Global demand for healthy and sustainable foods increases along with concern and awareness for the environment. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States, about one-third of the food produced worldwide is wasted or lost. That is why most food manufacturers prepare themselves to adapt to the buying trends from increasingly savvy and environmentally-conscious consumers. Manufacturers were challenged to enhance the product sustainability and must develop systems for keeping food items safer longer.
For such reasons, active packaging solutions are expected to increase. The future of food packaging is aimed at packing systems that can increase shelf life without sacrificing quality.
What is Active Packaging
Generally, packaging refers to the technology that encloses or protects products for use, sale, storage, and distribution. After completing the process, it maintains the food processing benefits, allowing the items to travel safely, even for long distances. The main purpose is to protect food against ultraviolet light, water vapor, oxygen, and microbiological and chemical contamination.
When it comes to active packaging, it incorporates specific additives within the packaging films or packaging film to extend and maintain the product’s shelf life. That is possible by improving the packaged food product’s quality, organoleptic properties, and health properties.
Smart active packaging was developed to respond to the modern consumers’ demands as they want fresh products that are semi-prepared and easy to the consumer. Since consumers prefer products with a long storage time but fewer preservatives, the health-food trend continues to rise.
How It Works?
This packaging system works in two different ways:
Active Element Placement
An active element like a small envelope, label, or envelope is placed inside the product’s packaging. It can release microbial substances to slow the deterioration process or even capture the oxygen so that the food will not go off.
Active Element Incorporation
An active element is incorporated into the packaging material itself through printing, lamination, and extrusion. Since no strange objects are involved in the product packaging that can confuse the consumers, they prefer this mechanism.
Active Packaging Types
Active Packaging comes in different types, depending on the systems used. Below are the active packaging categories:
Active Packaging with Temperature Systems
This category allows the foods to be cooled or heated. It also increases the temperature within the packaging. There are also packaging bags that to be products to be cooked and then consumed in the bag itself.
Active Packaging with Emitter and Absorber Systems
Emitters are known to have emitted anti-microbial substances like ethanol and carbon dioxide. On the other hand, absorbers eliminate unwanted substances like ethylene and oxygen, specific smells and tastes, and excess moisture.
Active Packaging with System with Food Composition Modification or Interaction
Through extensive research, materials can be additivized with natural extracts. These additives include antioxidant, enzymatic, smell absorbent, taste-absorbent, or anti-microbial. However, it is essential to remember that developments in this area need food safety standards compliance in terms of food-contact material requirements and authorized substances.
What are the Advantages of Active Packing and Future Packaging
With active packaging, food products can have an extended shelf-life. This translates to food reduction, later expiry date, and distribution further from the products’ point of origin.
Many food manufacturers collaborate with various projects that focus on biodegradable and active packaging. In fact, some of them investigate how to reduce food waste while using fewer resources by creating advanced packaging dedicated to the fresh meat industry.
Some projects are aimed to create packaging dedicated to processed meat products that are totally compostable and biodegradable and made of multi-layer materials with gars barriers.
When it comes to future applications, studies are focused on new systems like packaging with microchips incorporated into it, traffic light adhesives that can detect the ethylene to show how ripe the fruit is, and stickers that can detect whether the cold chain is broken or not. However, further studies are necessary to see whether they affect food safety or not.
Better Food Production
Some active packing systems use a UV-visible filter to packaging fatty and oily products like nuts, fatty meat, and fish. These products are vulnerable to oxidation when exposed to light.
This UV-visible filter can prevent fats, colors, and vitamin oxidation. It is effective in protecting food products at a microbiological level. It does not affect the packaging’s mechanical properties or food visualization.
Improves Product Sustainability
Product sustainability becomes an essential than before because the food industry focuses on reducing the harmful impact of food waste on the environment. Fortunately, active packaging solutions offer superior protection against odor, oxygen, moisture, and other volatile foods that directly affect food sustainability and help pack food products last longer.
Active packaging usage can improve product sustainability while preventing wasted money on product loss. Since this packaging mechanism can extend the products’ shelf-life, manufacturers can maximize their revenue streams.
Since most retailers experience huge costs due to food waste, they are motivated to collaborate with manufacturers who use active packaging. They rely on manufacturers’ consistent food delivery that maintains vitamin quality and content, visual appeal, and flavor.
With active packaging solutions, the food and beverage industry requires highly technical applications customized for particular products. Active packaging can extend foods’ shelf life that results in improved production planning and efficiency. It offers a production impact during the production stage. In return, reduced production loss, more efficient retail and manufacturing space, and more effective logistics and manufacturing site management are achieved.
Through extending the products’ shelf-life, food manufacturers become more committed to sustainability to ensure less product loss. As foods are being packed to be sustainable, manufacturers and retailers can maximize their revenues while meeting the customer demand. Since active packaging can extend foods’ shelf-life, the environment is then protected.
Depending on what consumers demand, manufacturers can choose which type of active packaging they will use. They are serious about ensuring that the packaging can extend the expiry date, improve product presence, and reduce food waste. Plus, rest assured that they will not harm the environment, and more applications are to be discovered.