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Packaging is the science, art and technology of enclosing or protecting

products for distribution, storage, sale, and use. Packaging also refers to the
process of design, evaluation, and production of packages. Packaging can be
described as a coordinated system of preparing goods for transport,
warehousing, logistics, sale, and end use. Food packaging is packaging for
food. It requires protection, tampering resistance, and special physical,
chemical, or biological needs. It also shows the product that is labelled to show
any nutrition information on the food being consumed.

Functions of food packaging

1. Physical protection - The food enclosed in the package may require

protection from, among other things, shock, vibration, compression,
temperature, etc.
2. Barrier protection - A barrier from oxygen, water vapour, dust, etc., is
often required. Permeation is a critical factor in design. Some packages
contain desiccants or Oxygen absorbers to help extend shelf life.
Modified atmospheres or controlled atmospheres are also maintained in
some food packages. Keeping the contents clean, fresh, and safe for the
intended shelf life is a primary function.
3. Containment or agglomeration - Small items are typically grouped
together in one package for reasons of efficiency. Powders, and granular
materials need containment.
4. Information transmission - Packages and labels communicate how to
use, transport, recycle, or dispose of the package or product. Some types
of information are required by governments.
5. Marketing - The packaging and labels can be used by marketers to
encourage potential buyers to purchase the product. Package design has

been an important and constantly evolving phenomenon for several
decades. Marketing communications and graphic design are applied to
the surface of the package and (in many cases) the point of sale display.
6. Security - Packaging can play an important role in reducing the security
risks of shipment. Packages can be made with improved tamper
resistance to deter tampering and also can have tamper-evident features to
help indicate tampering. Packages can be engineered to help reduce the
risks of package pilferage: Some package constructions are more resistant
to pilferage and some have pilfer indicating seals. Packages may include
authentication seals to help indicate that the package and contents are not
counterfeit. Packages also can include anti-theft devices, such as dye-
packs, RFID tags, or electronic article surveillance tags, that can be
activated or detected by devices at exit points and require specialized
tools to deactivate. Using packaging in this way is a means of retail loss
7. Convenience - Packages can have features which add convenience in
distribution, handling, stacking, display, sale, opening, reclosing, use, and
8. Portion control - Single serving packaging has a precise amount of
contents to control usage. Bulk commodities (such as salt) can be divided
into packages that are a more suitable size for individual households. It
also aids the control of inventory: selling sealed one-litre-bottles of milk,
rather than having people bring their own bottles to fill themselves.

Food packaging types

Packaging may be looked at as being of several different types. For

example a transport package or distribution package can be the shipping
container used to ship, store, and handle the product or inner packages. Some
identify a consumer package as one which is directed toward a consumer or

Packaging may be described in relation to the type of product being

packaged: medical device packaging, bulk chemical packaging, over-the-
counter drug packaging, retail food packaging, military materiel packaging,
pharmaceutical packaging, etc. It is sometimes convenient to categorize
packages by layer or function: "primary", "secondary", etc.

1. Primary packaging is the material that first envelops the product and
holds it. This usually is the smallest unit of distribution or use and is the
package which is in direct contact with the contents.
2. Secondary packaging is outside the primary packaging, perhaps used to
group primary packages together.
3. Tertiary packaging is used for bulk handling, warehouse storage and
transport shipping. The most common form is a palletized unit load that
packs tightly into containers.

These broad categories can be somewhat arbitrary. For example, depending

on the use, a shrink wrap can be primary packaging when applied directly to the
product, secondary packaging when combining smaller packages, and tertiary
packaging on some distribution packs.

Type of Packaging Food example
container type
Aseptic Primary Liquid whole eggs
Plastic trays Primary Portion of fish

Bags Primary Potato chips

Cans Primary Can of Campbell's Tomato soup.

Cartons Primary Carton of eggs

Flexible Primary Bagged salad

Boxes secondary Box of Coca-Cola

Pallets Tertiary A series of boxes on a single pallet used to transport

from the manufacturing plant to a distribution
Wrappers Tertiary Used to wrap the boxes on the pallet for transport

Packaging machines

A choice of packaging machinery includes technical capabilities, labour
requirements, worker safety, maintainability, serviceability, reliability, ability to
integrate into the packaging line, capital cost, floor space, flexibility (change-
over, materials, etc.), energy usage, quality of outgoing packages, qualifications
(for food, pharmaceuticals, etc.), throughput, efficiency, productivity,
ergonomics, etc.

