Not all food tech needs to be high tech when it comes to creating novel solutions that aid against coronavirus infections. Awajiya, a Kobe, Japan-based company that delivers meals to railway stations, announced last week it had developed new packaging for its bento box meals aimed at shielding customers from potential infections.
Awajiya makes and sells ekiben, which are portable meals historically sold on trains and in railway stations. But while ekiben might function as a quick bite for eaters on the go, the boxes are quite a few steps up from “fast food.” Typically, the ingredients in an ekiben reflect the flavors and culture of the region in which they are sold. Ditto for the packaging, which often looks like a work of art, not a to-go box.
Awajiya’s new bento box reflects all of this. The lunches are sold at railway shops and in some department stores, most of them in and around around the city of Kobe. According to the company’s website, meals incorporate meats, seafoods, and other ingredients specific to Kobe and its surrounding areas.
When folded according to the instructions, Awajiya’s lunchbox creates a three-sided shield-like structure around the box that can keep any airborne droplets from nearby people out of the food. It also guards against the eater’s own germs from spreading to others. Awajiya says the box is the same size as a regular bento box, making it easy to use on trains.
While not the most high-tech development, Awajiya’s box is nonetheless a reminder that fighting COVID-19 in the food realm can be as simple as reimagining a piece of packaging or the layout of a physical space. After all, we’re in a time when reusable coffee cups are currently frowned on or outright prohibited, when menus have to be disposable or digital, and sit-down restaurants are getting reformatted for off-premises orders. A simple lunchbox may not stop coronavirus in its tracks, but it’s incremental developments like these that, when working together en masse, can go great distances to keep the world’s population a little safer.