Welcome to the Future: Smart Packaging

Welcome to the Future: Smart Packaging

By Marija Jovic

What Is Smart Packaging?

Any packaging that incorporates advanced technologies to provide enhanced functionality compared to conventional packaging can be considered smart. Based on Packaging Digest, smart packaging can be divided into two categories: active packaging, that provides functionality such as moisture and oxygen control, and intelligent packaging, that can communicate product changes and other information.

Smart packaging involves a combination of specialized materials, science and technology, and has the power to reduce food waste, increase the shelf life of products, reduce loss, damage, waste, and cost in supply chain. In the pharma industry, it can improve patient compliance and security as well as help improve anti-counterfeiting measures. When combining several elements, like brand protection, safety, convenience, and conveying product information, smart packaging becomes a powerful tool in the packaging industry.

How Big Is the Smart Packaging Market?

According to a new report by Grand View Research, the global smart packaging market was valued at $10.8 billion in 2015 and is expected to reach $26.7 billion by 2024, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.6% from 2016 to 2024. Active packaging accounted for over 70% of the market because of its superior oxygen and moisture control properties (shelf life improvement). Other key driving forces behind smart packaging are safety and brand protection. Rising industrialization in emerging regions such as Asia Pacific and the Middle East is also expected to drive the industry over the next years.

How Does it Work?

Packaging has four basic functions: protection, communication, containment and convenience. Active packaging enhances the protection aspect while intelligent packaging focuses on the communication function. For example, in the case of intelligent packaging, a special message telling whether the contents inside the package are past the expiration date or not can be displayed.

Smart packaging is still in its infancy, with intelligent packaging developing faster, as new technologies such as printed electronics and the Internet of Things are being developed that help in communication with consumers. However, there are barriers to rapid expansion. The first one is money, as some packaging is simply not cost-effective to produce. This may be less challenging in the case of packaging for the pharma industry, where advantages such as traceability and patient compliance are great drivers, but definitely not so in the food industry due to the retail price wars.

Other barriers in the way of smart packaging include legislation, sustainability (in certain cases, some of these technologies are challenging to recycle) and timing – there are not too many examples of proven successes. Only with solid and reproducible evidence that smart packaging is a commercial success, it will become a new standard.

Some Recent Examples

Mondi has developed an innovative antimicrobial packaging solution (Sanocoat) that prevents the germ growth, inhibits mold (Candida albicans) and odors, and increases shelf life and product freshness.

Freshpoint has developed a visual indicator, DueDrop, that clearly signals the end of the product’s secondary shelf life. It comes in the form of self-adhesive labels, adjustable to the product that it is applied to. The active label can cover a variety of shelf lives ranging from a few days to years.

Amcor has introduced MaXQ, a powerful coding system that offers both real-time brand protection and targeted consumer engagement. It allows for easy and quick verification of the product’s authenticity, and is printed in smartphone ready formats for easy readability. Consumers can access promotions, points, prizes and product info just by a click or two.

The REMEDIES project is working on developing smart packaging for pharmaceuticals in order to tackle supply chain inefficiencies. This is being done by integrating printed electronics into packaging (like RFID tags). It is expected that patient outcomes and compliance are improved by providing information and validation around anti-counterfeiting, product tampering and whether the drug is fit for consumption.

More commercially available smart packaging solutions can be found in this smart packaging intelligence brief.

If you have any questions or would like to know if we can help your business with its innovation challenges, please contact us here or email us at solutions@prescouter.com.

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