Packaging machinery sales in the U.S. grew 4.8 percent in 2016, reaching a total of $9.8 billion, according to the “2017 State of the Industry – US Packaging Machinery” report, produced by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing. Additionally, the global food packaging market reached $14.74 billion and is expected to reach $19.268 billion by 2023, according to Allied Market Research.
It’s no wonder the food packaging market is seeing such growth. Increased concerns over food waste continue to drive shelf-life extensions, resulting in more efficient technologies to help food manufacturers respond to varying consumer demands. Meanwhile, the increased availability of faster and more flexible packaging lines continues to invite new machinery purchases.
Sustainability used to mean recyclable packaging and thinner materials, but today’s efforts go even further as companies and consumers learn more about the food waste crisis—one of the biggest environmental problems today. One quarter of the calories in food grown for humans is said to go unconsumed. Take ReGrained, for example, a San Francisco brand making nutrition bars out of leftover grain from breweries.
Some packaging suppliers offer built-in freshness sensors that indicate when the contained food is safe. For example, TimeStrip’s (timestrip.com) time temperature indicators are designed to provide clear, visual guidance to consumers. The smart labels have applications with foods like fresh fruit and vegetables, pasta sauces, meats and condiments.
In addition to adopting technologies to fight food waste, packaging equipment manufacturers are introducing whole-line solutions that save time and occupy less space. For example, in 2017 tna packaging solutions (tnasolutions.com) introduced the world’s fastest case packer for flexible bags. Capable of up to 300 bags per minute, it also boasts one of the smallest machine footprints.
Forward-thinking food companies also recognize packaging’s role in time-to-market and invest in flexible machinery systems with automation capabilities that can easily be upgraded as new technology develops.
Services like Jet.com and AmazonFresh Grocery are making online grocery shopping easier and more cost effective. About a quarter of American households buy some groceries online, and more than 70 percent will use online food shopping within 10 years, according to a 2017 Nielsen report.
From browsing food products online to the experience of unboxing products at home, consumers have high expectations for the e-commerce experience. While online grocery shopping offers convenience, ineffective packaging can leave consumers disappointed and decrease the likelihood of repeat purchases.
One of the most common challenges faced in any e-commerce packaging is the unpredictable shipping hazard that results from consolidating multiple items in the one shippable unit. While excessive packaging can be a turnoff for environmentally conscious customers, it is still critical for products to arrive undamaged. Brands can take precautions with primary packaging solutions that offer greater spill protection for liquids and firmer plastic containers for fragile goods such as cookies.
Food manufacturers of all sizes seeking the latest shelf-life-extending technology, high-speed equipment and e-commerce packaging solutions can look to PACK EXPO East (April 16-18; Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia). PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, represents more than 800 North American manufacturers and suppliers of equipment, components and materials as well as providers of related equipment and services to the packaging and processing industry.