What is Smart Food Packaging?
According to the MarketsandMarkets study, the global food industry is undergoing a massive transformation in line with the changing consumer interests. One such trend that has gained attention is the concept of smart food packaging. Packaging has remained a vital aspect for food manufacturers, as it maintains the food quality between processing and usage by the consumer. The growing trend toward sustainability and improved product safety have led to innovations in packaging technologies. Smart food packaging includes two methods that enhance packaging functionality—active packaging and intelligent packaging. While the former deals with extending shelf life for food products, the latter is associated with monitoring certain aspects of a food product on the basis of its ability to sense, detect, and record changes both internally and externally in the product’s environment and communicating the information to the consumer. The importance of these two technologies lies in the fact that the packaged food industry is booming in the Asia Pacific region. Consumers in the emerging Asia Pacific countries are increasingly adopting on-the-go lifestyles, boosting sales of convenience foods. This stands as a lucrative opportunity for active and intelligent technology providers in the region.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in the U.S., American adults consumed more ready-to-eat foods in 2015–16 than in 2007–08. The average monthly consumption increased by 26% from 1.9 times in 2007–08 to 2.4 times in 2015–16. This rise shows a shift among the adults in the country toward the consumption of convenience foods; hence, packaging manufacturers are opting for innovative packaging solutions in line with the growing food safety concerns.
Smart packaging products are increasingly entering the market. MicrobeGuard Corporation (U.S.), provides antimicrobial protected products such as liner, interleave, and wrap through its brand, FoodTouch, used by seafood processors, in foodservice and grocery verticals. Several, seafood processors use the Green FoodTouch Tuna Wrap to retain the bright color and keep it protected during transport to the customers. In Europe, Mondi Group (Austria), offers anti-microbial packaging solutions, through its brand, Sanocoat, for increased shelf life of products within the food, baby nutrition, and snack food industries. Thus, with the food processing industry constantly expanding at a global level, the demand for innovative packaging technologies is expected to be at the forefront of all the packaging manufacturers in the coming years.
What are the Key Application Areas for Smart Packaging?
Smart packaging finds its application mainly within the food & beverage industry. It is used in dairy products, meat & seafood, bakery products, and confectionery products. There is an increased demand for these products in both developed and developing countries, and thus, smart packaging manufacturers are expected to gain lucrative opportunities in the coming years.
What are the Lucrative Opportunities to Look Forward to in the Smart Packaging Market?
- According to an article published under International Food and Agribusiness Management Association (IFAMA), there is an increased global trade of dairy products, with demand coming from developing countries for meat, eggs, and milk. These changes in consumption are driven by a rise in the income of individuals and population growth. Furthermore, according to the International Dairy Federation (IDF), under its “World Dairy Situation 2018” report, developed countries such as the US and those in Europe are expected to increase their supply of cheese in the coming years, owing to increased demand from China, Korea, and Japan. Smart packaging technologies such as active packaging systems will play an important role in improving the shelf life of these dairy products to a large extent as export opportunities surge.
- The quality of meat & seafood is highly dependent on the type of packaging. Smart packaging will enhance the quality and safety of meat & seafood. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FA0), the global meat trade grew by 2.5 % in 2017, fueled by demand from China. The shipments were made from the US and Brazil in particular. Smart packaging technology, such as intelligent packaging, which involves the use of sensors, will play a key role in enhancing the quality maintained of meat products.
- In bakery products such as bread, cakes, and biscuits, the active packaging technology can extend the shelf life by using antimicrobial surfaces in packaging products. China is expected to be a major market for bakery products in the coming years. According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China (NBS), the country’s bakery and confectionery products, including pastry, breads, biscuits, chocolates, frozen beverages, instant noodles, and sweetmeats, had a total production of 35.9 million tons. The country is expected to be a major market for smart packaging technology providers in the coming years. Apart from this, at a global level as well, the demand for healthier bakery products is on the rise; hence, the demand for sustainable packaging is expected to increase in the coming years.
What are the Crucial Challenges Involved?
Even though the market for smart technology has a robust outlook, it still has major challenges to deal with before being broadly adopted. Smart packaging solutions are costly compared to traditional packaging solutions; one of the prime reasons for this is that smart packaging solutions are still not in the mass manufacturing stage.
- The technology is still at a nascent stage and is not commercialized at a global level. This means that it is not backed-up by proved successes yet.
- The issues of sustainability arise as technology involves the use of sensors and batteries that are challenging to recycle.
- The smart packaging technologies are more complex compared to traditional packaging systems, and hence, are more prone to regulatory compliance.
What Does the Future Hold for Smart Packaging of Food?
Companies are coming up with various smart packaging technologies that are being integrated to meet the demand from the food & beverage industry. Adoption of smart packaging technologies in the food industry can be beneficial in the long run, as it will extend the shelf life, improve quality, safety, and provide information about the product. Since most of these technologies are still in the research stage, future untapped opportunities exist for smart packaging technologies across the ever-expanding food & beverage industry in the coming years.