Packaging machines may be of the following general types:

• Blister, Skin and Vacuum Packaging Machines

• Capping, Over-Capping, Lidding, Closing, Seaming and Sealing
• Cartoning machines
• Case and Tray Forming, Packing, Unpacking, Closing and Sealing
• Check weighing machines
• Cleaning, Sterilizing, Cooling and Drying Machines
• Conveying, Accumulating and Related Machines
• Feeding, Orienting, Placing and Related Machines
• Filling Machines: handling liquid and powdered products
• Package Filling and Closing Machines
• Form, Fill and Seal Machines
• Inspecting, Detecting and Check weighing Machines
• Palletizing, Depalletizing, Pallet Unitizing and Related Machines
• Product Identification: labelling, marking, etc.
• Wrapping Machines
• Converting Machines
• Other speciality machinery

Packaging materials

Paper and Carton

Some food products are packed in paper bags or carton boxes. Sealed
paper bags protect sugar and flour, because bags allow them to "breathe" as
much as needed. Products packed in carton boxes (like cereal and crackers)
are usually put in a plastic bag prior to the box, for additional protection.
Also, some carton boxes are wrapped in plastic film to prevent them from
getting dirty and wet (like cigarette packs and tea boxes).


The food industry uses plastic widely for food protection in the form of
bags, films, containers and boxes. Plastic bags allow for printing and
perforation and hold food like bread, chips, cereal and many others. Cling
films work for meat protection mostly. Plastic containers contain food like
mustard, yogurt, milk and juices and can have different colours.
Manufacturers employ plastic boxes to pack multiple products (ice cream,
sour cream, meat, vegetables), as do people at home to store food.


Foam (usually Styrofoam or polyethylene foam) is a good insulator. It

becomes cups, trays and boxes. The trays combined with the cling films
serve as meat protection. Foam boxes, mostly in the fast food industry, keep
food warm for an extended time.


Glass bottles and containers (jars) are mostly used to protect liquids and
sauces. They break easily, but offer good protection and preservation and are

recyclable. A paper label made of thin film lists the product information and
attaches to the glass packaging. The first attempt at preserving food for an
extended time occurred in France using glass bottles.


Manufacturers also pack food and beverages in metal cans, usually made
of aluminum and steel. Metal can have an airtight seal, so it is used to pack
food that needs an extra long preservation time (vegetable, fruit, fish, soup).
Bisphenol-A (BPA), sometimes used for inside coating, protects food from
contamination by the metal can during the heating process to kill bacteria.


Some products (like fruit and vegetables) have a label attacked directly
on them. The label offers information about the producer and usually
contains the internal code of the store, to be easily identified and charged.
The adhesive used for these labels comes directly in contact with the food. It
is safe and does not change the nature, substance or quality of the food.

Methods of Food Packaging

1. Home Canned Foods

According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, one of the
oldest and most common methods of food packaging in homes is the use of
home canning. Fruits and vegetables are placed in glass jars and sealed in the
jars by heating the jars and then placing a rubber stopped jar top on the jar.
Historically, home canning was one of the first methods that were used to
store foods in large quantities, particularly in rural areas where farms were
abundant. Some of the concerns with this type of food packaging include the
cleanliness of the jars when food is placed in them and that the fruits and

vegetables are thoroughly cooked before canning. The seals also need to be
airtight to prevent the growth of botulism.

2. Freezing Food

Another common method of packaging food is freezing, according to

Julie Garden-Robinson of North Dakota State University. Freezing can be
done with a variety of methods. Most often, it is vegetables that are frozen,
although berries and other fruits can also lend themselves to being frozen.
When freezing vegetables, make sure that they are thoroughly clean and
cooked if that is appropriate. Certain vegetables are not good candidates for
freezing. For example, tomatoes do not stand up well to freezing unless they
are cooked and pureed. Corn stands up well to freezing without being
precooked. In order to preserve the food completely, make sure that the
package is airtight to prevent freezer burn which can ruin the food.

