If what we in the profession call Active packaging – those that can extend shelf life, monitor condition of products, indicate that condition, or stabilize product condition for extended periods – do their job properly, then that is a Smart solution.
All Active and Intelligent Packaging (A&IP) is Smart, from a certain point of view. And the properties of Active packaging are really the things which the bakery, biscuit and snacks manufacturers currently look for from A&IP practitioners.
On the other hand, the Intelligent side of the A&IP equation – so tags (RFID and NFC), Printed Electronics (PE), Augmented and Virtual Reality and QR codes – are now becoming more versatile, less costly and certainly within reach of the makers of low unit cost items, such as baked goods, for promotional opportunities, tracking and, most importantly, consumer engagement.
There are now many examples of how a confectionery, bread or biscuit makers can benefit from A&IP technologies. These are becoming more and more prevalent as these novel packaging developers work with each other, and packaging converters, to offer solutions for brand owners. There is now a clear focus on the needs of the marketplace, rather than developing an A&IP idea and seeing where it fits.
In particular brand owners who have been slow to respond to some of the threats posed by more agile and disruptive smaller brands are now waking up to the possibilities of creating new ways to enhance brand identity and loyalty and differentiate their products.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of A&IP at work in the bakery and snacks sectors.
One of the key areas of research for packaging of bread, cakes and biscuits is into the antimicrobial properties of nanocomposites. This is particularly important as consumers turn away from products containing preservatives. NanoPack is a 3-year EU funded project (www.nanopack.eu) aimed at developing and demonstrating a solution for extending food shelf life by using novel antimicrobial surfaces applied in active food packaging products. Several partners from across Europe and Israel are involved.
The Nanopack technology consists in the encapsulation of essential oils with a naturally-occurring antimicrobial activity into Halloysite Nanotubes (HNTs), which are subsequently mixed with polymers to make packaging films. As the antimicrobial agents are released as a vapor from the packaging materials into the headspace, they can sanitize both the product surface and the headspace.
A first round of antimicrobial efficacy tests announced during Anuga Foodtec showed the film’s ability to inhibit mold growth on food-additive free bread. The sample had no mold growing in the area exposed for up to 27 days, post packaging.
Uniquely, the project also deals with the commercialization as well as regulatory and consumer acceptance of the film.
About the author: Andrew Manly is communications Director, Active & Intelligent Packaging Industry Association (AIPIA)
You can read more on this topic in our print magazine European Baker & Biscuit (Jul/Aug 2018)! A second part of this article will be published in the next issue of European Baker & Biscuit – Sept/Oct 2018, out soon!