Over recent years, revolutionary new technology has taken the packaging industry to the next level. It’s time to talk about smart packaging!
The primary function of food packaging is to keep the product in optimal condition. Smart packaging lets the consumer see this in the form of information about its state of preservation.
This type of innovative packaging has yet to achieve widespread adoption by brands. However, at SP Group we believe it’s time to set out the main features of what is likely the future of this industry.
WHAT IS SMART PACKAGING?
Smart packaging is equipped with a system of sensors or indicators that show the exact state of the food inside. It gives consumers additional information about the properties of the food or its state of preservation.
With just a quick glance, potential consumers can assess the temperature, whether the cold chain has been broken, or whether any microbial growth is occurring (the first, invisible stage of mould growth).
A label or other type of indicator tells consumers about the current state of the product and ensures optimal quality and safety. It is no wonder that smart packaging has made waves in the market. According to a recent report by Mordor Intelligence, the smart packaging market is already worth around 38 billion dollars worldwide and is expected to grow to 48 billion by 2026.
TYPES OF SMART PACKAGING
Mistakes or accidents during food transportation or storage can impair its state of preservation. Disruption of the cold chain, exposure to air or oxidising agents, and faults in the pasteurisation process are just some examples of situations that can damage a food to the extent it can no longer be consumed.
The different systems used in smart packaging can detect these situations.
Identifiers: the most widespread type of smart packaging, these are relatively simple to include in the design.
Though not as innovative as some of the types we’ll see further on, they nonetheless provide an extra level of information to consumers. The most common type of indicator is a QR code for quickly checking the traceability or origin of the product. QR codes are a step up from traditional barcodes and can help boost customer commitment. QR codes can be linked to websites or social networks, satisfaction surveys and important product information. They can support transparency or simply aid customer service.
Indicators: these alert consumers to changes in the temperature or freshness level of the food. They also warn of disruptions in the cold chain or how ripe a plant-based product is.
Sensors: smart packaging equipped with sensors can detect biochemical compounds that cause foods to separate as they start to deteriorate.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS FOR THE CONSUMER?
Smart packaging has many benefits throughout the supply chain. For example, an individual package containing spoiled food can be quickly removed from a batch and replaced. The quality of a packaged food can also be analysed much more quickly and cheaply.
However, the main benefits are reaped by the consumer. They can quickly cast their eye over the packaging to ascertain whether the food they are going to eat is safe or has been affected by something that could compromise its state of preservation. They can also check for leaks, whether the temperature is optimal, and even how ripe packaged fruit or vegetables are.
The only downside – also the main reason smart packaging is still not being adopted on a grand scale by big brands – is the cost. The exception are QR codes. These are much easier to include in the packaging design and have great potential. The company does not incur significant costs, while the consumer has access to much more information to help them in their buying decision.
Given the many advantages for both end users and the main agents in the supply chain, there is no doubt that smart packaging will become the norm in the food industry in the coming years.