Smart packaging and bio-packaging are just two of the latest buzzwords in packaging technology. They refer to materials and ways of packaging products that are designed to meet new demands from consumers with a heightened awareness of food safety and whose purchasing decisions are influenced by sustainability.
The plastics sector is looking to nature for two reasons: to create materials that are more environmentally friendly, and to copy structures and methods found in the natural world and apply them to industry, especially in the realm of food packaging.
Smart packaging is any packaging that has been improved in such a way that it provides information to consumers. It can tell us the condition of the product and even show its journey throughout the distribution chain. Furthermore, it also keeps the contents in perfect condition.
This means smart packaging is also active packaging, hugely enriching the value of the product, as well as aiding its transport and storage.
All this is fundamentally achieved through different advanced indicators:
- Temperature and packaging time indicators: these will be found on the outside of the packaging to provide consumers with information. For example, they can tell us whether a soft drink is chilled to the perfect temperature.
- Moisture and contamination detectors: these will be in contact with the food to warn us of the presence of bacteria, for example.
- Information on traceability and authenticity: these external indicators will ensure the product is what it says it is. They will also provide information of interest to consumers to help them with their purchasing decisions. Locators can also be added that help enormously with distribution.
And the best thing about it is that this information is constantly updated.
SMART PACKAGING AND SOCIAL PACKAGING
Smart packaging also has the ability to enhance the customer experience, making it a great tool for brand reinforcement. For example, social media applications can be used to add augmented reality to the packaging on the supermarket shelves the customers are scanning with their phones.
On the screen customers will be able to pull down a full menu with recipes, tips, links with hashtags, shopping apps, and much more. This makes the packaging itself a marketing tool and involves the buyers in the process.
SMART PACKAGING AND BIO-PACKAGING
Bio-packaging is another type of smart packaging, but in this case the smart aspect has been applied to ensure the least amount of waste is generated. Packaging is produced using biodegradable natural fibres, and even edible packaging can be created.
Although this sounds like science fiction, all kinds of packaging are currently being developed that use materials obtained from living beings (hence the name bio-packaging), such as lipids and proteins.
OTHER PACKAGING TRENDS
As well as smart packaging, we are beginning to find packaging solutions that are as striking as they are sustainable. Reusable packaging consists of containers that would once have been single use, but can now be repurposed.
This type of packaging demonstrates a clear move towards the circular economy, and represents an additional option to recycling to try and ensure the majority of materials return to the production cycle. In this case, design and creativity play a huge role.
The challenge of creating environmentally friendly smart packaging and other innovative packaging to improve food safety and customer satisfaction, is somewhat relative for our sector, as research and development form an integral part of everything we do.
The evolution of the market and technology permits a much broader understanding of packaging as a factor that provides added value to a product, rather than being just a container. Smart packaging will provide an unprecedented level of customer interaction and information, increasing the customer intimacy and perception of safety sought by brands.The next few years will be very interesting, and it is likely that packaging technology that seems futuristic now will become the norm, especially in terms of food packaging. Follow this evolution through our blog, and see our commitment to sustainability and innovation. Happy reading.