The power of packaging: how smart can packaging be?


Packaging used to solely function as a logistic tool to transport a product from A to B. How things have changed! It’s no coincidence that Puratos has a dedicated team working full-time on improving quality of existing packaging concepts and monitoring and implementing new packaging trends. “It’s extremely important to have access to all available expertise on the market related to packaging foodstuff. Not only for packaging of our own products, but also for those of our clients”, says Tim van Caelenberg, Packaging Development Manager at Puratos.

“Developments and new opportunities are growing enormously, packaging is becoming ever-smarter.” Van Caelenberg describes two types of smart packaging: active and intelligent packaging.

Intelligent packaging 
With intelligent packaging, the focus is on monitoring the food product during the complete supply chain, by connecting to the packaging. A well-known example are codes on the packaging, such as QR-codes and barcodes or even codes imbedded inside of the material. The user can read information about the product via a smartphone, tablet or other scanner.  “In retail, the code can for example be linked to a website featuring product information, recipes or promotions.” Besides providing information, intelligent packaging can also monitor the quality of a product. “For example, thermochromic ink can be applied to the packaging that discolours or changes into a particular symbol when the product is brought from room temperature to refrigerator temperature. Depending on the colour, the end-user can read when the product has reached the perfect temperature for use.” Van Caelenberg also sees possibilities for Puratos’ own products. “For example, we could use thermochromic ink in the future for our Chantypak packaging. Then the thermochromic ink will indicate when the vegetal cream is at the perfect temperature to be whipped.”

The power of packaging: how smart can packaging be?

Connected packaging 
“'The internet of packaging' will become a fact in the not too distant future. Nearly every individual package will be connected, by linking it to digital systems or devices.” Van Caelenberg is currently seeing strong advances in the possibilities to trace packaging throughout the entire chain. “You can already now trace the package location, when it is opened and when the packaging is returned to be re-used. Even certain facets of product quality can be measured remotely. This is a trend that we really must use to our advantage in the food industry. The technology is currently expensive, but this will change rapidly. Tracing and monitoring product quality remotely will soon become the norm and considerably become more affordable.”

The power of packaging: how smart can packaging be?

Active packaging 
The main objective of active packaging is to extend the shelf-life of packaged foodstuff, without having to add extra preservatives to the product. “The presence of oxygen around the product can, for example, make the product oxidise or discolour. To prevent this, packaging can be developed in which components are incorporated that capture oxygen and thus give the product a longer shelf-life.” Another trend that you are seeing more and more in retail with fresh products such as cheese, fish and vegetables, are antimicrobial components embedded in the packaging material. “A low dose of these natural, antimicrobial products is continuously released into the packaging to ensure that the product does not mould as quickly or lose sensory quality.” Van Caelenberg also sees opportunities for Puratos products in the future. “Natural products – without antimicrobial additives in the product formulation – with a high water-activity, can quickly go mouldy. A controlled emission of antimicrobial components to extend the shelf-life then becomes an interesting story. The advantage is, that thanks to this technology, we no longer need additives in the products to extend shelf-life. And in turn, this means that we strive for a clean(er) label. This is also extremely interesting for our clients, of course. We are therefore more than willing to advise them about this or to bring them into contact with the right partners.”

The power of packaging: how smart can packaging be?

Looking for ways to innovate your packaging? Don’t hesitate to contact your Puratos representative. We are happy to advise you or to bring you into contact with our packaging experts & partners.

You might also be interested in our article about sustainable packaging and our inspirational article about eating in style on-the-go.

Picture credits:
ATCO / FreshCare / Coors Light / Antimold-Mild® / Pack4food / Reveal Impact (Ardagh Group) / Remy Martin