Food waste is an environmental, social, and financial concern to the world but at the same time providing an opportunity for the packaging industry to develop smart packaging solutions. Around 25% of all food produced around the world ends up in landfills annually, implying that nearly 1.3 billion tonnes of food get wasted, Food and Agriculture Organization estimated. It is assessed that around 58% of all food waste are generated in Europe, where the UK tops the chart and waste around 7.2 million tonnes (£12.5 billion worth) annually. In developed markets, food is mostly wasted at the consumption stage, while in low-income countries it is the opposite.
One of the apparent cause behind such enormous food waste is the spoilage, which is mainly due to poor packaging and inaccurate ’best before’ dates. The expiry date is always a cautious estimate, though the food may not be expired, but be thrown away. It is estimated that around 100 kg of food per person are wasted because the ‘best before’ date on the packaging is passed.
The smart packaging plays a vital role in reducing food waste by maximising the shelf life of products and informing consumers with accurate information through smartphones. It is one of the best ways to prevent food from damage and spoiling throughout the supply chain. The ‘best before’ issue can be resolved if smart packaging could ‘test’ whether the food is still safe to eat. For that purpose, food producers need to add an electronic sensor circuit in packaging to monitor the acidity level of the food which could be read with a scanner or smartphone to assess the freshness of food contents.
However, the main challenge to using smart packaging on a wider scale is the high cost involved. The silicon IC, which is the essential part of the smart packaging, is highly expensive, though there are some developments underway which are devising new ways to reduce the cost. Similarly, the integration of new technologies with packaging design will open new possibilities to curb wastes. The adoption of improved smart packaging for packaged foods will be beneficial for consumers and producers alike. The suppliers can fulfil their corporate social responsibility goals, and at the same time consumers will get good value for money and convenience.
Commodity Inside understands that the multi-billion smart packaging industry is still at its infancy stage, and will grow exponentially over the coming years. The growth in the smart packaging market will be supported by a range of applications such as time-temperature indicators to identify ideal conditions for storage, freshness indicators, temperature sensors, RFID tags, thermochromic displays etc. Commodity Inside Principal Analyst Dr. Iqtidar Ali Shah writes “The rising income, waste cutting strategies, changing lifestyle, consumer convenience and the need for safer products will underpin the smart packaging market.”