IDTechEx was recently asked to give the keynote presentation at the Active & Intelligent Packaging conference, held at the Campden BRI food and packaging research facility in Chipping Campden, England. Some of the presentations were related to Printed Electronics; others were about other innovative chemical propositions - some of these may be printed at some time in the future. The event was attended by several major players in the consumer products industry, such as Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Premium Foods, Barilla, and Pernod Ricard. Below are the highlights of the event.
Trevor Crotch-Harvey, IDTechEx
Trevor Crotch-Harvey, gave a presentation on electrical and electronic features in future packaging. He predicted that the market for Printed Electronics will be bigger than silicon has been over the last 30 years. The new solutions have significant advantages over conventional electronics: they can be put anywhere, can be flexible, lower cost, thin, safe, edible, implantable, space saving and fault tolerant. He gave examples of companies, which have already implemented novel concepts such as an interactive quiz game on a pack of beer, cosmetic patches, and smart shops. Printed Electronics will profoundly impact the way consumer goods are sold and marketed, and Trevor described IDTechEx's forthcoming Multi Client Study, which will look at this in detail.
Dr David Leeks, Campden BRI
Dr Leeks summarised current and forthcoming EU regulations related to the use of substances in packaging, particularly those substances that are in contact with food. Released active substances will continue to be subject to existing relevant food legislation, for instance additives legislation. Otherwise, substances, which cause an active or intelligent function, will need to be authorised to appear on a Community list. The EFSA is to issue guidelines for the submission of dossiers for candidate substances.
Professor Long Lin, University of Leeds
Prof Lin discussed the large and growing issue of food counterfeiting. He quoted a US source which said that, "Counterfeit is more profitable than heroin, easier than photo-copying - and with penalties like jay-walking". He said that the global counterfeit food "industry" is estimated at $49 billion per annum, and may produce food and drink products, which are not safe to consume. He then went on to describe technologies being used by the food industry to combat counterfeiting.
- Trusecurity - security features embedded in coated paper; coatings with security locked in
- Fibreloc - uses an image analysis of the distribution of secure fibres to produce a unique code
- RFID - used in combination with fixed or handheld readers
- Intaglio latent image - very secure overt security feature requiring no reading device
- Covert taggant - can be surface printed, injection moulded and fused into plastics by dye sublimation for enhanced primary packaging security
- tamper evident tapes and labels; electron beam holography
- Pro-tex - a technology utilising mobile communication and database
- Photochromism based technologies.
Some decisions appear already to have been taken - Prof Lin said that the Chinese government has decided to adopt an advanced barcode system for anti counterfeit of pharmaceuticals.
Professor Lars Järnström, Karlstad University, Sweden
Prof Järnström described a method to produce active packaging through paper coating. Active packaging can be defined as a package that changes the condition of packaged food to extend shelf life or improve food safety or sensory properties, while maintaining the quality of the packed food. He described, "oxygen scavenging", and efforts to develop enzyme-containing coatings that can be applied in existing processes at the paper/board producer or at the converter (printer).
Jack Edwards, Freudenberg Non Wovens
Freudenberg Non Wovens is the largest private company in Europe. Jack Edwards reported that the UK government is becoming more and more concerned with the amount of food being thrown away by supermarkets and the public due to it exceeding its consumption date. He described a project to address this issue by creating a packaging solution able to increase the shelf life of a product by a number of days. This uses activated carbon as an established gas absorber. Activated carbon is produced through an oxidation process using temperatures up to 1200°C. The process activates the porous sites on the carbon allowing it to physically capture a broad spectrum of organic gasses without chemically binding to them.
Jack is also involved with putting functionality into apparel, and is interested in the potential of piezo energy, based on movement.
George Kellie, Kellie Solutions
George Kellie expanded on the theme of Active Packaging to reduce food waste. He described Intelligent Packaging components as: Time-Temperature Indicators (TTIs), freshness indicators, oxygen indicators, leak indicators, and carbon dioxide indicators. He then went on to give details of how these might be indicated and said that research suggests that consumers would like to be given this information.
Steve Landau, ScentSational Technologies
Steve Landau gave a fascinating exposition into the power of aromas to affect the way food products are perceived at the time of purchase and when later consumed. He said that use of "Olfaction Packaging" can improve freshness and head space aroma upon opening and use. Specifically, it can: mask off odours, add specific and stable aroma profiles, positively impact taste, extend shelf life, provide a healthful alternative to some direct ingredients, such as sugar/artificial sweeteners, sodium, butter/fat, and provide unique promotional opportunities.
