Our inspiration for Cellucoat

Problem Overview

The Problem of Food Waste

Globally, about one-third of all food produced goes to waste (1). To compound this problem, food waste is accompanied by a loss in the resources needed for production, processing, and distribution. The food waste problem in Canada costs $50 billion in avoidable losses annually, which is equivalent to $1800 per household (2,3).

Fruits and vegetables have the highest wastage rates of all food products, contributing to 45% of total waste (4). Part of the problem is attributed to long transport times between farms, distribution centers, and grocery stores - leaving produce susceptible to spoilage. Landlocked provinces face unique challenges in preventing food waste, as they rely on efficient shipment times to maintain fresh produce.

Even though waste rates continue to skyrocket, fresh produce prices are becoming less affordable. Over the past several months, Canadian families have experienced the detrimental financial impacts of rising grocery prices. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, wholesale prices of fruit increased by 24% (5). As consumers pay more for these goods, they fixate on selecting only the best quality fruits and vegetables available - meaning that the difference between profit and waste could be a small blemish on an otherwise perfectly healthy apple or cucumber.

The Problem of Plastic Waste

Packaging is a significant determinant for food quality. Since 1950, approximately 6.9 billion metric tons of plastic have ended up in landfills across the globe, causing devastating consequences for wildlife and the environment (6). June 2022 marks the beginning of Canada’s Zero Plastic Waste legislation, and because the food industry is heavily reliant on single-use plastics for packaging, sustainable alternatives must be explored. Consumer attitudes are critical to informing the food packaging industry’s decisions about finding a plastic replacement. Most Canadians want an ecologically friendly alternative, but are not willing to pay premium prices.

A Sustainable Solution for Waste

Bacterial Cellulose as a Produce Packaging

Sustainable packaging must maintain the quality of food by preventing both spoilage and moisture buildup, and by exhibiting high mechanical strength. A variety of biodegradable packaging options are slowly being introduced into the food packaging industry, such as polylactic acid and polyimide polymers, as well as gelatin and seaweed-based products (7,8). However, these options either fail to exhibit a strong barrier against oxygen and moisture diffusion or do not have the strength to withstand transport conditions, resulting in bruising.

Naturally synthesized by Komagataeibacter xylinus, bacterial cellulose (BC) is the most abundant biopolymer in nature, and has gained attention as a potential food packaging material due to its ability to control for gas exchange, humidity, and external stress (9). Unlike other packaging, BC can be functionalized to support and release antimicrobial agents. So why is BC not used as a mainstream packaging today? Unfortunately, high production costs remain a major limitation for its industrial use, which is why we need a solution for BC packaging.

This is where Cellucoat comes in.

Cellucoat Synopsis

Project Overview

Cellucoat is a sustainable, biodegradable, and antimicrobial packaging that prolongs the shelf life of produce and replaces single-use plastics, allowing consumers to save money while affording healthier purchasing options. This is accomplished through a novel combination of 3 components: preservation, protection, and production. Cellucoat preserves the freshness of fruits by functionalizing BC with a food-safe, antimicrobial peptide (AMP) - called nisin. Protection of fruits and vegetables is ensured by integrating a bioplastic called polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) into BC for increased mechanical strength. Production costs are reduced through the use of recycled fruit waste to grow our BC-producing bacteria. For homogeneous distribution of both proteins, our BC packaging is developed through a co-culture between Escherichia coli and K. xylinus. To fulfill the needs of our stakeholders, our production process allows for the customization of color, choice of AMP, and 3D shape.

With these components in mind, our goal is to help keep your food fresh from the fields to your fridge!

Promo Video

Check our team’s promo video below!


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  2. Canada Aand A-F. Minister Bibeau launches second half of $20-million food waste reduction challenge [Internet]. Government of Canada; 2021. Available from:
  3. Coren M, Coren MJ. [Internet]. The average household spends $1,800 per year on food they throw out. Hothouse // Solutions; 2020. Available from:
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  5. Lenhardt K. The reason fresh fruit and vegetable prices are skyrocketing - tasting table [Internet]. Tasting Table; 2022. Available from:
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  8. Perera KY, Sharma S, Pradhan D, Jaiswal AK, Jaiswal S. Seaweed polysaccharide in food contact materials (active packaging, intelligent packaging, edible films, and coatings). Foods. 2021 Sep 3;10(9):2088.
  9. Cazón P, Vázquez M. Bacterial cellulose as a biodegradable food packaging material: A review. Food Hydrocolloids. 2021 Apr 1;113:106530.