Food safety and sustainability are the driving forces behind innovation in food packaging. Increases in functionality, improvements in food safety, economics and meeting environmental and legislative measures are pushing packaging actors to “Think outside the box”.
The move toward more sustainable packaging is being embraced by consumers, manufacturers, retailers, advocacy groups, and world governments alike. Consumers are increasingly interested in their personal impact on the environment and are demanding more from manufacturers. Manufacturers are looking for ways to reduce, downgauge, lightweight their packaging. Companies are benefiting from these efforts thanks to material savings and increased demand from green consumers. The benefits from these efforts are that many companies are realizing material savings in cost structures and increased demand from green consumers. A recent report from Pike Research anticipates that eco-friendly packaging will nearly double in revenues between 2009 and 2014, from $88 billion to $170 billion. Concurrently The International Standards Organization is developing six standards for international packaging, which cover source reduction, reuse, recycling, energy recovery, chemical recovery, composting and biodegradation.
Smart packaging has potential to influence the packaging sector greatly, as it fits perfectly with the food safety strategy, traceability and brand protection. Smart packaging is a packaging system that is capable of carrying out intelligent functions (such as detecting, sensing, recording, tracing, communicating, and applying scientific logic) to facilitate decision making to extend shelf life, enhance safety, improve quality, provide information, and warn about possible problems. Most companies understand that the added expense of improving packaging to help prevent recalls or a liability case is often far less than the cost of losing many customers because of massive recall which are damaging to the brand. According to a recent study from The Freedonia Group, demand for smart packaging is projected to climb 8.3 percent annually to $1.9 billion in 2013, well above the overall packaging industry.
Many factors such as costs, legal hurdles, reliability and effectiveness, costumer education, acceptance and liability, food producer, consumer and retailer acceptance will be needed to enable an introduction on a large scale. Despite these hurdles, there is a strong view that smart packaging will be a technical tool in the market with a high potential, covering both more transparent communication to consumers and the need for the retail and food industry to better control the food production chain.
In conclusion, a bright future may be anticipated for sustainable and smart packaging. These innovative packaging definitively offers environmental, food safety and economics benefits for both customers and packaging actors.