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Sealed Air Engineer Mentors Teams Innovating to Fight Global Hunger

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December 21, 2020

It takes myriad hearts and minds to help solve the world’s hunger crisis. Seeking to connect resources and people from across the value chain from social entrepreneurs and scientists to coders and creators, the World Food Programme (WFP) established an Innovation Accelerator in 2015 to pilot new solutions and scale promising innovations to help end hunger.

As a supporter for the past three years of WFP, the largest humanitarian agency working towards zero hunger, Sealed Air eagerly accepted the opportunity in 2020 to connect with the organization’s Innovation Accelerator initiative by providing a financial contribution and mentorship from a Sealed Air leader with experience in research and development. 

Sealed Air believes in relentless innovation to develop the next generation of sustainable solutions to help solve the hunger crisis and other critical societal issues. As a leader in the food packaging industry, the company plays an important role in solving food waste and food security challenges through the protective packaging solutions it develops and provides.   

At this year’s Innovation Accelerator bootcamp, Tiffani Burt, who holds a doctoral degree in macromolecular science and engineering and serves as Sealed Air’s executive director of innovation and sustainability, advised three of the program’s 10 teams. Tiffani’s expertise in food packaging and sustainability, and her deep understanding of the innovation process and what it takes to get a solution from ideation to commercialization made her a perfect fit as a mentor.

The teams Tiffani advised offered these solutions to aid in the hunger crisis: 

  • Lucky Iron Fish Enterprise: A low-dose nutritional supplement added to the cooking process to help prevent iron deficiency anemia, one of the world’s leading nutritional challenges.
  • Network Fresh: A B2C marketplace mobile app using surplus food from restaurants and hotels to reduce food waste, overcome food insecurity, and improve nutrition.
  • Eco-Friendly Storage: An off-grid refrigeration system using zero-energy brick coolers and evaporative charcoal coolers to extend the shelf life of fresh food for retailers and traders.

Over a one-week period, Tiffani provided insights on complicated topics such as how science, research and development can provide value to key stakeholders across the value chain. The teams also discussed manufacturing, key stakeholder management, business plans, and scaling up their innovations. The sessions, which were held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic, helped to prepare the teams for pitching their projects to an audience of potential partners and funders.

One of the most important parts of her mentorship was getting the teams to think about a sustainable business model. “Similar to how Sealed Air works with customers to derive value, I encouraged the folks I talked to — the inventor, application developer, supply chain officer, and food technologist — to consider the total cost of ownership for each stakeholder within the value chain,” Tiffani said. “A lot of times as technologists or innovators, we develop ‘cool things’ but if you can’t easily explain why someone needs it or what challenge it is solving your business model may not be sustainable.”

As a manager who is behind the scenes leading Sealed Air’s efforts to reach its 2025 sustainability pledge and address societal issues such as food security, hearing firsthand the concerns and issues these teams are facing in other parts of the world made an impression on Tiffani.         

“To see their passion around these projects and to know what it took to get them this far was inspirational,” she said. “It’s powerful knowing I could apply my knowledge to helping communities in such a tangible way. Solving critical challenges is part of Sealed Air’s mission and you don’t get much more critical than world hunger.”