Can Intelligent Packaging Improve Product Quality?
Packaging has long played a crucial role in marketing a product, as well as protecting and securing it. But what if product packaging could do more? It’s that question that has driven innovation in package technology to enable packaging to do things like sense temperature, indicate freshness or ripeness, detect tampering to thwart counterfeiting, and track product expiration.
This innovation is called intelligent packaging — and it has caught the interest of consumer product goods (CPG) manufacturers. As reported in Packaging Digest, The Freedonia Group forecasts that U.S. demand for active and intelligent packaging will reach $3.5 billion in 2017. But does intelligent packaging live up to the hype?
What is intelligent packaging?
Intelligent packaging is a subset of active packaging, defined by the AIP Competence Platform as “packaging that interacts chemically or biologically with its contents or head space to extend shelf-life.” Intelligent packaging communicates details about the product that can change or be tracked, such as food’s freshness or tracking data for pharmaceuticals.
Intelligent packaging is gaining traction with consumers, too. As consumers adopt other “smart” technologies such as smart watches, glasses, fitness wristbands, and a plethora of other Internet-connected, sensor-enabled devices, their interest in intelligent packaging is likely to continue to grow.
Packaging industry experts say intelligent packaging is no fad, but a valid means to ensure product quality. What are some of its potential quality-boosting capabilities?
- Guarantee freshness and quality of food products — Smart labels and other indicators incorporated into packaging can measure compounds given off by food products as they age or ripen (in the case of produce), allowing consumers to see the product’s freshness without handling or damaging the item. Not only does this let consumers determine the product’s quality, but also reduces direct handling that would otherwise damage the product and create food waste.
- Fight product counterfeiting — While the most frequently counterfeited products are in fashion and electronics, counterfeiting also occurs in both food and pharmaceuticals. Intelligent packaging technologies such as anti-erasing ink help thwart product counterfeiters.
- Protect consumers — Intelligent packaging can also play a role in protecting consumers, particularly when it comes to their use of pharmaceuticals. Smart caps and smart labels can help remind patients to take necessary medications at appropriate times and collect data to help doctors remotely monitor patient compliance.
- Improve product traceability throughout the supply chain — Traceability is a critical issue for the pharmaceutical industry. Tracking drugs from manufacture and packaging through shipping to distribution to patients is crucial for keeping potentially harmful counterfeit drugs out of the supply chain and maintaining product integrity. Intelligent packaging incorporating radio-frequency identification (RFID) with antennas and near-field communication (NFC) smart tags are two recent innovations that improve product traceability.
Can intelligent packaging really improve product quality? Recent innovations suggest it absolutely can. Although intelligent packaging options are still in their emerging stages, working closely with your packaging vendor ensures you are in the know about intelligent packaging options that may be a fit for your product as they become available. As innovation in intelligent packaging technologies continues, the possibilities are endless — and exciting!
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