Every aspect of our lives is becoming smarter and more intelligent with each passing year. Consumer expectations are growing sky high and industries across the domain are introducing smarter products and systems to provide a more personalized consumer experience. The packaging industry is no exception. Top packaging manufacturers have already started to upgrade their traditional packaging systems with more intelligent, connected, and smart packaging solutions to meet customer demands.
Usage of packaging only for the protection of goods and branding has become a thing of the past. Today, with a modernized lifestyle, the growing risk of food spoilage, and increasing focus on environmental sustainability, consumers are expecting more from the packaging, and intelligent packaging is the answer.
Before we explore the revolutionizing intelligent packaging technologies, let’s first understand what is intelligent packaging.
Intelligent packaging can be referred to as packaging solutions that are smart, connected, interactive, and capable of performing intelligent functions like tracking and tracing. These technologies are designed to improve product quality, ensure safety, prevent counterfeiting, and increase product shelf life.
Some intelligent packaging solutions like barcodes and QR codes are developed specifically to increase the traceability of a product and perform specific functions like tracking and recording the product information at the business and buyer level.
Intelligent packaging adds value at both the business and consumer end. Through information tracking and sharing done by intelligent packaging, a consumer gets the opportunity to learn more about the product and the company, while packaging manufacturers can learn more about the consumer purchase pattern through careful analysis of information generated by intelligent packaging, and leverage it to provide a more exceptional experience to the consumer.
While intelligent packaging is still in the nascent stages of evolution, the potential and benefits of intelligent packaging are immense. Intelligent packaging communicates with the real world, thus adding diagnostic and indicator functionality to it. With packaging companies investing in sustainable packaging solutions, the global intelligent packaging market reached US$ 19.7 billion in 2021.
The packaging industry is on the verge of a major paradigm shift. If we closely analyze emerging technologies, growth trends, and sales projections, we can get a preview of what will packaging industry look like by 2031 and beyond.
ESOMAR-certified market research company Future Market Insights (FMI) organized a talk show, with the title “The Rise of Intelligent Packaging: Personalized, Connected and Sustainable”, on the 18th of November 2021. In this talk show, the role of packaging in marketing, adoption of sustainability to tackle food waste and plastic pollution, and technology advancements that are creating designs that incorporate holistic features were discussed by packaging industry experts, and packaging manufacturers.
This blog highlights trending intelligent packaging technologies that are changing the packaging landscape and are gaining steady commercialization, taking into account the technological trends discussed on the talk show.
How Are Packaging Market Leaders Approaching The Intelligent Packaging?
Market leaders from the packaging industry are becoming more agile in their approach towards packaging as they have to match up with rapidly changing environmental and socio-economic conditions through innovation. It is important for market leaders to stay on top of the latest technological advancement happening across the globe that may be a game-changer for businesses.
Packaging manufacturers are switching towards intelligent and sustainable solutions to make their product stand out in the market, and leverage it to expand their consumer base, maintain brand loyalty, and become eco-friendly. For instance, the leading beverage brand Coca-Cola has introduced 100% recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) bottles in Japan. These bottles were designed for the I LOHAS natural mineral water brand, to simplify material sorting and recycling. Similar technological advancements are expected to revolutionize the packaging industry on a product level, buyer, and technological level.
Packaging was traditionally conceptualized and designed to enclose and protect the product during transportation and storage. Over the past decade, packaging has evolved and focus has shifted to durability, aesthetics, weight, and space consumption.
Do statistics back up the hype of Intelligent Packaging?
Future Market Insights reports that on intelligent packaging industry is set to grow at over 9.0% CAGR and reach around US$ 46.7 Bn by 2031. Additionally, intelligent packaging is expected to account for more than 5% of the global packaging market share by 2030.
Intelligent packaging is gaining popularity among Gen Z and millennials with 85% younger generations (Gen Z and millennials) opting for intelligent packaging solutions. The younger population is likely to buy intelligent packaging as they are the leaders of tomorrow in sustainability and are willing to spend extra bucks on intelligent packaging. Younger generations are showing a greater inclination towards the adoption of sustainable and recyclable packaging solutions. Nearly half of them have shown a preference for eco-friendly materials.
From a business point of view, F&B, healthcare, and logistics offer the most lucrative investment opportunities with barcodes, QR codes, and NFCs being the most sought-after technologies among these end-user industries.
According to a survey done by Future Market Insights, product monitoring, improving shelf life, tracking and tracing, and interactive packaging are the top factors that are compelling buyers to opt for intelligent packaging, with the need for product monitoring and improving shelf life-generating 65% of overall demand.
What are the Intelligent Packaging Technologies revolutionizing the Packaging Industry?
Intelligent packaging market leaders heavily rely on advanced chemical and material development techniques for developing packaging solutions that offer protection to F&B, personal care, and pharmaceutical products. Active and user-friendly packaging solutions are in the growth realm with barcodes and low energy Bluetooth packaging reaching maturity. Active packaging is experiencing a major growth spurt as the global import and export of eatables and beverages have increased in recent years. We are going to discuss the packaging technologies which lie in the growing realm of the product life cycle curve which is shown below.
1 Thermal controlled packaging
Increasing shelf life and protecting and preserving products for a long duration are the key areas of focus among packaging market leaders. Intelligent packaging solution like temperature control packaging has emerged as a nifty solution that addresses this need.
Temperature-controlled packaging solutions are gaining ground in the food & beverage and healthcare industry owing to the rising production, transportation, and storage of perishable and temperature-sensitive products and pharmaceutical ingredients. This type of intelligent packaging hampers the sales of counterfeit products by providing unique identification codes to the product.
