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Get smart: Active packaging demand in US to hit $3.5bn

By Jenni Spinner+

04-Aug-2014

The demand for active and intelligent packaging, such as RFID sensors, is expected to hit $3.5bn in the US by 2017.
The demand for active and intelligent packaging, such as RFID sensors, is expected to hit $3.5bn in the US by 2017.

Increased demand for food safety and shelf life is fuelling growth in active and intelligent food packaging technologies, according to one industry leader.

Andrew Manly, communications director for the Active and Intelligent Packaging Industry Association (AIPIA), told FoodProductionDaily growth in active and smart packaging technology is growing in the US and other markets.

RnR is forecasting US demand for active and intelligent packaging will reach $3.bn by 2017; we have seen figures both higher and lower,” he said. “Europe will be bigger and Asia is growing fast; all the indicators are up, and many are up by double digit growth over the next three years.”

Manly said growth is fuelled food firms and other packaged goods producers around the globe becoming increasingly aware of active/smart packaging’s potential to increase profit, and to make products more safe and secure.

More and more end users are talking to AIPIA about how they can benefit from active and intelligent packaging technologies,” he said.

Manly added international companies don’t necessarily all think alike about the technology—each might have a different view of the same product.

One might be looking at better supply chain and inventory management to reduce waste and shrinkage,” he said. “Others are looking at it from the perspective of better consumer engagement and greater marketing opportunities, and data gathering for planning and things like new product development.”

Increased roll-out

Manufacturers are rolling out high-tech packaging updates serves as a vote of confidence in the technology, Manly said. He pointed toward one retailer introducing RFID on all of its non-food items.

It wants to be the store in which you can always find your size,” he said. “They have decided the only way they can do that is to adopt A&IP technologies.”

According to AIPIA market intelligence, sales of the technology are growing across food and other markets. Statistics from the Organic and Printed Electronics Association (OE-A), printed electronics demand will approach $1.7bn by 2020; packaging plays a large part of that.

Active solutions are harder to quantify as they often form part of a bigger product portfolio, but companies such as Multisorb, Emco, and Plastipak are all reporting very positive growth in this area,” Manly said.

Manly added increasing the acceleration of active and intelligent food packaging will require consumer education, but relating the benefits (such as increased safety, broader product knowledge, and even fun) should do the trick.

From the consumer engagement perspective, major brand owners see better consumer engagement can lead to a more positive response, and the spin-off of that is greater loyalty to the brand, repeat sales, and even free endorsement for products and campaigns,” he said.

The obvious advantage of active packaging is the consumer can be made aware of the condition of the products, usually a perishable food product, both at the time of purchase and later in the domestic environment,” he added. “Even the EU is beginning to criticize the inaccuracy of ‘Best Before’ and ‘Sell/Use’ by labelling, so AIPIA sees this as a steady advance of technologies which will replace these.”

Evolving technology

The obvious advantage of active packaging is the consumer can be made aware of the condition of the products, usually a perishable food product, both at the time of purchase and later in the domestic environment,” he said. “Even the EU is beginning to criticize the inaccuracy of ‘Best Before’ and ‘Sell/Use’ by labelling, so AIPIA sees this as a steady advance of technologies which will replace these.”

Smart and active packaging technology has been around for a while but is undergoing a rapid evolution. Modified-atmosphere packaging (MAP) and vacuum-skin packaging are increasing in popularity, Manley said, but even those technologies are advancing, with improved barrier properties and other updates.

Sustainability is becoming an increasing concern in smart packaging, Manly said, and manufacturers are rising to the challenge. Oxygen-scavenging packaging to increase shelf life, frequently using natural components, is proliferating, as are bio-based plastics (made from sugar-cane waste, straw, shrimp shells, and other materials).

One barrier to the rise of active and intelligent packaging is mistrust and misunderstanding of nanotechnology. Manley pointed out while the jury has been out about the high-tech materials and coatings, research backs up the safety of such products, and the EFSA has approved several such materials for food-contact use.

AIPIA is bringing its annual AIPIA Congress, which covers various aspects of active and intelligent packaging technology, to PACK EXPO International. The event, scheduled in Chicago November 2-4, will feature presentations by the FDA, Eastman Kodak, and other organizations and companies.

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