Generally, when you decide on a product you need or want to purchase you aren’t also taking into consideration the vessel that ultimately protects it from damage during its transition from production to consumption. Yet, in today’s technologically advancing world packaging can be active and intelligent - gone are the days of plain plastic and simple sellotape. Packaging in the modern era can be designed to extend shelf life and monitor freshness, improve user experience and give additional information, as well as improve safety and convenience through smart labelling. In this post, we will discuss some of the latest and greatest in present-day packaging.

Active & intelligent packaging

Active packaging inherently means that the packaging materials take on a non-passive role in the greater transportation and protection process. In most cases, this involves the ability to sense or measure an attribute of the product such as temperature, shipping environment, or inner atmospheric characteristics of the package itself. This information can then be communicated back to consumers or manufacturers, as well as trigger active functions to further protect the package. For example, active packaging that protects pasta and other dried food products from pests and moisture has recently been developed to extend the shelf life of pantry products.

Fighting waste & shelf life extension

Beyond expanding the shelf life of products, the contemporary development of food packaging methods and processes has had a positive effect on the safety and quality of edible contents. The innovations being brought to market are eco-friendly, waste-fighting and cheaper to produce (by more than 25% in some cases). These new packaging materials boast extreme recyclability, produce a drastically lower carbon footprint, and even use biodegradable adhesives.

Printed electronics & smart labels

Intelligent, or smart packaging features printed electronics and smart labels to improve usability and ease the transportation process. Following the IoT (internet of things) trend, packaging can today (and increasingly in the future) be expected to interact with consumers on a different level. Expanded technological capabilities allow monitoring of freshness, nutritional value, tracking, authenticity checking, anti-counterfeiting capabilities, and much more. The opportunities and benefits to consumers are virtually endless.

Augmented reality & consumer engagement

Another revolution in active packaging is the integration of augmented reality (or AR). This technology acts as a crossover between the real and virtual world. The benefit of AR is that it allows brands to interactively grasp the attention of consumers through an immersive marketing effort.

The fast-food chain McDonald’s was one of the first firms to utilize the technology during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, creating 12 different interactive AR games on unique french fry boxes. This innovative packaging strategy creates a positive reaction in consumers minds that aligns with the brand, also being advantageous by attracting more consumers, standing out from competitors, as well as creating brand loyalty with existing customers.

As technological innovations in packaging materials continue, the days of shedding a plastic case or unwrapping paper and mindlessly tossing it behind us will be just that- behind us. Active & Intelligent Packaging (A&IP) is the world’s first information source on these aforementioned innovations and more, discussing everything from printed electronics to supply chain control in an upcoming November congress where industry giants will share the latest trends and breakthroughs. Packaging is getting smarter, taking more of an active role, and becoming more efficient for consumers and for the planet.