Packaging the Future: Smart Packaging 101

Published On October 28, 2021 by ShakeDeal Staff

Everything that we consume in our day-to-day lives is delivered to us enclosed in a protective covering. The covering can be in various forms like paper, cardboard, or plastic but they all serve a common purpose of ensuring the safety of the product. Right from the time the product is manufactured to the time it is delivered, the product is enclosed within the package. Packaging is the science involved in designing the package to ensure that the product remains protected during distribution, storage, and usage.

Packaging is not an upcoming science, as it has been in the manufacturing world from time immemorial. But, an upgraded version of the traditional packaging system has piqued the interest of the consumer market. ‘Smart packaging’ is the new and smarter version of packaging that has become the talk of the market. Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) Firms have widely opened their doors to smart packaging.

What is Smart Packaging?

Smart packaging can simply be defined as the process of imbibing technology into regular packages. The reason for doing so is to enhance the traceability of the product, the safety of the product, and reduce wastage. These mentioned purposes are achieved with help of systems like microchips, sensors, and special components. Smart packaging in reality is a combination of two branches of modern packaging namely, active packaging and intelligent packaging.

Active Packaging

When you purchase your favorite pack of potato chips, you find it to be inflated but the moment you open it, the bag shrinks. The reason behind the puffy packet is the science of active packaging. Chips are well-known for their crispy texture. To maintain this unique property of chips and to prevent it from being soggy, the packet is filled with nitrogen. Nitrogen prevents oxidation of the chips, thus protecting the chips from being stale and soggy. In conclusion, active packaging is the process of adding a component to the existing packet of goods, this component would improve the shelf life and sustain the quality of the product.

Intelligent Packaging

This type of packaging serves the basic purpose of monitoring the condition of the packed product. With the help of temperature sensors, pH detectors, gas detectors the inner environment of the packet is estimated and the condition of the product is eventually determined.

Smart packaging not only monitors the changes in the packaging environment but also acts upon these issues.

Why pack smartly?

 

1. To prevent wastage of food

One of the major issues of handling food products is they are sometimes left lying on the departmental shelves till their date of expiry and later thrown away. With the help of smart packaging, the food product unsold at one place could be detected and relocated within their date of usage, such that the product does not get wasted.

2. Prevent Food Spoilage

Adverse environmental conditions can lead to food spoilage which sometimes goes undetected to the naked eyes. This causes food-borne diseases. With the help of smart packaging, deteriorating conditions of the food can be tracked and removed from the supply chain.

3. Prevent the rise of counterfeit products

Real-time tracking of products would prevent the bad naming of the brand and ensure legitimacy. The consumption of a counterfeit product instead of the original one would cause the owner company to incur losses.

4. Customer interaction

With the help of technologies like QR code, NFC, and RFID, the company can communicate with the consumer via products. Making the entire process of product consumption informative and interactive.

5. Promote brand transparency

Smart packaging would enhance the traceability of the raw materials used in the manufacturing of the product, thus promoting brand transparency. Consumers tend to spend more on such brands than others.

6. Automated planning

A key benefit of smart packaging is it works as a planner and keeps the shop-owner updated regarding the pattern of consumption and the quantity of the products available.

It is important to note that innovators have even come up with packaging solutions to ease lifestyle. A simple example is a self-chilling beverage, with an inherent mechanism, that assists the can to effectively cool the beverage for the consumer. There are also thermolabile packages, self-bruising packages- that help in tamper detection, dial-dose caps- that ensure only a specified quantity of drug is dispensed in the cap for consumption. The products packed in smart packages tend to be expensive but its impact on easing the lifestyle, make it a preferred option in the consumer market

Scope of Improvement

Smart packaging is still at its infant stage and hence, there is plenty of room to improve, restructure and innovate. Here are a few suggestions which can be inculcated to make smart packaging even smarter.

Nanotechnology

Development of the packet using nanomaterials would save on the money involved in developing separate biosensors. As the nanomaterial can be developed in a way to fulfill the purpose of a sensor and thus ensure safety.

Internet of Things

The Internet of things is already playing an important role in tracking the smart packet. However, there are loopholes in the system which cause negligent loss of packages.

Cybersecurity

One of the major drawbacks associated with the onboarding of technology is the vulnerability to cyber threats. Loss of data, difficulty in retrieving the data are all problems that can only be dealt with by strengthening the cybersecurity system.

Updated business model

To effectively incorporate smart packaging into the consumer market, new business models need to be devised such that it fulfills the demands arising from consumer expectation. A shift from product to the product-service system is currently greatly observed in the market world.

The niche of smart packaging is currently limited to healthcare, food, and pharmaceutical products, leaving a spectrum of sectors left to explore. Although, it is important to note that the future of smart packaging depends on the advancements in technology, so any development in sensors or nanotechnology will indirectly vouch for the development of smart packaging.

One thing can be concluded for sure: The future of packaging looks promising!

 

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