Every aspect of our lives is becoming smarter and more intelligent with each passing year. Consumer expectations are growing exponentially and industries across the domain are introducing smarter products and systems to provide a more personalised consumer experience. The packaging industry is no exception. Top packaging manufacturers have already started to upgrade their traditional packaging systems with more intelligent, connected, and smart packaging solutions to meet customer demands.
Usage of packaging only for the protection of goods and branding has become a thing of the past. Today, with a modern lifestyle, the growing risk of food spoilage, and increasing focus on environmental sustainability, consumers expect more from packaging; intelligent packaging is the answer.
What is intelligent packaging?
Intelligent packaging can be referred to as packaging solutions that are smart, connected, interactive, and capable of performing intelligent functions such as tracking and tracing. These technologies are designed to improve product quality, ensure safety, prevent counterfeiting, and increase product shelf life.
The food supplement and nutraceutical industry has shown greater interest in intelligent packaging in past few years. Nutraceuticals can be damaged and spoil easily if not packed properly. Intelligent packaging solutions including anti-microbial packaging and nanotechnology have been found effective in protecting contents from contamination and oxidation.
Recyclable plastic packaging options like bottles, jars, and canisters have gained wide popularity for the packaging of protein supplements, liquids, capsules, and tablets, as they are shatterproof, lightweight, and entail low risk during transportation and handling.
Nutraceutical companies are adopting intelligent packaging solutions to not only increase product traceability but also prevent counterfeiters from delivering unsafe and duplicate products. With smart packaging options like QR codes and barcodes, food supplement companies can track and record product information at various stages of manufacturing, transport, and delivery. They can also learn more about the consumer purchase pattern through careful analysis of information generated by intelligent packaging, and leverage it to provide a more exceptional experience to the consumer.
Consumers also gain benefits from intelligent packaging. Through information tracking and sharing done by intelligent packaging, a consumer gets the opportunity to learn more about the product and the company, thus ensuring that the product delivered or purchased is authentic.
While intelligent packaging is still in the nascent stages of evolution, the potential and benefits of intelligent packaging are immense. With the dietary supplement market set to grow at ~9% CAGR, the demand for intelligent packaging which can communicate with the real world will increase exponentially in upcoming years.
The packaging industry is on the verge of a major paradigm shift. Upon close analysis of emerging technologies and market trends, it can be said that intelligent packaging solutions which possess diagnostic and indicator functionalities will create a massive impact in the nutraceutical and food supplement packaging domain.
ESOMAR-certified market research company Future Market Insights (FMI) organized a talk show, The Rise of Intelligent Packaging: Personalized, Connected and Sustainable, on 18 November 2021. Packaging industry experts addressed the role of packaging in marketing, adoption of sustainability to tackle food waste and plastic pollution, and technology advancements that are creating designs that incorporate holistic features.
Do statistics back up the hype?
The intelligent packaging industry is set to grow at over 9% CAGR and reach around US$46.7 billion by 2031, according to FMI data. Additionally, intelligent packaging is expected to account for more than 5% of the global packaging market share by 2030.
Intelligent packaging is gaining popularity among Gen Z and millennials, with 85% of these younger generations opting for intelligent packaging solutions. They appreciate the sustainability story and are willing to spend extra bucks on intelligent packaging. In fact, younger generations show a greater inclination towards the adoption of sustainable and recyclable packaging solutions. Nearly half of them have shown a preference for eco-friendly materials.
Barcodes, QR codes, and NFCs are the most sought-after technologies in the nutraceutical industry. According to an FMI survey, product monitoring, improving shelf life, tracking and tracing, and interactive packaging are the top factors that are compelling buyers to opt for intelligent packaging, with the need of product monitoring and improving shelf life-generating 65% of overall demand.
Understanding the revolutionary intelligent packaging technologies
Intelligent packaging market leaders heavily rely on advanced chemical and material development techniques for developing packaging solutions that offer protection to food and beverage, dietary supplements, and nutraceutical products. Active and user-friendly packaging solutions are in the growth realm with barcodes and low energy Bluetooth packaging reaching maturity. Active packaging is experiencing a major growth spurt as the global import and export of eatables and beverages have increased in recent years. We are going to discuss the packaging technologies which lie in the product life cycle curve which is shown below.
Adoption of QR codes labels has increased significantly over the past few years. The market is expanding at over 8.7% CAGR from 2019. The food supplement and nutraceutical industry is leveraging the power of QR codes to analyze the purchase pattern of the customers, improve consumer engagement, study brand loyalty, and deliver an authentic product.
These intelligent packaging solutions allow companies to monitor the sales of their product by the number of customers who scanned the QR code attached to it. This type of intelligent packaging also hampers the sales of counterfeit products by providing unique identification codes to the product.
