Food packaging innovation trends

The food industry is highly competitive and always on the lookout for packaging that can make their brand stand out and offer consumers more convenience. While lowering the cost of packaging is always a strong driver, many food processors are ready to pay a premium to benefit from extended shelf life. This brief overview presents some of the major trends and innovations in the food packaging industry.

 

Environmental innovations

Material substitutions

Consumers are drawn to packaging that is interactive. Take for instance packaging for food and beverages: consumers are more likely to choose products with clear or see-through packaging because it allows them to view the product before buying it.

 

Light weighting

For a long time, light weighting has been driven primarily by economics, but in recent years it has also been driven by environmental concerns. Just when you think the limit has been reached, a new lower weight is achieved. New PET materials allow reducing 500 ml bottle weight to 9.9 g, and even water bottles that weigh just 7.95 g. To put this into context, the current industry average is 12 g, and in 1985 the weight of a comparable bottle was 28 g.

 

Biobased plastics

To be sustainable, consumption of resources must match their rate of renewal and therefore the use of non-renewable resources, such as petroleum-based plastics (and metals) is unsustainable. This has led to a focus on renewable biobased plastics. Nature produces 170 billion metric tons per year of biomass by photosynthesis yet only 3-4% of this material is used by humans for food and non-food purposes. Biomass carbohydrates are the most abundant renewable resources available and are currently viewed as a feedstock for the green industry of the future (including bioplastics).

 

Food safety & waste

Increased shelf life

Food packaging plays a vital role in preserving food throughout the distribution chain. In recent years, the development of novel food packaging (modified atmosphere and active packaging) has not only increased the shelf life of foods, but also their safety and quality – therefore bringing convenience to consumers. Directly related, and interlinked with food packaging is the concept of shelf life – the length of time that foods, beverages, pharmaceutical drugs, chemicals, and many other perishable items are given before they are considered unsafe or hazardous for consumption. Keeping the balance between attractive presentation and long shelf life is a critical factor.

High Pressure Processing (HPP) treatment is also gaining in popularity as a method of extending shelf life and maintaining the flavor of the products. While HPP is not a packaging innovation, it does impact the packaging because the structure must sustain the treatment. Another factor to take into consideration if HPP treatment is not done in-house is the unpacking and repacking of the products before and after it goes through the high-pressure chamber. If the benefits of the HPP treatment (shelf life, new geographic markets, taste) outweigh the cost, many food processors will pay the additional cost associated with it.

 

Innovative design

Smart packaging

According to Mintel, the research firm that did studies on packaging design trends for 2017, scanning the product’s packaging to find out information about its freshness, ingredient sourcing and background of the company is something about half U.S. consumers would be interested in. Another possibility that’s already been put into play is a digital dot on the packaging that changes color in accordance with the freshness of the food item.

Packaging has already become a lot smarter, especially with the use of RFID codes to track the product in stores and during delivery.

Smaller Pack Size

Consumer products must be packaged to meet the needs of consumers and be appropriate for different types of consumption. Snacking, portion control and consumer concerns over sugar intake are pertinent trends in foods and the soft drinks segment.

Pack size reduction is a trend that now goes beyond the traditional snacking category to include cosmetics, cleaning products and premium foods and beverages. The main driver for those products is affordability rather than portion control.

 

Custom structures

Brands are beginning to recognize the value of unique structures, and are more willing to incur additional costs if it means their product will stand apart from others in their categories. Food and beverage products have a major chance of to gaining attention by using unique structures. Specialty packaging can also offer an opportunity to elevate to a higher price point.

 

Advanced printing techniques

We saw a rise in CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) brands beginning to utilize different printing techniques such as spot matte and gloss in 2016, and it will only continue to grow in 2017. The snack and beverage categories show the most potential to see experimental printing techniques in use.

Textured packaging has also made its way into the market, creating a different sensory experience for consumers with embossment, textured printing techniques, and unique materials.

 

Innovative and versatile packaging automation machines

Innovations in packaging also mean that equipment should adapt, and Control GMC is responding with an improved range of cup filling and sealing machinery.

Versatility to run different sizes or shapes of rigid containers has always been the trademark of Control GMC, but the latest design allows faster changeovers and more efficient cleaning and sanitation.  Moreover, replacing air cylinders by servo-motors in key assemblies such as the film sealing and cutting unit increased the speed of the machine, but also eliminated hoses and made the machine operation more sustainable by reducing the overall compressed air consumption.

Complete changeover for different container sizes or shapes can be performed in 20 minutes, thanks to quick change magazines for cups and lids and the fully adjustable conveyor. Control GMC cup filling machines do not use dedicated pocket conveyors, but rather servo-driven cleated chain conveyors that are fully adjustable for different size containers from the HMI.

Contact our experts today to find the best cup filling solution for your needs.

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