For many consumers and businesses, packaging can be an afterthought. It’s the stuff that’s removed and thrown away after goods are delivered. But it’s essential to both retailers and individuals – it keeps food safe, gets stock to its destination, and sees the ever-increasing number of online purchases safely to consumers. Oftentimes companies use simple cardboard or plastic materials with few or no special features, but packaging can be much more than that. Some packaging manufacturers and researchers are working to make the industry more technologically advanced, implementing features such as temperature control, mold detection, NFC technology, electronic ink, and more. Smart packaging offers many advantages for businesses in a range of industries, and its adoption is on the rise as it becomes more sophisticated and readily available.
The smart packaging market can look forward to healthy growth over the next several years, according to research by Technavio’s industry experts. It’s expected to grow by $3 billion by 2023, and a moderately fragmented market means that competition is healthy, but not intense. North America will be the biggest source of growth, but there are market opportunities around the world. There are many opportunities here for both sellers and buyers. And with COVID-19 spreading around the world and consumers increasingly relying on e-commerce to get what they need, good packaging is more important than ever.
What is smart packaging?
Smart packaging can be divided into two categories: active packaging and intelligent packaging. Active packaging adjusts the environment inside the packaging by controlling factors such as temperature and moisture, while intelligent packaging adds features that provide information such as the status of the product, including expiration and freshness, recipes, coupons, and more. It allows both retailers and consumers to better judge the shelf life and quality of the product, creates marketing opportunities, and adds functionality after purchase.
What innovations are manufacturers bringing to the smart packaging market?
Packaging can be made “smart” in many different ways, from adding a QR code or NFC chip that customers can scan to get information and deals, to completely reinventing what a package looks like and how it’s used. Here are some of the recent developments in smart packaging technology.
LivingPackets has partnered with E Ink to create a completely new type of shipper. The Box is reusable, durable, and features a smart display with electronic ink. It’s made of plastic that is built to last for 1,000 trips, and can then be recycled when it reaches the end of its lifespan. It’s also foldable and can be shipped in one of two sizes. The interior is customizable in order to protect the contents and eliminate the need for packing material. It also features sensors that measure temperature, humidity, and shocks, and the data from those sensors can be accessed at any time through a smartphone app.
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On the outside of The Box, e-ink labels can be easily changed and updated, and only require power to change the details, not to display them. This makes it simple for companies to repurpose The Box or for consumers to return something they ordered.
The Box is being offered as a service, meaning that businesses aren’t able to purchase it outright, but it also means it’s more accessible to companies with smaller budgets. LivingPackets offers a basic service package that’s intended to be comparable in price to traditional cardboard boxes, with the option to sign up for additional services on top of that. The company says The Box is designed to handle roughly 80% of all online deliveries. The manufacturer is currently testing the product in pilot programs in Europe, with plans to expand to the rest of the world in the future.
Expiration dates are always a guessing game. Food might be thrown away while it’s still good due to a conservative date printed on the package, or it could go off earlier than expected and give the customer an unpleasant surprise. BlakBear is creating a product to solve this problem and help cut down on the amount of food that’s thrown away before it’s spoiled. The company has made a food sensor that detects ammonia – an indication that food has gone bad – and can be read by tapping a smartphone against the food’s packaging. The sensor costs just two cents to produce, and because it’s read using NFC technology, it doesn’t need to take up design space on the packaging. The sensor makes it simple for both retail workers and customers to check the freshness of a product on the shelf.
This sensor can also be used as a marketing opportunity – when a customer taps the product to check the expiration, they can also be shown a coupon for a discount based on the best before date, or access recipes or other product information. Not only does it give customers more confidence in the freshness of the product, it can also help move food that’s reaching the end of its lifespan by providing purchase incentives. BlakBear is still developing the product and will be running trials in regions around the world.
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Making medication smarter
In the pharmaceutical field, Lupin Limited has partnered with Aptar Pharma to create Adhero, a Bluetooth-enabled device that lets people with inhalers track their daily use and helps them adhere to their prescribed doses.
According to Aptar Pharma, almost 50% of patients fail to stick to their medication schedules or don’t keep up with their prescriptions. Adhero is designed to help improve the user’s quality of life by monitoring their consumption patterns and sending reminders to their phone via an app. It can also share this information with the user’s physician if they grant permission. With so many people relying on daily medications to maintain their health and quality of life, smart packaging technology has a lot of potential in the pharmaceutical industry.
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