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Arla close to developing intelligent milk cartons

13-Jul-2004

Swedish dairy giant Arla Foods is close to starting work on the development of new sensory dairy packaging that can monitor its own shelf life.

An official decision is likely to be made on 1 October 2004 when Arla Foods' supervisory board meets to decide on future spending and strategy. According to www.piranet.com, there has been a positive indication so far that the project will get the go-ahead.

The company is also said to be keen to conduct market research with retailers and consumers to assess their views about the concept and intelligent packaging for food in general.

This new packaging concept forms part of a definitive trend towards achieving improved shelf life through packaging. A recent report from market analyst BCC emphasises the importance of such packaging concepts such as oxygen scavengers, MAP and RFID to the future of food production.

In the report, "Active, Controlled and Intelligent Packaging for Foods and Beverages," BCC analysts Paula M. Kalamaras and Paul Kraly examine the ramifications that these types of packaging options will have on retailers, consumers and manufacturers.

Advances in active packaging have spawned oxygen scavengers, antimicrobial films and gas permeable packages, while controlled packaging has led to modified atmosphere packaging, moisture absorbers and other hybrid forms of packages to keep foods fresh. Along with changes in electronic identifiers that track freshness, temperature and even provide communications with smart refrigerators, BCC contends that a new world of packaging is emerging.

The report brings together a comparison of the various innovations in active, controlled and modified atmosphere systems and examines the effects of radio frequency identification systems and its offshoots. In addition to an in-depth comparison of such packaging components as oxygen scavengers, MAP, sous vide and RFID, the analysts provide forecasts for each type of packaging option and examine the impact that these types of packages have on the food industry.

Food and beverage processing companies rely more than ever on the various forms of shelf-life extension technology needed to ensure their products will be packed, shipped, delivered and consumed with as little spoilage as possible. Because of this, BCC estimates that the food preservation industry is on the verge of radically changing the ways in which consumer purchases are extended.

From such radical forms of preservation as irradiating or encapsulating foods to incorporating antimicrobial agents into the packaging itself, food processors are seeking ways to reduce the number of chemicals incorporated into the foods themselves.

This is not the first time that Arla has attempted to push the envelope on dairy packaging. Last year the company market tested Tetra Pak's Carton Bottle concept with its yoghurt product Yoggi, which was originally sold in gable top packaging.

The Carton Bottle is made from a carton material sleeve with an injection moulded plastic top, which is significantly elevated in order to create a bottle top with screw cap.

Tetra Pak says that the Carton Bottle offers a better freshness image due to the use of carton material, together with a plastic bottle top with a wide pouring hole and screw cap. Other distancing qualities are photographic quality flexo process print directly onto all visible carton surfaces, a safety membrane beneath the screw cap and the fact that more than 50 per cent of the Carton Bottle is made from renewable material.

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