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Packages embedded with specific sensors, which store tracking information about the history of a product attribute, such as freshness, gas leakage, and microbial contamination, for instance.

As consumers increase their awareness regarding food quality, industries that work with products with limited longevity and specific environmental requirements (like food and pharmaceuticals) rely more on intelligent systems to achieve increased efficiency. Inexpensive sensors embedded in packaging could alleviate both problems. Accordingly, active packaging could be a useful tool to support both the consumers and producers in achieving accountability and trust among all parts.

Current technology use sensors to detect ripeness, spoilage, defrosting, thawing (and subsequent refreezing), or exposure to inappropriately high temperatures. Apart from the convenience factor, sensors or chips could also visually indicate the presence of contaminants. The whole system could be either an external or internal indicator to provide information about aspects of the container itself or the contents contained therein.

Being able to contain programmable matter, Smart Materials, active packaging could embed components and additives such as enzymes crystallized on hydrogel composite membranes (HCMs) to enhance product quality and decrease the chances of microbial spoilage. These active components could also be antioxidants or even oxygen scavengers. By bringing these pieces of information to sight, these features could provide precise information about the "actual" shelf life of products, besides indicating the current quality condition of the food to ensure product quality and safety.

As such, this technology could have a significant impact on food security through the enhancement of food education and literacy among users. All of that could produce an ideal solution for brand protection across a range of industries, particularly pharmaceuticals, government entities, and other verticals concerned with grey market sales, counterfeiting, and supply chain integrity.

Future Perspectives
Along with new regulations designed according to the specificity of this technology, active packaging could help drive a market based on consumer demand. By embedding intelligent systems with the packaging, it could interact with customers and offer tailored advice regarding nutritional information, thus enhancing consumer accountability and trust.

Not only does this type of packaging work for the consumer, but it could also provide retail brands with better data regarding their products post-purchase until being discarded. Suppliers could use this packaging to generate additional "hard" data, such as the amount of time the product sits in the fridge or on the shelf before being consumed.

When combined with other emerging technologies such as Augmented Reality, it is possible to envision a future in which food education will be ever-closer to people’s homes. In a context of heightened consumer mistrust concerning the food market, these advancements may embody a fitting response to the need for transparency and monitoring in the food chain.

Active Packaging

KEY TRENDS

Packaged Convenience