2020 Trends: Smart Packaging

Smart packaging, also known as intelligent or active packaging, is an emerging term for packaging that is more interactive in some way. Imagine a prescription container that can tell you when it's getting low, or automatically send an order to refill itself. Or another package that can automatically dispense the proper dosage. 

There are subtle differences between these three types of packaging, but they equate to the same thing: how can the circle of our increasingly interconnected devices grow to encompass healthcare packaging as well?

Active & Intelligent: Key Aspects for Smart Packaging

While the examples above seem far-fetched, we're closer than it might seem. Innovators are working through methods which utilize familiar technologies, like Bluetooth and NFC (near field communication), to find new ways with which our medical needs interact with our various devices. These have been used in packaging for some time, but technology is refined and integrated, new uses emerge. 

At the heart of all these endeavors, though, is the patient or the user. Researchers in this field have to ask, What does the end-user need? How can this best serve them? Smart packaging needs to be active and intelligent to provide the most good. It needs to be intuitive and integrated into not only devices owned and familiar to the user, but amenable to how their mind works as well. 

Looking Forward

Sunrise Packaging has yet to create smart packaging on the level described above. Demand isn't quite there yet. Not to mention it's relatively cost-prohibitive and time-consuming to product on a large-scale at present.

But there's no doubt that the trend toward integrated smart devices is not slowing down. Demand and expectations will grow, and eventually the constraints around this type of packaging will become more manageable.


The Evolution of Smart Packaging


The evolution of smart Packaging has progressed very quickly. Just a few years ago, smart packaging meant a label on a box with a tracking number, or even more advanced: a barcode readable by a laser scanner. In more recent years, the QR Code, short for Quick Response, became so popular that it was hard to find an advertisement without one. Scannable by a smartphone, a QR code would bring an interested user to a website, tutorial video, or social media account. They became almost fashionable. Websites spawned to generate and track QR codes for the purposes of trend following. It looked like the new wave in online marketing strategy.

And yet, today, if you were to Google ‘smart packaging’ QR codes would be the farthest from. While they are still an easy, worthwhile asset, smart or intelligent packaging has moved into an almost science-fiction-like state. Slim microchips that detect if food is rotting is included in packaging to help specify ‘sell by’ dates. One step further, nano-technology in packaging may actually inhibit mold and microbe growth.

Where once packaging was meant to be kept secular from the product inside, it’s now directly linked to it. That is an evolution in packaging in general. Boxes that are more than just a vessel of delivery, but actually sustain the contents. Support it and promote it.

So while the distinction is smart packaging is splintering–active packaging, intelligent packaging, etc–the rate at which innovation is being made is exponential across the board. Slim micro-screens and app interaction have teamed up to make “virtual mirrors” for cosmetic products. The eerie sounding “augmented human” trend could let consumers try on makeup at the store without ever putting anything on their skin.

In some ways, the future of packaging is in flux. There’s always a call for less wasteful packaging, but with the technologies listed above, paired with anti-theft measures, marketing tactics, and procedural instructions, one could argue packaging is more important than ever.


Packaging Digest


Image: Packaging Digest

The Next Strides in Smart Packaging

 smart packaging for an interactive consumer experience

What’s the future of retail packaging?

You have a product, you put it in a box and sell it. Not much of an evolution there, right?

Wrong! So very wrong. Packaging is everything. It’s not just us saying that–although we may be a little biased–there are numerous reports about the importance of having a strong presence at retail.

In an article for Forbes, Chris Wilder of Moor Insights and Strategy wrote about the future of packaging. While the article was geared more towards food packaging, Wilder did say that “no industry, segment, or market is immune.” And it’s true. There was a time when, say, jewelry packaging was very different from, say, produce packaging. But today, and moving forward, that distinction is breaking down. Especially as the world moves towards smart packaging.

What is Smart Packaging?

Also called intelligent packaging, or active packaging, smart packaging refers to a level of interactivity between the people and the package. It can be as simple as a QR code to track a shipped package–a technology that has been utilized for years–or as advanced as embedding microchips in packaging. While the latter isn’t widely used, the implication for what this means for the future of packaging in general is exciting.

An interactive experience, not just for package handlers or delivery persons, but for consumers as well. Imagine whipping out your smart phone, scanning a product at retail, and unlocking a variety of comparative, informative material.

Pretty cool, right?

In some ways, we’re already there. In other ways, we’re still a ways off. In the Forbes article, Wilder outlines the various custom packaging methods companies are currently using to vie for shelf presence at retail. He refers to the idea of hybrid packaging–custom boxes that are a blend of conventional retail packaging tenets and all the bells and whistles of luxury packaging. Hitting the stride between informing the consumer what the product is and does, and also establishing a stand-out presence in order to stay ahead of the competition. Wilder even mentions rigid materials! Now that’s an informed analyst.

Where the future of custom boxes and personalized packaging is heading, one can only speculate, of course. Whether or not you embed a microchip in your retail packaging is up to you. Still, the facts about presentation packaging remain true: standing out at retail is still the most important element. Eye-catching packaging, turned edges, and interesting materials will give your box a leg up in the retail arena.

Is Smart Packaging in our Future?

An article released out of Norway this week highlights how researchers believe that the packaging of the future may be able to contain substances that kill or get rid of unwanted bacteria in the packages contents.

Image Source: Nofima

The researchers at the forefront of the project are investigating packaging potential at the Nofima Food Research Institute in Norway. The institute has created its own food packaging program which is being supported by the Foundation for Research Levy on Agricultural Products (FFL).

This new and growing area of research is being called biopackaging. It is studying how every year, household product large amounts of food waste and how that waste can be recycled into packaging.

“Today, biomaterials are mainly used for fruit, vegetables and dry food products (apart from fibre-based materials such as cardboard). Our goal should be to use more food waste for packaging. There is a huge potential here, but also many challenges,” says research scientist Marit Kvalvåg Pettersen, who is heading the program at Nofima.

One way to test the biomaterials for biopackaging is to find out if it can be replaced with traditional plastics. With a great deal of research and innovation still needed to garner success for more types of packaging, Nofima is currently turning to salmon and chicken packaging for testing.

“The greatest challenge is that biomaterials often have poor damp barriers, which in turn can affect the oxygen barrier. We recently tested the packing of salmon and chicken in starch-based packaging. The results show that the food products had a better colour towards the end of storage compared with the traditional materials, but they dried out. The reason is that the biomaterial absorbs moisture,” says Mr. Pettersen.

If proven successful, there will need to be major changes in waste handling and recycling to really get the full effects of bioplastics across to consumers.

Nofima is also testing the use of products like cinnamon, oregano, or lemon, on meat different meats and how it affects the shelf life of meat products and prevents the growth of bacteria.

“Some substances contain compounds that prevent bacteria from growing quickly. These antimicrobial substances can be spread on the packaging or mixed into the plastic material before it is remoulded into the correct shape. In or on the packaging, these substances make themselves useful by breaking down or preventing the growth of the unwanted bacteria. We have tested a selection of potential antimicrobial substances that are extracted from cinnamon or oregano, for example, and used in the packaging,” explains Mr Pettersen.

So far, the researchers have seen success when testing the antimicrobial substances found in cinnamon on plastic packaging of chicken.

“Compared with packaging without these agents, the antimicrobial substances helped to reduce the speed of bacterial growth at the start of the storage period. This is a good basis for further work on similar packaging solutions,” says Mr Pettersen.

For the complete article, click here

Source: Nofima