The Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, cloud, and consumer-based technologies are changing how companies drive more value and new revenue opportunities. No industry, segment, or market is immune. Even the food packaging market is evolving to become interactive, aware, and intelligent. The industry calls this evolution “smart packaging”. Early leaders in smart packaging include firms like Amcor, BASF, Ball Corporation, Bemis Company, Landec Corp., and Nypro in packaging and software vendors like Amtech Systems, EFI, IBS Software, Oracle’s JD Edwards, and SAP in ERP, Big Data, and cloud.
(Photo credit: Chris Wilder & Tom Neville)
In a recent report, my firm Moor Insights & Strategy said that smart packaging is a conversation between people, brands, and objects and that smart packaging enhances consumers’ experience with products. We outlined how companies are implementing solutions.
Conventional and Hybrid packaging: Conventional packaging is how brands stand out among competition. Brand marks and visuals help companies convey brand promise, value, and a story. With the rise of retailer private labels, brand owners have to focus more on packaging design to stand out. They must communicate value, consistency, and convenience.
Hybrid Packaging combines rigid and flexible materials to create custom solutions that build value for brands and consumers alike with improved economics, shelf presence, convenience, and sustainability.
Active Packaging: Allows brands to embed information onto packaging that can be read by smart phones or other devices. Active packaging allows customers to gain additional information about the product through bar or QR codes. Customers use these codes to engage with brands to monitor freshness, nutritional value, recipes, etc. In pharmaceuticals, companies use active packaging to help consumers understand product usage and safety, warnings, and compliance / dosing information.
Interactive Packaging: Is extended protection through engineered materials and substrates. For example, products that change states (e.g.,color) when exposed to various environmental conditions such as temperature, moisture, atmosphere, etc. Interactive packaging can also improve product safety and security to detect counterfeit product or to counter shoplifting activity.
Intelligent Internet of Things (IoT): Intelligent packaging can leverage IoT and Big Data to establish a dynamic interaction with sensors on packaging such as RFID (radio-frequency identification), NFC (near-field communication), Bluetooth, and smart labels. Companies use these technologies to track and trace packages connected to a network, thereby helping companies to make educated decisions on-the-fly. There have been many advances in food safety by combining sensor information, supply chain, and custody, and Big Data analytics to track food from source to store.
Here’s a good example of what food packaging has to do with Big Data and the Internet of Things…
In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enacted one of the most far-reaching and powerful regulations called the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This legislation established new rules that allow the FDA to recall, suspend production, and audit food service providers. The FSMA mandates that food suppliers identify and account for hazards, implement controls to prevent contamination, and monitor and record those controls. Data has become the fulcrum of food safety.
An area where there are considerable quality control challenges is in the fresh fish industry. Companies can now use Big Data and IoT sensory evaluation methods to objectively determine the freshness of fish off-the-boat using non-evasive devices like those developed by Seafood Analytics. These devices leverage electrical currents to determine if the fish was previously frozen, time on ice, time since harvest, and shelf life remaining. Further, using smart packaging, companies can embed sensors to track environmental conditions throughout the supply chain. Once at the point of sale, sensors and advanced safe and healthy radiant energy solutions, like those built by Vitabeam, can help prolong the products shelf life while killing harmful bacteria that accelerates the product’s decomposition.
Every node within the supply chain is recorded and verified from catch-to-consumption. This brings on additional economies of scale, reduces the risk of product recalls, and enables accountability across the industry.