Publication Name: http://www.dnaindia.com/
Date: 29 August 2016
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Shyam Sunder B K , Chief Designer
Imagine food packs which can be self-heated and indicate whether the contents are good or not, or pharma package which helps patients adhere to their medicine regimen or packaging that can help reduce preservatives. Bioinspiration or biomimicry is another concept which is set to drive the future of packaging. It is nothing but emulating nature's patterns and strategies in packaging design to draw more meaningful connections / solutions for what is possible by blending science and design.
The rise of the millennial consumers coupled with technological advancements happening at breakneck speed is driving the complete packaging landscape in a big way.
Packaging is no longer just limited to performing the basic functions. It is expanding to become more integrated and intelligent. The emerging need for new and efficient ways to economise on business processes, solve safety and quality issues through the supply chain, reduce product losses, ensure product shelf life extension and authentication (anti-counterfeiting) are some key drivers for intelligent packaging.
Furthermore, consumers today want a holistic experience. Imagine driving engagement, loyalty and trust for brands by communicating with consumers on a product level, continuing the relationship after the initial purchase and ensuring products are used properly.
The speed at which the technological change is accelerating is certainly contributing to this evolution of intelligent packaging and is set to revolutionise the consumer experience.
In the future, packaging will be more like an intelligent tool. And depending on the precision of information, consumers will be more well informed and educated. Emerging trends like biomimic and smart packaging that go beyond passive containment and protection of the product are starting to aid the decision making of packaged goods for consumers.
Taking the above factors into consideration, the following are some key trends that Tata Elxsi thinks are set to drive the future of intelligent packaging.
With packaging requirements witnessing a rapid change, 'Packaging of the Future' is expected to do more than just contain and protect. Apart from performing the basic packaging functionalities, improved convenience is a value-added function for which consumers are willing to pay a premium. Hectic lifestyles, less availability of time, increasing aspirations are factors contributing to this. Consumers today are more willing and open to new methods and change. This is giving rise to interesting packaging innovations.
Imagine having a food pack which can be self-heated and it also indicates whether the content of the pack is good or not. Over time, self-heating food packaging techniques have become popular for young mothers who need to feed their babies and do not have immediate access to a stove or microwave. This technique of self-heating packaging makes it easy for consumers to enjoy a hot beverage or a snack on the go.
Additionally, the technique of self-heating packaging also aids in monitoring and communicating information about food quality through the inclusion of time-temperature indicators. These smart devices can be inside or outside the package. They are designed to provide clear, visual information, giving consumers greater control of the product. Through this intelligent form of packaging, consumers are able to recognise when food is at its nutritional best, as well as when it should be disposed of. This, in turn, also encourages waste reduction.
Compliance packaging is common in pharma packaging, helping patients adhere to their medicine regimen. It could be something as simple as designing a bottle with an iconic shape and labelling which helps the consumer identify the package on the shelf. Furthermore, colour coding is another common technique of packaging used in the pharmaceutical sector in order to help patients identify the right medicine and the correct dosage to take.
However, packaging designers are now working on helping patients remember to take the right dose of medicine at the right time.
As a result, medicine packs have also taken a step towards intelligence in packaging, introducing the option to connect packs to smartphones, allowing the user to keep track of his/her regime. Compliance packaging's main purpose is to assist the patients in adhering to a prescribed medicine regime and improve the safe supervision of medicinal usage. This, in turn, gives the patient the confidence that medications are being taken as asked by the doctor; and if the patient doesn't remember whether or not they've taken their medicine, they can take a look at their medication manager on their smartphone to keep track.
An excellent example is the intelligent pharma packaging developed by Stora Enso Packaging Solutions. They have come up with a compliance control where with the help of printed electronics and the GSM network, it is possible to keep track of when a pill is taken out of the medicine package. One can also set alarms to know if users have forgotten to take their medicine.
Going beyond the visual, brands today are looking at innovative ways to make their products stand out on the shelf. An emerging packaging technique which involves the combination of different materials to enhance the multi-sensorial experiences is gaining popularity in the packaging industry. Leading brands are increasingly adopting to sensory marketing, a strategy focused on the engaging multiple senses in the consumer environment where it's not just about color or shape but textures, sounds and even smell of a pack are able to influence consumer's purchasing decisions.
For instance, when Nestle launched Maggi Healthy Soups, they used their new and patented 'granulation-based technology' which allows them to retain the freshness of key ingredients and deliver a multi-sensorial experience. These soups contain fresh vegetable purees and deliver the fresh taste and aroma of home-made soups. The product not just delights the consumer from the moment he picks up the pack, but even the texture which emits rustle of the granules, the sight of colourful real vegetables, the aroma of fresh vegetable purees, and the taste of a real soup. In this way, Nestle has addressed multi-sensorial aspects of sound, touch, smell and sense.
Information through interaction in packaging
Packaging now is recognised as an important factor in connecting the brand and its consumer, especially with the incorporation of electronic devices/technology. One such emerging trend in packaging is QR (Quick Reading) codes. A consumer these days always goes shopping with their smartphones, and this habit has been incorporated into packaging, where consumers can now scan QR codes to get more information about a product. QR codes are able to provide a large amount of information on various brands, in detail, some of which is usually eliminated from the general packaging of the product.
Now, the consumers can just scan the QR code on a packaging and get all the information they need, saving space on the package as well when it comes to including information. Furthermore, the concept of QR codes has taken a step further to incorporate augmented reality (AR), which allows brands to show videos, recipes, coupons, games, and other interactive elements when a code is scanned.
There is an immense opportunity today to integrate smart features in the packaging without actually investing too much in expensive technology options. Making the packaging smart will help consumers understand the contents of the pack and thereby react to that. This will help in increasing the shelf life of the product / content.
Integrating special functionality into the resin is a good example of smart packaging. Anti-microbial agents/enzymes are added into the plastics that can respond to bio-switch. It gets triggered when bacterial growth occurs.
Whenever a change in the environment such as pH, temperature, or UV light occurs, the antimicrobials respond according to the specific conditions. This would thereby potentially increase the stability and reduce the amount or number of preservatives needed. Special packaging has been developed for shipping organs, which keeps them alive during extended shipments. The organs are alive and fresh for transplanting.
Smart by nature - biomimicry
Bioinspiration or biomimicry is a concept which is set to drive the future of packaging. Biomimicry is nothing but emulating nature's patterns and strategies in packaging design to draw more meaningful connections / design solutions for what is possible by blending science and design.
Novomer, for example, is commercialising a proprietary catalyst system that transforms waste carbon dioxide (CO2) into high-performance, low-cost polymers for a variety of applications. This is inspired from the photosynthetic organisms that have found a life-friendly route to produce a wide range of complex, polymeric compounds such as polysaccharides and proteins. Nature has devised the rubisco enzyme to coax carbon dioxide into bonding with the carbon atom of an organic molecule which is otherwise difficult. This produces the building block from which all other carbon-based compounds can be derived.
If these emerging (and some already existing, but evolving) trends in intelligent packaging are applied in the packaging industry, connecting with the consumer will be easy from step one. Packaging is the first experience of the product, and you want to keep your consumer engaged from the sight of the package. Therefore, the above trends are slowly entering the world of intelligent packaging in order to achieve the level of engagement you want your consumer to have with your brand/product. With technology ruling many industries, the packaging industry is one where it will dominate at large. The time has come for technology to play a crucial role in intelligent packaging, and it will start, if not already, with the above trends.