Canned Foods

Canning foods as a method of food processing have been around since

the mid-1800s. In the early days of canned foods, lead was used to line the
cans and seal the top of the can. This, unfortunately, resulted in deaths as
lead poisoning occurred. However, with improved technology, safely canned
foods became more abundant and the industry of food packaging expanded
extensively. According to the National Center for Food Preservation, foods
that are canned commercially are cooked prior to being placed in the can in
order to prevent E. coli contamination. Canned foods come in a wide variety,
ranging from meat to vegetables to fruit to refrigerated bread dough.

Foil Packaging

One of the innovative methods of commercial food packaging is foil
wrapping. Foil wraps are often pouches that are filled and then the bottom
and top of the pouch is sealed with a heat seal similar to those used with
commercial frozen packaging. According to Free Patents Online, foil
packaging allows the foods to be sealed in the package without losing any
residual moisture that may still be in the food. The best foods to package in
this manner are usually dried fruits, baked goods or grain products.

Vacuum Packed

A newer variation on the plastic bag, vacuum packing is the process of

packaging food in plastic while removing all of the air from the pack. The
lack of air helps the food to stay fresh longer and will cause the package to
be smaller in size for ease in storage. Foods in vacuum packaging must
remain sealed until use to keep them fresh

Nano Technology

According to Jane Byme of Food Production Daily, a new innovation in

commercial food packaging is the use of nanotechnology in order to make
packaging thinner and biodegradable. According to Byme, this new
technology allows commercial food processing companies to utilize
packaging materials that reduce food gases, which delays how quickly they
degrade and become inedible. For example, you can now purchase food
storage bags that are "green" but also help you keep food fresher longer.
This is an excellent way in which food storage and new techniques for food
storage come together for mutual benefit.

Packaging –the facts

In praise of packaging
• Packaging protects – ten times more energy goes into the production of
the food and goods it contains than into the packaging itself.
• Packaging makes modern lifestyles possible.
• When you buy an undamaged carton or tin in a shop, remember that the
boxes and crates that carried them securely on Lorries and in warehouses
are as vital as the cartons and tins themselves in getting the product to
• The packaging industry continues to rise to the challenge of being
responsible and innovative – glass containers are on average 30% lighter
than in 1980, the weight of cans has fallen by a similar figure in the last
twenty years and carrier bags are 45% lighter than in 1990.
• The industry has driven innovations such as anti-litter retained ring-pulls
and readily open-able / re-sealable cartons.
• Industry continues to make packaging easier to use and more convenient
for consumers, while providing better protection using less material and
so generating less waste.
• As well as protecting and preserving goods, packaging carries vital
information on ingredients, keeps hazardous products away from
children, and ensures goods are safe (where packaging cannot be opened
without showing evidence of tampering).
• Companies that produce and use packaging make a positive contribution
to society both directly and through membership of INCPEN. For nearly
20 years, INCPEN has been running schools programmes. It supports the
Keep Britain Tidy Campaign, and lends its backing to local authority
recycling campaigns.

Making modern lifestyles possible

• Many packaging innovations are a direct response to consumer demand:
• The growth in single-person households means demand for smaller, more
convenient portions has grown.
• Similarly, as more women now work outside the home than 20 years ago,
demand for food that is easier and quicker to prepare and cook, has risen.
• Convenience culture – half of us now claim to eat ‘on-the go’ with no
prior thought given as to where our next meal is coming from.

Putting packaging in perspective

• Packaging attracts a lot of media attention– disproportionately so given

its relatively small environmental impact. For example, packaging uses
only a fraction of the energy that is expended in driving a car. Just 3% of
a household’s annual energy use is taken up by packaging.
• If you were to drive one less mile a day – or to turn your thermostat down
by two degrees - you’d save as much energy as is used to make the
packaging for an average household’s whole year’s supply of packaged

Packaging legislation and guidance

• Under the European Packaging Directive, the industry has to meet strict
requirements to prevent the use of excessive packaging.
• The INCPEN Responsible Packaging Code of Practice is widely used.
Trade associations covering over 85% of businesses involved in the
supply chain for packaged goods recommend the Code to their member
companies. Trading Standards Officers up and down the country use the

Code in their everyday compliance work with small and mid-sized

Common Myths

• Manufacturers use excessive packaging as a matter of course. Not so. If

they did, there would be many fewer packaging companies in existence
today- companies have a commercial interest in minimising packaging.
As with any industry, there are occasional incidents of bad practice- and
INCPEN campaigned consistently for the introduction of a “packaging
watchdog” to address such problems. What’s more a report by the
institute of the European environmental policy suggests that under
packaging can be much more of an issue than over packaging, in terms of
wasted energy and resources from ruined goods.
• “Packaging is a major contributor to waste.” It’s not. In fact, packaging
waste is on average 20% by weight of the contents of your dustbin and
when compressed in landfill packaging from all sources is less than 5%-
by weight and volume- of total waste.
• “Most litter is packaging.” The facts don’t bear it out. While cigarettes
and gum account for nearly 85% of litter, all packaging- related items
combined make up 4%. Plastic carrier bags make up just 0.06%.