HEBE LIFE is a UK-based supplement and nutricosmetics company that uses QR codes for product authentication and prevents counterfeiting. The engage software works with two QR codes. The first QR code is printed outside the supplement box, that’s smartphone readable and once scanned takes the customer to the companies’ landing page where unboxing procedure, authentication, and product information are provided. The first QR code allows the HEBE LIFE to track and trace the product throughout the supply chain.
After following the directions from the first QR code, the second, authenticating QR code is revealed on the side of the label’s tear strip. After breaking the seal and scanning the second QR code, the customer gets confirmation that the product received is genuine and authentic.
Packaging manufacturers are committed to reducing their carbon footprint and introducing eco-friendly, sustainable, and intelligent packaging options for their customers. For instance, Premier Protein has introduced new FSC certified Tetra Pak packaging for its ready-to-drink nutritional shakes segment. These new cartons also come with a re-sealable plant-based cap derived from sugarcane. The cartons are recyclable, lightweight and after recycling can be turned into green building materials and paper products. The sugarcane-derived caps are also 100% recyclable, highly durable, protective, and GMO-free.
Premier Protein Nutraceuticals packed in these cartons have a long shelf life as the multiple layers in the carton prevent nutrient loss and microbial growth. These protective layers act as an oxygen and moisture barrier allowing the product to survive in a fluctuating temperature environment.
The banning of single-use plastic has forced packaging manufacturers to explore and look out for alternative materials to comply with stringent environmental regulations. With a growing emphasis on adopting circular packaging practices, recyclable packaging is slowly gaining traction in the packaging industry. The 2020 State of Curbside Recycling Report states that 32% of recyclable waste generated in the U.S. is successfully captured by recycling programs and is introduced into the circular economy.
Top packaging companies are also developing recyclable material that is derived from post-consumer waste. Graham Packaging, a leading plastic packaging company, has introduced Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) cans as an alternative to traditional aluminum cans. These cans are made of 100% post-consumer recycled PET. These cans have superior packaging performance in thermally demanding applications. The detachable top increases its reusability, thus heightening the cost-saving. Such innovations and technological advancements are expected to promote circularity and sustainability in the upcoming years.
Packaging manufacturers are switching towards intelligent packaging solutions to make their product stand out in the market, and leverage it to expand their consumer base and maintain brand loyalty. Holograms are gaining a lot of traction in the nutraceutical packaging industry. Holograms offer businesses the opportunity to catch the eye of the consumer through their creative appeal. Holograms are also becoming a top choice for anti-counterfeiting and brand protection applications, especially in the sports nutrition and food supplement industry.
Nutraceutical companies are using holograms to store product tracking information which can be used to link on-pack product identification code with supply chain systems and other services. Some holograms are developed specifically to increase the traceability of a product and perform specific functions like tracking and recording the product information at the business and buyer level.
For instance, Optimum Nutrition Inc. uses a hologram seal on its tubs of gold standard 100% whey protein powder. Its platinum series products have a clear neckband with a silver hologram. These holograms mark the authentication of the product.
Thermal controlled packaging
Increasing shelf life and protecting and preserving products for a long duration are the key areas of focus among packaging market leaders. Intelligent packaging solution like temperature control packaging has emerged as a nifty solution that addresses this need.
Temperature-controlled packaging solutions are gaining ground in the food & beverage and nutraceutical industry owing to the rising production, transportation, and storage of perishable and temperature-sensitive products and ingredients.
Softbox is a U.K.-based packaging company that launched the Tempcell Eco temperature-control parcel container primarily designed to bring balance between performance, overall sustainability, and environmental friendliness. They are highly recyclable as they are made from 100% corrugated cardboard and it also incorporates the company's Thermaflute plastic-free insulation design.
“Survival of the Smartest” is the mantra, especially in the packaging industry. Businesses and brands that can analyze these trends and adapt according to the changing market scenarios will stay ahead of the curve.
Leveraging these intelligent packaging technologies can help your brand to rise above the fray and reach consumers at a more personalized level. The world is moving towards more advanced and sustainable methods, with proper analysis and strategic planning, manufacturers can reap the full benefits of intelligent packaging solutions that are going to revolutionize customer experience, manufacturing & shipping, and environmental protection.
Hakimuddin Bawangaonwala is an experienced market researcher and content writer, who works closely with the research teams at Future Market Insights, an ESOMAR-certified market research and consulting market research company. FMI is a leading provider of market intelligence and consulting services, serving clients in over 150 countries; its market research reports and industry analysis help businesses navigate challenges and make critical decisions with confidence and clarity amidst breakneck competition. MarketNgage is a unified market intelligence engine powered by Future Market Insights in collaboration with Fact.MR, Persistence Market Research and Transparency Market Research, that assists stakeholders in obtaining in-depth research on various segments of a specific domain or market.