A new report from BCC emphasises the importance of innovative 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.
Retail trends indicate that perishable foods comprise over 50 per cent of all foods and therefore must be packaged in either gas permeable or re-closeable packaging to avoid spoilage, so the food will last from the manufacturer to the table. Even non-perishable, dry foods need to have an extended shelf life. According to the analysts, retailers prefer at least a year's storage on shelves to meet their requirements for non-perishable dry food packaging.
The report therefore 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.
BCC also provides an examination of future trends to determine what lies on the horizon for the packaging industry, from smart labels and smart cards to instant cold or instant heat packages. BCC claims that the report is a valuable source of information for product designers, entrepreneurs, food processors and manufacturers.
For example, the report identifies consumer desire for convenience as a chief driving factor in food packaging. According to BCC, they want easy-to-use, safe, fresh, appealing foods that will last for a long time. In addition, they want a wide range of choices in their products - local, imported, organic - to name a few, and they want it packaged in a minimal amount of packaging that is at the same time biodegradable, antimicrobial, space saving, and preservative free.
With nearly 99 per cent of all food packaged at one time or another, advances in packaging need to keep up with consumer demands. Soon more than 43 per cent of those over the age of 45 will control 50 per cent of the household income. Even now, says the report, more than 73 per cent are households consisting of only one or two people.
More than 45 per cent of the workforce is made up of women, who traditionally have been more likely to stay at home and prepare meals. Single-parent households number more than 13 million and that is still growing.
BCC argues that these facts point out the need for product designers, manufacturers, food processors and trade associations to redefine the types of packaging covering the food and beverages of today to meet the needs of changing societal demographics.
The analysts also identify a trend to seek out conveniently packaged foods, fast-preparing or already prepared, with less chemical additives that still possess a long shelf life. Consumers are also looking for value for money, and want foods packaged with a minimal of materials and a maximum ease of use, reuse and biodegradability.
Consumers want their foods in easy-to-use and re-use packaging that will allow them to control portions and retain the rest for another meal. What may seem simple to the consumer - a zippered package here, an I.D. tag or freshness indicator there - are some of the latest in a complex series of design and engineering feats that have dominated the packaging industry over the past several years.