Neil Farmer reiterates the importance of active and intelligent packaging…
I would like to consider the potential for packaging with active and intelligent characteristics, which I believe is poised for growth. Active packaging usually means packaging that has active functions beyond passive containment and protection of product. Intelligent packaging has the ability to sense an attribute of the product or atmosphere around it.
Technologies within the active packaging sector, such as packs which can actively reduce the level of oxygen or microbial count, are an important development. Similarly intelligent packs are a key part of recent innovations in the international packaging world.
Market for Active and Intelligent Packaging
For a long time I have evaluated the market for active and intelligent packaging, believing the benefits of packaging which had these characteristics was something which our supply chain should embrace more enthusiastically. I have written reports and published articles extolling their virtues, fervently believing they were due for a big rise in usage. Perhaps the economic downturn and the cost constraints of these packs have resulted in their further expansion being put on hold. However there are signs that this period of delay is coming to an end.
I would like to draw your attention to some packs I have come across that have these characteristics illustrating the benefits they can bring.
Recent Innovations in the Sector
Earlier in the year Asda claimed to be the first retailer to offer “Viridiflex” (registered trade mark) packed potatoes in UK stores, providing an increase in shelf life of Extra Special Cornish Crystal Potatoes, compared to conventional packs. The film works by drawing moisture away from fresh produce. The film has enhanced oxygen barrier qualities that can be manipulated using Ultimate Packaging`s “Adapt MAP” (registered trademark) laser technology, which modifies the perforations in the film to optimise shelf life.
Norwegian biotech company “Keep-It Technologies” said that it had sold 1 million shelf life time temperature indicators (TTIs) in the Norwegian market. The technology has been adopted by major brands in the HORECA (hotel, catering and food service) and logistics sector. The indicators show the actual shelf life of the product it is attached to as it reacts to time and temperature of its storage conditions, from the producer and to the consumer. I would like to thank the Active and Intelligent Packaging Industry Association, of which I recently became a member, for providing these two examples.
Of course technologies such time temperature indicators, (TTIs) are not new. I well remember reporting about their great potential at a conference I was speaking at in Hamburg in 2008. My presentation was entitled: “Extending the Shelf Life -Market Trends and Developments”. I referred specifically then to the On Vu TTI system developed by BASF. Since them I have commented on technologies including Cryolog`s (eO), Vitsab`s Check Point, Temptime`s Fresh-Check and Avery Dennison`s TT sensor. There are others of course, but the point is they are all designed to allow producers, retailers and consumers to check at a glance whether perishable products have been correctly transported and stored. They are essentially helping enhance consumer convenience and confidence and optimize shelf life. Suppliers and retailers will not need to discard products prematurely because of potential spoilage.
“It`s Fresh” Ethylene Remover Technology
And then of course we have recent examples by major retailers such as Marks and Spencer and Tesco on how they are extended shelf life using the “It`s Fresh” patented ethylene remover technology for fresh fruit and berries. By placing a small “It`s Fresh” strip in a punnet of strawberries the technology will guarantee they will stay fresh longer.
To conclude I can do no better than go back to what I said at an international packaging conference in 2009. I finished my presentation by saying that I believe consumers want packaging which keeps products in good condition. They want packaging which keep products clean and untouched by others. For foodstuffs they want products which are fresh and ready to be eaten. Ultimately they want longer shelf life, product security and value for money.
Active and intelligent packaging is helping to achieve all these objectives. I am confident that as the downturn at last shows signs of ending these types of innovations, and others, will come to fruition in a more speedy way than has been the case in the last 5 years of economic austerity.