Foods that can be packed:

Raw red meat:

Microbial growth and oxidation of the red oxymyoglobin pigment are the main
spoilage mechanisms that limit the shelf life of raw red meats. The packaging
technologist has to maintain the desirable red colour of the oxymyoglobin
pigment, by having an appropriate O2 concentration in the pack atmosphere, and
at the same time minimise the growth of aerobic microorganisms. Highly

pigmented red meats, such as venison and wild boar, require higher
concentrations of O2.
Aerobic spoilage bacteria, such as Pseudomonas species, normally
constitute the major flora on red meats. Since these bacteria are inhibited by
CO2, it is possible to achieve both red color stability and microbial inhibition by
using gas mixtures containing 20–30% CO2 and 70–80% O2. These mixtures
can extend the chilled shelf life of red meats from 2–4 days to 5–8 days. A gas/
product ratio of 2:1 is recommended. Red meats provide an ideal medium for
the growth of a wide range of spoilage and food poisoning microorganisms
including E. coli. Because raw red meats are cooked before consumption, the
risk of food poisoning can be greatly reduced by proper cooking. The
maintenance of recommended chilled temperatures and good hygiene and
handling practices throughout the butchery, MAP, distribution and retailing
chain is of critical importance in ensuring both the safety and extended shelf life
of red meat products.

Raw poultry
Microbial growth, particularly growth of Pseudomonas and Achromobacter
species, is the major factor limiting the shelf life of raw poultry. These
Gramnegative aerobic spoilage bacteria are effectively inhibited by CO2.
Consequently, the inclusion of CO2 in MAP at a concentration in excess of 20%
can significantly extend the shelf life of raw poultry products. CO2
concentrations higher than 35% in the gas mixture of retail packs are not
recommended because of the risks of pack collapse and excessive drip.
Nitrogen is used as an inert filler gas, and a gas/product ratio of 2:1 is
recommended. Since pack collapse is not a problem for bulk MAP master
packs, gas atmospheres of 100% CO2 are frequently used.
Since poultry meat provides a good medium for the growth of
pathogenic microorganisms, including some that are not inhibited by CO2, it is

critical that recommended chilled temperatures and good hygiene and handling
practices throughout the supply chain are adhered to and that products are
properly cooked prior to consumption.

Cooked, cured and processed meat products:

The principal spoilage mechanisms that limit the shelf life of cooked, cured and
processed meat products are microbial growth, color change and oxidative
rancidity. For cooked meat products, the heating process should kill vegetative
bacterial cells, inactivate degradative enzymes and fix the colour. Consequently,
spoilage of cooked meat products is primarily due to post-process
contamination by microorganisms, as a result of poor hygiene and handling
practices. The colour of cooked meats is susceptible to oxidation, and it is
important to have only low levels of residual O2 in packs. MAP using CO2/N2
mixes (gas compositions of 25–50% CO2 and 50–75% N2) along with a
gas/product ratio of 2:1 is widely used to maximise the shelf life and inhibit the
development of oxidative off-flavours and rancidity. Raw cured meat products,

e.g. bacon, owe their characteristic pink reddish colour to nitrosylmyoglobin.
This pigment is more stable than oxymyoglobin and is unaffected by high levels
of CO2 but is slowly converted to brown metmyoglobin in air.
During cooking, nitrosylmyoglobin is converted to pink denatured
nitrosohemochrome pigments that are unstable in air. Processed meat products
such as sausages, frankfurters and beef burgers generally contain sodium
metabisulphite, which is an effective preservative against a wide range of
spoilage microorganisms and pathogens. Cooked, cured and processed meat
products containing high levels of unsaturated fat are liable to be spoiled by
oxidative rancidity, but MAP with CO2/N2 mixtures is effective at inhibiting this
undesirable reaction. Potential food poisoning hazards are primarily due to
microbial contamination or growth resulting from post-cooking, curing or
processing contamination.
These can be minimised by using recommended chilled temperatures, good
hygiene and handling practices. The low water activity (aw) and addition of
nitrite in cooked, cured and processed meat products inhibit the growth of
many food poisoning bacteria, particularly C. botulinum. This inhibition may be
compromised in products formulated with lower concentrations of chemical
preservatives than those used in traditional foods.

