When you think of policies that we consider “smart”, you do not necessarily think of the modest packages that lined the shelves of the pantry or refrigerator; after all, the most basic function of packaging is to protect food.
But in reality, packaging could do much more than that. In fact, the astonishing innovations in packaging not only help keep food fresh, but also allow brands to better manage their supply chains and communicate with their customers in the future.
“Packaging has always been smart, precisely because it preserves the quality and safety of our food,” said Pedro Gonçalves, vice president of marketing for Tetra Pak USA and Canada. “But it will improve the interconnection of many nodes in the value chain, making it critical to flexibility, quality control and inventory control, and making it even more important for the brand manager to connect with consumers.”
Key features of smart packaging
Here are some of the ways smart innovations are transforming packaging today and what we see in the near future:
Traceability is mainly about callbacks as it determines exactly which product is involved. However, there are other important factors for traceability, such as the ability to improve value chain logistics by tracking where a package is at a given moment. And you can offer more opportunities in the future. For example, from a sustainability point of view, this could mean tracking the end-of-life characteristics of the package to find out if and where it has been recycled.
2. Preventing food waste.
While one of the major benefits of proper packaging is to prevent food waste by keeping food fresh, smart packaging can go a step further. For example, a store system can track packaging dates and launch a promotion to encourage quick sales when a product is nearing the shelf life. And as more and more refrigerators and freezers are connected, packaging will be able to connect an appliance with an algorithm that recognizes the code or image and pass it on when an item is bought or opened so the consumer knows what to eat or cook, while it’s still fresh.
3. Improving the consumer experience.
Intelligent packaging enables brands to move toward one-way and two-way communication for stronger relationships, Gonçalves explained. And while smart packaging can be a tool to expand your nutrition information and recipes, you can do much more.
In the near future, packaging will be able to transfer information to wearable products, such as health monitors, to help manage consumers’ diets and other lifestyle factors. “Today’s consumers are more knowledgeable and traditional advertising is becoming less effective,” said Gonçalves. “Brands want to become more granular in order to understand their customers – where they are consuming and why they are consuming – and then give consumers the opportunity to return to the brand. The package can be the main portal for this.”
What’s new in smart packaging?
While smart packaging already plays a major role in connecting consumers and improving brand experience, the promise of many advancements makes packaging even more attractive. For example, the use of intelligent packaging to determine the characteristics of end-of-life products can contribute to increased sustainability opportunities. “It allows brand leaders to identify when their packaging is being aggressively recycled – and launches a conversation to educate consumers on how to better recycle if necessary.” Gonçalves said. In addition, further knowledge about recycling behavior can help improve potential recycling facilities and justify their costs.
And to help brands connect with customers, Tetra Pak introduces color cardboard printing in color cartons, which opens up new flexibility in product customization.
A rich heritage of innovation
Tetra Pak’s desire to be at the forefront of packaging innovation is not surprising due to its legacy. From its origins in Sweden in 1951, it has pioneered aseptic packaging and a filling process that has allowed food to be stored for long periods without preservatives. This has revolutionized the distribution of products such as milk, especially in regions with limited cooling, thereby contributing to a healthy diet.
The pursuit of innovation continues today. “Other industries have mastered the concept of ‘smart’ and I think food is the last resort,” said Gonçalves. “Tetra Pak is committed to being technology-ready for the future with the goal of connecting to any system or platform that the brand uses.”
Do you want to continue the conversation? Food Dive Brand Studio and Tetra Pak have launched a podcast series called “Unpacking Food Tech.” Be famous for our last episode, which delves deeper into smarter packaging – where we are now and what we can expect for the food and beverage industry in the future. Don’t want to wait? Grab our first episode, in which two experts shared the common myths surrounding the food industry about packaging sustainability, and the second episode, which explored how technological innovations revolutionize package manufacturing and real-life use to its benefits. .