My semi-Luddite response
To be honest, I am only half a Luddite as I approve of many of the improved hygiene standards that have been introduced. With fresh fruit and vegetables, I still remember seeing items being mauled as customer after customer would handle the items pressing and picking at them to try to assess how fresh or near ripe they were. I can see why people like to think the food they have chosen has never been touched, even when it will have been man-handled during harvesting and often at some other point in the supply chain. I also can see why it is nice to be able to check if the food is fresh or ripe, which can be hard to do if it is wrapped up.
It is important that packaging is used effectively to minimize waste, especially where there is a problem feeding the local population. However, at times I think in the industrialized world, we are very profligate in our use of packaging where it is unnecessary, and at times we are gullible and believe what the marketing team tells us. It used to be, that to minimize the packaging per unit of food, buying a big pack was deemed cost-efficient whereas now we are being guided to buying individual portions each packed separately. I may be a cynic, but the cost per unit of food suddenly appears to be much higher. Those who are there to sell more packaging are only doing their job, but on the opposite side they are also increasing damage to the planet.
An “affluenza” problem?
I have seen the arguments that state the big package may not be fully used, and the contents may go bad during storage and so contribute to waste. This may be true, but it is more likely that we are wealthy enough to not be so concerned about the loss of some food. If we were starving, I bet that no matter how big the package we would make sure that everything was eaten and nothing wasted. Part of the problem is that we are affluent enough that individually it is not critical if we waste some food, and we are affluent enough that we can afford either bulk or individual portion packaging. Thus, the flexible-packaging converting and end-use industries want to continue to expand their sales and so, if they can take market share away from the tin-can industry, they will. And they will find a reason why it makes sense that they can market the way they do because we consumers rarely question.