Intelligent packaging is gaining traction, especially following the rapid expansion of the e-commerce sector. Intelligent packaging solutions facilitate tracking, tracing, and ensuring the safety of products in transit, subsequently improving their shelf-life. These factors are expected to drive the sales of intelligent packaging by 2.4X through 2031. As per a study conducted by Future Market Insights (FMI) the overall Intelligent Packaging Market is expected to reach US$ 46.7 Bn by 2031, expanding at a CAGR of 9.0% for 2021-31.
Packaging solutions that are smart, connected, interactive are considered under the umbrella of intelligent packaging. These solutions are designed to perform intelligent functions such as tracing, tracking, recording, detecting, and help in improving the quality of product, providing information, ensuring safety, and increasing product shelf life.
Intelligent packaging has been adopted by various brands among food, beverages, healthcare, cosmetic, logistics & transport, consumer electronics, consumer goods, personal care & home care industries.
End-use Industries Leading the Adoption of Intelligent Packaging
The food industry generates a major portion of the demand for intelligent packaging followed by the healthcare and beverage industries. These industries are expected to register a high demand for smart, connected, interactive, user-friendly, and eco-friendly packaging solutions.
These segments are forecast to hold around 69% of the intelligent packaging market by the end of 2031 as per Future Market Insights (FMI). Strict norms for storing and transporting various food and healthcare products will propel the demand for next generation packaging. This article focuses on the various facets of Intelligent Packaging used in these specific industries
These Intelligent Packaging Technologies Will Have the Highest Potential
A smart label is an extremely flat item identification slip that is more informative than a barcode. Smart labels include QR codes, Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) tags and specially configured RFID tags. The smart labels are created by combining three technologies: plain text, radio code and optical character recognition.
Smart labels are divided into chip labels, printable labels and electronic label due to their different applications. However, the use of smart labels has evolved and can be used to recognize stale food in the refrigerator. Due to the instant access to the information, several industries have adopted smart labels, especially in food and beverages market.
Printed Tech (With NFC’s)
Near Field Communications (NFC’s) utilize short-range wireless technologies allowing devices to share data if they are in a certain range. Bluetooth, WiFi are some prominent examples of NFC’s. Recently, there has been a lot of scientific research on printed electronics and RFID technology, which create the framework for the potential development of intelligent packaging applications.
Printed electronics is one of the core products of the intelligent packaging revolution and has the potential to be the breakthrough technology for reducing costs and expanding functionality.
Augmented reality often refers to visualizations that virtually supplement real images on a smartphone or tablet. The application possibilities are a lot that includes virtual tours, virtual theme worlds, or operating instructions that appear on the packaging when photographing or filming a product. Augmented reality is being used for customer engagement, marketing, and interactive packaging.
Intelligent Packaging in Healthcare Industry That Helps Maintain product integrity
Stringent packaging and transport norms of healthcare drugs and supplies are augmenting the demand for intelligent packaging. As a result of the growing geriatric population and the increasing prevalence of various chronic diseases, the demand for OTC (over the counter) drugs has increased. Developments in medical science and the result of numerous research & development efforts by pharmaceutical giants have increased the availability of drugs in the market.
Logistical problems that accompany advanced medicinal drugs and equipment are proving to be challenging for manufacturers and supply chain partners. All modern life-saving drugs and vaccines require specific packaging and temperature-controlled transportation.
Upgraded transportation laws by the World Health Organization for various medicinal drugs and supplies make it mandatory for manufacturers and logistical partners to adopt intelligent packaging. The usage of advanced intelligent packaging makes the risk-free movement of complex medicinal supplies across the globe easier.
Intelligent packaging focuses on the external parts of the packaging, it gathers data insights about the product and its journey. It helps to create a pathway between patients and the manufacturer. For example, due to intelligent packaging it is now possible to create labels informing people about the product’s temperature during transit and storage so pharmacists can determine whether the drug is safe to take or not. QR codes have also been added to packaging so the consumer can scan the packaging and can see instructional videos on how to take their medication.
Food Industry Benefiting from Smart & Connected Packaging
The use of intelligent packaging is not new to the food industry. It is generally used to track products from their manufacturers to their points of sale. It comes in the form of barcodes, RFID tags, QR codes or electronic chips. Beyond the supply chain, it is also used to provide consumers with information about products or to access promotional campaigns. In recent years, the field of intelligent packaging has become a proper industry, which may be linked to consumer’s concerns about the origin of their food.
Thanks to smart packaging, customers can use their smartphone to find out exactly which farm their food comes from, but also the distance travelled and storage time. In addition to provenance information, a number of companies are looking to integrate practical information into their packaging, such as directions for use or recipe ideas. This connected packaging is a new channel of communication, and, therefore, advertising, between a brand and a consumer.
Intelligent packaging is also useful from an ecological point of view. Indeed, there is an impact on the environment: for example, it is possible to know if the expiry date is approaching and thus reduce food waste, it is also possible to transmit information on the method of recycling the packaging.
Food delivery companies are investing heavily in intelligent packaging. They also are using artificial intelligence which helps them to improve the customer experience. Using AI, these companies are able to differentiate and classify food dishes and provide customized interface to cater the specific need of the customer.
The Future of Intelligent Packaging
Intelligent and connected packaging will keep evolving, suggesting an exciting future. Connected content is becoming more accurate and resourceful, especially in the food industry where it is now possible for a package to send a notification if the product is out of date.
In the healthcare sector, intelligent packaging can now be used to remind patients to take their pill and remind them of expiry dates. The results connected packaging provides will become more customized and personalized. Due to data collection the information and experience contained in the package will be targeted to every specific customer. Every client will have an enhanced connected experience with the product they bought.
Also, RFID sensors will increasingly make their way into the market. It will allow the package to know about the current state of the product, which will be useful in the food industry especially. These sensors can be used to transmit information over very large distances. It can, for example, warn that these products have been exposed to bad weather conditions on their way to the point of sale and will therefore not be consumable.
Some more powerful AI and Augmented Reality (AR) will be used to provide the results based on customer behaviour and need. AR is a technology that will transform the packaging into an interactive experience. These experiences can help brands to showcase their values, products and commitments. AR allows consumers to access this information through informative, fun and entertaining content. Combining storytelling and AR strengthens the link with the customer by creating certain proximity. In the future, we can imagine ever more precise and enriching AR content aimed at the consumer.
We could soon see packaging talking directly to consumers with on-pack digital chips linked to their smartphones. The customer won’t even have to look for a code or tag to scan, the product will send the information by itself to their smartphone, to inform them of the expiration date or how to recycle the product.
One of the most important things in the future of intelligent packaging is that it provides a positive experience for the consumers, by providing them with access to transparent information. For brands, it provides them with a greater understanding of their customers and for the environment, also it’s a great tool that can be used to reduce food waste and encourage recycling.
Hence, intelligent packaging has an interesting future ahead! Whether from a commercial, advertising or environmental point of view, intelligent packaging still has a lot to offer.