Softbox is a U.K.-based packaging company that launched the Tempcell Eco temperature-control parcel container primarily designed to bring balance between performance, overall sustainability, and environmental friendliness. They are highly recyclable as they are made from 100% corrugated cardboard and it also incorporates the company’s Thermaflute plastic-free insulation design.
COVID-19 pandemic escalated the demand for time-temperature indicators, sensors, and active packaging solutions for quick and efficient transportation of vaccines across the globe. Pfizer joined hands with Softbox Systems Ltd. and developed reusable Ultra-Low Temperature (ULT) shippers capable of storing vaccines for up to 30 days.
FMI predicts that by the end of 2026, both F&B and healthcare will generate revenue of more than US$ 20 Bn in the global temperature-controlled packaging market.
2 Recyclable Packaging
The banning of single-use plastic has forced packaging manufacturers to explore and look out for plastic alternative materials to comply with stringent environmental regulations. With a growing emphasis on adopting circular packaging practices, recyclable packaging is slowly gaining traction in the packaging industry. The 2020 State of Curbside Recycling Report states that 32% of recyclable plastic waste generated in the U.S. is successfully captured by recycling programs and is introduced into the circular economy.
Top packaging companies are developing recyclable material that is derived from post-consumer waste. Graham Packaging, a leading plastic packaging company, has introduced Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) cans as an alternative to traditional aluminum cans. These cans are made of 100% post-consumer recycled PET. These cans have superior packaging performance in thermally demanding applications. The detachable top increases its reusability, thus heightening the cost-saving.
Similarly, Coca-Cola has developed and commercialized resealable caps for DASANI bottles in the United States in 2020. These resealable caps are made from 30% recycled plastic, thus reducing the use of hard-to-recycle plastics.
Such innovations and technological advancements are expected to promote circularity for plastics in upcoming years.
3 QR codes
The adoption of QR codes labels has increased significantly over the past few years. The market is expanding at over 8.7% CAGR from 2019. Businesses are leveraging the power of QR codes to analyze the brand loyalty and purchase pattern of the customers. These intelligent packaging solutions allow companies to monitor the sales of their product by the number of customers who scanned the QR code attached to it.
One of the key growth drivers for QR codes is its ability to carry a massive amount of data in the form of robust, high-density barcodes and its wide range of applications ranging from inventory management to marketing and personal use.
Cadbury, A British multinational confectionery company, introduced smart packaging solutions to appeal to much younger and digitally connected customers. Cadbury used the MaXQ QR code on its milk tray packaging to create a more personalized and digital experience.
Similarly, Tyson Food has begun using QR codes on its meat product range to assist consumers in knowing the meat’s origin and processing details.
Intelligent packaging solutions like RFID tags are becoming a norm in the supply chain and logistics industry. Manufacturing industries are employing RFID tags to monitor equipment conditions and performance along with system failure.
RFID technology is penetrating small and medium scale companies as they are becoming more economical and technologically advanced. The retail sector is also showing significant interest in RFID technology to improve customer satisfaction and leverage it for marketing and analytical purposes.
Global RFID sales are forecast to grow at over 14.5% CAGR over 2028. Advancement in sensor technology and reduction in the cost of RFID sensors has boosted its adoption in consumer goods and the F&B industry. For instance, the world’s first sustainable RFID was introduced by Stora Enso in 2021. These RFID’s are microwave-safe use and help in item-level tagging and ready-made meals.
5 Augmented and Virtual reality (AR & VR)
AR technology is gaining a lot of traction in the product packaging industry. AR packaging offers businesses a chance to improve their customer engagement by introducing product content, discounts, and video experience. With the synchronization of sensors and tags, a consumer can access real-time product conditions through intelligent packaging.
AR-based intelligent packaging solutions are becoming mainstream as more and more companies are integrating advanced technologies to make packaging more interactive and smarter. Through AR & VR consumers can gain a better understanding of the product as well as brand identity.
For instance, Jack Daniels, the Brown-Forman spirits and wine company introduced “The Jack Daniel’s AR Experience” app, to take its customers on a virtual journey of its distillery, allowing the consumers to take a closer look at the whiskey-making process and know more about Mr. Jack Daniel himself.
Tetra Pak along with the digital experiences studio introduced a modern milk carton, which employs augmented reality (AR) via smart packaging, promoting consumers towards a healthier lifestyle.
That’s a Wrap on Intelligent Packaging Technologies 2021!
“Survival of the Smartest” is the mantra, especially in the packaging industry. Businesses and brands that can analyze these trends and adapt according to the changing market scenarios will stay ahead of the curve.
Leveraging these intelligent packaging technologies can help your brand to rise above the fray and reach consumers at a more personalized level. The world is moving towards more advanced and sustainable methods, with proper analysis and strategic planning, manufacturers can reap the full benefits of intelligent packaging solutions that are going to revolutionize customer experience, manufacturing & shipping, and environmental protection.
This article barely scratches the surface of intelligent packaging technologies that are shaping the modern world. Holograms, the internet of packaging, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are still in the developmental phase. Identifying similar emerging technologies and implementing them into your business will give you a competitive advantage that no one has.
By Hakimuddin Bawangaonwala
Hakimuddin is an experienced market researcher and content writer, who works closely with the research teams at Future Market Insights, an ESOMAR-certified market research and consulting market research company. With sound research skills and his own style of writing, he has extensively covered developments in packaging and associated industries. You can connect with Hakimuddin on LinkedIn.