Smart Packaging – Make the Packaging Intelligent
Considering all the impressive technological developments in the past few years, the question is asked: why should one deal with a relatively boring topic like packaging? First of all, probably the most important reason why the packaging industry is an interesting sector of economics is the enormous turnovers achieved in this industry. According to the SmithersPira “The Future of Global Packaging to 2020” report, the packaging industry will achieve sales of $1 trillion in 2020 (Figure 1).
The main reasons for the growth in the industry are:
Almost everything that is produced must also be packaged
Growth in mail-order business
Growing middle class in the BRICS states
Another reason for the growing interest in the packaging industry is that, in addition to the classic protection and transport function, it has gained enormously in importance as a marketing tool. So the packaging is often seen as a fifth “P” in the marketing mix. 70% of purchase decisions are made unconsciously while 30% are made consciously but not free from influences like the brand, packaging and positioning. Therefore, a typical customer is 20 minutes in a grocery store and settles 15 purchases. On average, there are 12 seconds for the purchase decision per product. This fact shows the increasing importance.
What ist Smart Packaging?
Smart packaging is any kind of packaging, providing a greater functionality to the package. So there is a distinction of two different types of smart packaging – active and intelligent packaging.
Active packaging should change the environment of the packaged good. So you can have active packaging with moister control, oxygen absorption, light regulation, UV absorption, ethylene absorption, aroma regulation and antimicrobial impact. For years, manufacturers have tried to extend the shelf life of their products with these smart packaging methods. The capabilities of these packages are achieved by the material composition and the deliberate incorporation of barriers.
Intelligent packaging expands the communication capability of the packaging. So the package is able to recognize and report external and internal changes of the packaged product. The package can communicate or signal changes. The ability of intelligent packaging can be used for anti-counterfeit, supply chain management and control, marketing and branding messages. The communication capability is achieved by printed electronics such as TTI-systems, RFID chips or NFC tags.
What are the main markets for Smart Packaging?
The main markets for Smart Packaging are in the industrial and retail sector. In the industrial environment, Smart Packaging will play an important role in the anti-counterfeiting strategies of the companies. Thanks to Smart Packaging, it is possible to use packaging with special safety features. Thus, original parts can already be recognized by the authenticity of the packaging. In addition, the use of seals is designed to prevent counterfeiters from opening and changing the package. Moreover, Smart Packaging can support the supply chain management and control. The tracking of products gets easier. With these abilities, it is also possible to fight against grey- and black-market activities.
In the retail sector one of the most important factors will be the ability to communicate with products in the shops. Especially the fact that customers can easily get information about the history of a product – the origin, maturity, etc. – can be a relevant factor for the buying decision. Another aspect is that products can give information to the customers in the shop about how to use them in a creative way. Imagine the packaging of food giving cooking recipes to the customer. Especially in the environment with the “Internet of Things” these aspects will be more and more relevant.
In the food & beverage and the medical sector, Smart Packaging already plays an important role. Especially highly developed is active packaging, which perceives the quality of food and medicine. But also intelligent packaging will nest a large role in the medical sector according to a new packaging regulation made by the FDA to make the market for pharmaceuticals more secure.
What are the main drivers for Smart Packaging?
The main drivers for Smart Packaging are an aging population, more demanding and wealthy customers, changing lifestyles, tougher legislation and concerns towards counterfeits. Packaging will control the consumption of medicine from the sick and elderly and give them or the doctor a signal if something goes wrong.
What are the obstacles to Smart Packaging?
The technology must reach industry standards with regard to cost and supply chain efficiency. In particular, the factory costs must be reduced to provide a real alternative for the mass market. Furthermore many of these packages are not recyclable. So the lack of sustainability has to be improved in order to be successful in an increasingly environmentally-conscious society. Finally, it is conceivable that, for reasons of data protection regulations, the full performance of the technology can’t be retrieved.
In summary, Smart Packaging can provide an additional value to the industry if it achieves the requirements of the mass market: robust, cheap and easy to handle.