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Next-generation packaging solutions can enable consumers and manufacturers to track shipment locations, receive notification of a package being opened, and monitor package condition throughout the journey.

Source: Packmojo

Relevance to the Future of Logistics

Active Packaging for Fresh & Cold Chain

Active packaging incorporates additives to maintain or extend product quality and shelf life. Active packaging solutions today account for an over 36% share of the global next-generation packaging market and are predicted to remain dominant for the next 10 years. Examples of active packaging include antimicrobial packaging, heating/cooling packaging, items including gas emitters, absorbers and scavengers, moisture/odor/flavor absorbing and releasing packaging, corrosion control packaging, and spoilage retardant items.

These types of packaging are engineered to respond and react to changes in the external and internal atmosphere of a package and are therefore of utmost importance and significance to the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industries. Logistics providers in turn, need to have fresh chain and cold chain operational capabilities in place to ensure product delivery meets the standards set by customers and, aligns with varying fresh and cold chain legislation.

Intelligent Packaging for Asset Monitoring

Intelligent packaging systems monitor the internal condition of packaged goods to give information on quality during transportation and storage. Simply defined as packaging which senses and informs, these systems integrate hardware components such as time temperature indicators (TTI), freshness and ripening sensors, and RFID and other tags. This helps maintain the quality of products, contributing to a reduction in global waste. The healthcare and pharmaceutical industries are considered major growth markets, highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic, as there is a growing need to improve supply chain visibility in these sectors.

Application opportunities for intelligent packaging are not limited to just these industries, however. Within logistics and supply chain operations, smart packaging solutions are vital to goods in many other industries, better protecting them with real-time tracking as this cuts the risk of theft, last-mile delivery diversion, counterfeiting, and other crimes.

An example of this is the BOX developed by the start-up company LivingPackets – a smart packaging solution equipped with sensors to monitor temperature, humidity, and shock during transportation. As the BOX incorporates a digital screen, there is no need for labels to be printed. The screen uses e-ink technology and therefore does not consume energy which, combined with the reusability of the box itself, makes this a sustainable smart packaging solution that contributes to circularity.

Modified Atmosphere Packaging

The vast expansion of global shipping and transportation capacity has enabled rapid transportation around the world of perishable goods and atmosphere-sensitive products. Within this complex process to ensure products arrive in best condition, the internal atmosphere of the storage container or packaging must be continuously maintained and may need to be changed. As such, the use of modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) becomes central to the effectiveness of transportation and delivery.

The benefits of MAP technology include reducing global food wastage, extending shelf life by days and even weeks, and achieving a more profitable and secure global food supply chain. For nutraceuticals, goods that tend to deteriorate through oxidation can be protected by actively replacing oxygen with nitrogen.

The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the need for MAP solutions to facilitate global vaccine shipments, particularly controlling and modifying atmospheric temperature during transportation. One example of this is the development of packaging that incorporates internal dry ice.

Challenges

Next-generation packaging sometimes includes components such as batteries, sensors, displays, and circuits which are challenging to recycle; long-term viability of such solutions will be determined by their environmental impact.
As they include multiple components, smart packaging solutions are subject to many different regulations and legislation; stakeholders must commit significant time and resources to track changing rules in fast-moving sectors.
Smart packaging with real-time tracking and monitoring raises data privacy concerns as sensitive, personal information (such as the end user location, identity, and preferences) is at risk of unauthorized access; cryptography and blockchain technology can mitigate this but significantly increase the cost and resources required for a robust, impenetrable solution.

This trend should be ACTIVELY monitored, with imminent developments and applications.

Outlook

From increasing visibility, improving security, and enhancing supply chain reliability, next-generation packaging shows great potential for further growth in increasing the efficiency and dependability of logistics and the supply chain. Outdated packaging systems will be replaced by smart packaging solutions as e-commerce continues to reshape the retail industry and as consumers and regulators demand greater sustainability and a smaller environmental footprint in logistics.

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