts of the world, which encourages interdisciplinary and international (formal and informal) learning.