Researcher Blog by Dr Alaster Yoxall: #1 – Wrap Rage

Wrap Rage: Food Openability

About the author

Dr Alaster Yoxall is Principal Research Fellow in Human Centered Engineering and is based in Design Futures within the Art & Design Research Centre.

In this post, Alaster introduces us to ‘Wrap Rage’ and the ways he making a difference in the realm of food packaging.


I’ll begin this blog with a question.  Hand’s up if you’ve ever struggled to open packaging? Ok, you can put your hand down now. Well you’re not alone. Inability to open packaging has long been a source of frustration for many people and led to the creation of the term ‘Wrap Rage’.  A survey I worked on with the consumer organisation Which?  found that 1 in 5 people switch brands or avoid products that are difficult to open. Some research I did showed that for many the only option to access their packaging was to hand it to a relative or partner to open or to use a tool such as a knife or even a screwdriver.

Wrap Rage: Food Openability in Hospitals

This may all seem relatively trivial, frustrating is the term I used earlier.  However, it becomes far more serious for many older people. The majority of women over 75 in the UK live alone, who opens their packaging? Anecdotally I’ve been told stories by older people of them asking the online delivery driver, the postman or even waiting until relatives visit.  We don’t know what impact this is having on people’s health but living on biscuits because it’s the only food you can open can’t be good for you.

Where we do know that inability to access packaging is having an effect on nutrition is in the hospital environment.  Work by myself and Australian researchers from the University of Wollongong showed that a significant proportion of patients and staff couldn’t open the packaging presented to them. This issue was also highlighted by Caroline Lecko the NHS Patient Safety Lead in the UK.

So in 2015 I was seconded onto a Taskforce to look at the problem and help propose a solution.  You’ll be pleased to know we’ve been busy, and the solution is to implement user testing protocols from ISO17480, Packaging Ease of Opening (which I was also involved in the writing of). Basically the idea is that all packaging purchased by NHS trusts will be tested on older people first and will either pass or fail. Failed packaging will be removed from the supply chain or redesigned.

Wrap Rage: Food Openability

The good news is the process has already started with Premier Foods, Juiceworks and The Good Food Chain already having their packs tested and passing. Further testing and redesign work is underway with a number of suppliers where the pack has failed.

The bad news is there’s still a lot of packaging to go at. I’m trying. Hopefully in a few years’ time whatever you might be worried about if you’re ever in hospital it won’t be whether you can access the cheese.



Please note: Views expressed are those of the Author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of SHU, C3RI or the C3RI Impact Blog.