Fish and fish products

There has been a very significant increase in the sale of MAP fish products in
Europe and particularly in the UK. Nevertheless, packaging technologists
should be aware of a major concern limiting the development of MAP, namely
C. botulinum. There is also debate about the cost benefits of MAP, since in

some applications only relatively small increases in safe shelf life have been
reported. Spoilage of fish results in the production of low molecular weight
volatile compounds, therefore, packaging technologists need to consider the
odor barrier properties of packaging films and select appropriate high-barrier
materials for packaging strong flavored fresh, smoked and brined fish and fish
products. Spoilage of fish and shellfish results from changes caused by three
major mechanisms: (i) the breakdown of tissue by the fish’s own enzymes
(autolysis of cells), (ii) growth of microorganisms, and (iii) oxidative reactions.
MAP can be used to control mechanisms (ii) and (iii) but has no direct effect on
autolysis. Because autolysis is the major cause of spoilage of fish and shellfish
stored at temperatures close to 0°C compared with the activities of bacteria, this
may explain the reduction in benefits achieved from MAP of fish compared to
other flesh products. MAP, while potentially inhibiting oxidative reactions, may
be more effective at inhibiting microbial growth.
Oxidative reactions are much more important as shelf life limiters in fish
compared with other flesh meat, because seafood has a higher content of
polyunsaturated lipids. Storage temperature has a major effect on fat oxidation
that occurs even at frozen temperatures. Note that salt addition can accelerate
oxidative processes. Generally, the major spoilage bacteria found on processed
fish are aerobes including Pseudomonas, Moraxella, Acinetobacter,
Flavobacterium and Cytophaga species. There are several microorganisms that
are of particular importance when dealing with MAP fish products, these
include C. botulinum.
Use of CO2 can effectively inhibit the growth of some of these species.
The aerobic spoilage organisms tend to be replaced by slower growing, and less
odor producing, bacteria, particularly lactic acid bacteria such as lactobacilli,
during storage. Because fish and shellfish contain much lower concentrations of
myoglobin, the oxidation status of this pigment is less important than that in
other meats. Consequently, there is potential to use higher levels of CO2, e.g.

40%. Because of the high moisture content and the lipid content of some
species, N2 is used to prevent pack collapse.
One of the concerns about MAP of fish is that removal of O2 and its
replacement by either N2 or N2/CO2 results in anaerobic conditions that are
conducive to the growth of protease-negative strains of C. botulinum. Because
these bacteria can grow at temperatures as low as 3°C and do not significantly
alter the sensory properties of the fish, there is the potential for food poisoning
that can lead to fatalities. While there is no evidence that CO2 promotes the
growth of psychotropic strains of C. botulinum, there are, as discussed
previously, some concerns about CO2 promoting the germination of spores of
this organism. Considerable research has been undertaken to assess, and to
control, the risks associated with the growth of C. botulinum in MAP of fish and
other products.

Fruits and vegetables

Consumers now expect fresh fruit and vegetable produce throughout the
year. MAP has the potential to extend the safe shelf life of many fruits and
vegetables. Packaging fresh and unprocessed fruits and vegetables poses many
challenges for packaging technologists. As with all products, it is essential to
work with the highest quality raw materials, and this is especially true for this
product group, often referred to as fresh produce. The quality of fresh produce
is markedly dependent on growing conditions, minimising bruising and other
damage during harvesting and processing, adherence to good hygienic practices,
controlling humidity to prevent desiccation while avoiding condensation to
prevent mould growth, and maintaining optimum storage temperatures. Unlike
other chilled perishable foods, fresh produce continues to respire after
harvesting. The products of aerobic respiration include CO2 and water vapour.
In addition, respiring fruits and vegetables produce C2H4 that promotes ripening
and softening of tissues. The latter if not controlled will limit shelf life.