Dr Paul Butler, Packaging Material & Technology
Dr Butler returned to the theme of food waste, and described the work of WRAP - Waste & Resources Action Programme - a UK organisation established to encourage activities, which will reduce the 6m tonnes of food waste per year, 60-80% of which is edible. He cited consumer confusion as an issue and listed ways in which packaging can help: recloseable packaging, smaller and portion-sized packaging, improved 'hard-to-get-out-of' packaging, accurate 'use by' dated packaging (freshness indicators/TTIs), ripeness indicating packaging, oxygen scavenging packaging, controlled modified atmosphere packaging. He said that food waste is the single largest environmental issue, costs each UK citizen in excess of £400/year and is one that we can do something about with a minimal change to our lifestyle and standard of living.
Dr Mike Cochran, Crown Technology
Crown Technology is a major producer of packaging, including food cans, metal vacuum closures and aerosol cans. Products like these are notoriously difficult to use with RFID, and Dr Cochran discussed measures to address this issue. Solutions include the use of "metamaterials", which are of interest for RFID as thin spacers to isolate the antenna from a conducting substrate, the use of an air gap or insulating layer, and the Omni-ID tag, which separates the tag from the substrate. He sees RFID coming to consumer goods packaging, but it will take time for the technology to be robust and cheap enough. He agreed with the IDTechEx view that tags must ultimately be printed for this to happen.
Ewa Pacholewicz, TTZ Bremerhaven
TTZ Bremerhaven is a non-profit making research organisation. Ewa Pachelowiecz described the "Chill-ON" project in which TTZ is participating, along with 25 other partners from 12 countries. Chill-ON is an EU 6th Framework project, which aims to improve the quality, safety and traceability of food products by providing information about the condition of food at all steps of the supply chain. Chill-ON is considering four main technologies: Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment (QMRA), novel detection and quantification methods for detection of food pathogens and spoilage organisms, novel smart labels (combination of RFID and TTIs), and Information and Communication Technologies. She described the "e-CHILL-ON smart label", to be developed by the project, which aims to be an innovative, consumer and industry-relevant product. The TTI part consists of a chemically dissolving metal layer.
Ewa went on to discuss another FP6 project, FRESHLABEL, which aims to introduce TTI's to the meat and fish industries. Types of TTI's are: diffusion based, microbial, enzymatic, polymer based and photochemical. She described how work has been done to calibrate the results of TTI's with the actual rate of food degradation, measured by the growth of (for instance) lactic acid bacteria. She stressed that TTI's do not replace the "Use By" date but can complement it by giving a freshness indication, based on temperature history, from production to table.
Professor Andrew Mills, University of Strathclyde
Prof Mills went further down the track of Time-Temperature Indicators. In particular, he described Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP), where oxygen is removed from the atmosphere inside packaging to slow down food deterioration. MAP is very commonly used today, but its major problem is leakage, and having an indication of leakage. He described various attempted solutions to this challenge, most of which are currently too expensive. He expects these indicators to become a significant aspect of food packaging in the future.
Douglas Robinson, Institute of Nanotechnology
Douglas Robinson said that drivers away from food protection/preservation include containment and waste reduction, convenience packaging, traceability and tamper indication. These requirements for broader functionality have provided the stimulus for a number of fields of material development. These include: advanced food contact materials incorporating nanomaterials to improve packaging properties such as temperature and moisture stability, flexibility, and barrier properties; active packaging (internal environment control including interacting with food contained within); and biodegradable packaging materials.
With these drivers in mind, the ObservatoryNANO project is co-ordinating a substream of activities exploring nanotechnology for food packaging and distribution. This encompasses materials used to package fresh and processed foods, and the procedures and systems in place to monitor supply chains and authenticate items. It covers nanocomposite materials used to improve the barrier and mechanical properties of plastics; new biocomposites that can be compostable and offer solutions to waste creation and sustainability; active and smart packaging that can provide visual indicators to a food's freshness and improve supply chain efficiencies.
Peter Burgess, Campden BRI
Peter Burgess presented research on consumer attitudes to food quality and freshness, both in the UK and other European countries. He said the findings were that the features of Active & Intelligent packaging offer a significant opportunity to address consumer concerns and needs. However, (among consumers) many of these Active & Intelligent devices would be regarded as new technologies with perceived associated risks. Carefully designed communication/education approaches on the potential benefits are required to optimise consumer acceptability. Bespoke research into consumer attitudes on specific applications is required to fully understand how to shape these communication approaches.