Once considered science fiction, packaging that reacts to touch or proactively provides useful information is now on store shelves. In fact, global demand for active and intelligent packaging is forecasted to expand 7.5 percent annually, reaching $7.6 billion by 2021. However, while innovations in packaging technology present a clear opportunity, many brand owners are still asking: “What is the reality?”

We spoke with Tricia Sime, packaging innovation director at Inland and Joao De Oliveira, VP of business development at PragmatiC to discuss what brand owners need to know in order to integrate the right smart packaging technologies into product design. Sime and De Oliveira will be presenting an Innovation Stage session at PACK EXPO International (McCormick Place, Chicago; Nov. 6-9).

Q: How are companies using “smart” or “interactive” packaging?

A: Companies have used active smart packaging for years to extend product shelf life and quality, including temperature features that gather information and barrier technology controlling environmental factors. With advances in materials science, components are getting smaller, giving rise to innovations such as printed electronics and Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities, allowing brand owners to share information on packaging like never before.

Q: What are some smart packaging innovations now on the market?

A: Packaging that enhances the consumer experience is a big trend. One example is illuminated labels that enable consumer engagement and interaction. Interactive labels with printed electronic pathways, paper batteries, micro switches, LED lights and pressure sensors provide a unique sensory experience. Anheuser-Busch has taken advantage of this technology with their Oculto brand, featuring LED-illuminated labels that are activated when handled by consumers.

Advances in printing capabilities have also yielded Near Field Communication (NFC) technology in which printed electronic pathways behave like antennae, engaging consumers via their smart phones and directing them to an interactive digital display. This can provide extended content, for example recommended recipes, important allergen information or different product variety details. This technology is easy for the consumer and leads to repeated and faster brand engagement.

Q: What smart enhancements to a supply chain do CPGs need to consider?

A: Before deciding on what smart features to integrate into product packaging, it is important to consider scope. What type of consumer engagement are you looking for and what value does it bring to the brand? With that defined, supply chain considerations include power needs. While some smart technology takes its power from cellphones, others need a stand-alone power source. Shipping and storage environmental variations are another consideration.

In addition, brand owners need to ensure that the consumer interface is robust on the back-end. Consumers are increasingly tech savvy, educated and looking for additional information. It is not enough to send them to a company website. To provide a truly interactive experience, there needs to be an increased level of shared information about the brand and the product.  

Q: Is there anything that brand owners tend to overlook when integrating smart packaging technology into product design?

A: Many brand owners don’t fully utilize consumer interaction. Beyond product awareness, one of the best things you can gain from smart packaging is the analytics that come along with them. This information can be worth its own weight in gold to the marketing and brand team.

Sime and De Oliveira’s session, entitled, “Smart Packaging - What's the Reality?,” will be presented on Wednesday, Nov. 9 at 12:00pm - 12:30pm at Innovation Stage Booth N-4580. The Innovation Stage offers free, 30-minute seminars every half hour during all four show days of PACK EXPO International and on Monday and Tuesday at Pharma EXPO. The seminars are free to all attendees and offer educational learnings about technological and market trends from industry experts at exhibiting companies.

PACK EXPO International offers a platform to discover processing and packaging solutions from an estimated 2,300 exhibiting suppliers. The show will take place over 1.2 million net square feet of exhibit space. It is co-located with Pharma EXPO, an event addressing the entire pharmaceutical life cycle that is co-produced by PMMI and the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE). Together, the shows will draw 50,000 attendees.

For more information, visit: http://www.packexpointernational.com.

About PMMI
PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, represents the voice of more than 700 North American manufacturers of equipment, components and materials for processing and packaging. We work to advance a variety of industries by connecting consumer goods companies with manufacturing solutions through the world class PACK EXPO portfolio of trade shows, leading trade media and a wide range of resources to empower our members.