A team of researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have developed dried pasta sheets that transform into larger pasta shapes when placed in boiling water, an innovation that they say will save on packaging size and space.

Led by Professor Eran Sharon and Ido Levin of the Racah Institute of Physics, Faculty of Science, the research team developed the so-called ‘shape-shifting pasta’, which in boiling water transforms into larger, more varied shapes. This means the pasta can be stored in less bulky packaging, essentially in flat-pack format, whereas pasta pre-made in shapes such as fusilli or farfalle often has empty spaces to accommodate the 3D shapes.

The team is seeking to commercialise the manufacturing technique, which it claims could reduce packaging and, in turn, carbon emissions for producers. According to a recent study from Forbes Insights, non-optimised packaging can increase emissions and cost, as well as mostly being comprised of at least 25% air – apparently meaning companies are paying to ship air and are losing out on valuable transportation space in the process.

Sharon comments: “Our shape-shifting pasta technology has the potential to transform the manufacturing, transportation and storage process.

“The potential of this technology is immense, and I look forward to seeing it outside of the lab ‘wowing’ consumers and providing a positive impact to consumer and business alike.”

Yissum, an Israel-based technology transfer company, made the announcement on the breakthrough technology and will be working with the research team to scale it. Itzik Goldwaser, PhD, CEO of Yissum, says: “The global packaging industry is long overdue for innovation and Professor Sharon and Dr Levin’s shape-shifting pasta can deliver a creative solution with a major impact.

“The ability to reduce shipping and storage costs, while also adding carbon savings that enable a rebrand pasta as an environmentally friendly choice is a win for everyone involved. We’re excited to help this project make the jump from lab to grocery aisle in the near future.”

Last year, Princes announced that its Napolina brand would transition its core pasta range from plastic to cardboard packaging, while Mondi has previously launched a fully recyclable, paper stand-up bag with a window for pasta.

In terms of recent pasta packaging trends, it is often one of the staples identified by refill schemes as ideal for being offered to customers without packaging. For example, a consortium of UK retailers including M&S, Morrisons, and Waitrose recently unveiled plans for an end-to-end refill system that would allow consumers to purchase items like pasta in containers bought into the store, or through bulk home deliveries.