Respiration is affected by the intrinsic properties of fresh produce as well as
various extrinsic factors, including ambient temperature. It is accepted that the
potential shelf life of packed produce is inversely proportional to respiration
rate. Respiration rate increases by a factor of 3–4 for every 10°C increase in
temperature. Hence, the goal of MAP for fruits and vegetables is to reduce
respiration to extend shelf life while maintaining quality. Respiration can be
reduced by lowering the temperature, lowering the O2 concentration, increasing
the CO2 concentration and by the combined use of O2 depletion and CO2
enhancement of pack atmospheres. If the O2 concentration is reduced beyond a
critical concentration, which is dependent on the species and cultivar, then
anaerobic respiration will be initiated. The products of anaerobic respiration
include ethanol, acetaldehyde and organic acids. Anaerobic respiration, or
anaerobiosis, is usually associated with undesirable odours and flavours and a
marked deterioration in product quality. While increasing the CO2 concentration
will also inhibit respiration, high concentrations may cause damage in some
species and cultivars.

Dairy products
MAP has the potential to increase the shelf life of a number of dairy products.
These include fat-filled milk powders, cheeses and fat spreads. In general, these
products spoil due to the development of oxidative rancidity in the case of
powders and/or the growth of microorganisms, particularly yeasts and moulds,
in the case of cheese.
Whole milk powder is particularly susceptible to the development of off
flavours due to fat oxidation. Commercially, the air is removed under vacuum
and replaced with 100% N2 or N2/CO2 mixes and the powder is hermetically
sealed in metal cans. Due to the spray drying process, air tends to be absorbed
inside the powder particles and will diffuse into the container over a period of
ten days or so. This typically will raise the residual headspace O2 content to 1–

5% or higher (Evans, Mullan and Pearce, unpublished results). Because some
markets require product with low levels of residual O2 (<1%), some
manufacturers re-pack the cans after ten days of storage. Obviously, this is both
expensive and inconvenient. We have found that use of N2/CO2 mixes (Evans,
Mullan and Pearce, unpublished results) can be helpful. Use of O2 scavenging
may also be useful. Refer to Chapter 9 for a more detailed discussion of O2
scavengers. English territorial cheeses, e.g. Cheddar, have traditionally been
vacuum packed. Increasingly MAP is being used with high CO2 concentration
gas mixes. This has the advantage of obtaining a low residual O2 content and a
tight pack due to the CO2 going into solution. It is important to balance this
process using the correct N2 level in the gas mix so as to avoid excessive
pressure being put on the pack

It refers to the containers and packaging for retail goods which are ready to be
displayed instantly or with little set up for retail consumption by consumers.

Retail Ready Packaging is a retail industry term used by both retail stores and
retail goods producers. An example of retail ready packaging is the paperboard
cartons that hold several packs of gum which are placed near cash
registers at supermarkets and retail stores.

Manufacturers use a variety of retail packaging techniques. Retail packaging

provides protection against physical damage and in the case of food provides a
safe haven free from germs and bacteria. In some cases, special types of retail
packaging are used for promotions of new products and marketing.

Flexible Packaging

Flexible retail packaging uses a variety of materials, including plastics and
metals, to house products; this is a type of packaging that usually loses its shape
once opened. Food products, especially fruits and vegetables, are placed in
flexible retail packaging such as plastic bags, air-tight sacks and containers and
other enclosures. Flexible packaging also contains a specific way of sealing the
product which, when opened, is often difficult to re-seal or close. Other flexible
types include re-sealable packaging such as that used to package dried fruits and
some frozen foods.

Rigid Packaging
Rigid retail packaging methods consist of a solid body in some form, such as a
cardboard box, and a closing element. Cereal boxes, plastic gallon milk and
juice containers, beverage containers such as soda pop bottles, household
cleaners, and other consumer products like toys and electronics have rigid retail
packaging. Plastic containers and trays, as well as plastic cups, are examples of
rigid packaging.

Custom Packaging
Custom retail packaging is used for irregularly-shaped products that don't fit the
traditional rigid or flexible types of packaging. Manufacturers and retailers
choose custom packaging designs for other reasons, too, such as to create brand
awareness and recognition; a product that has a uniquely-designed and attractive
custom package is easily recognizable to consumers. Custom retail packaging
that includes specific protective materials may also be used if a manufacturer is
trying to extend the shelf life of a product or protect it from breakage.

Recycled Packaging

Many retailers use recyclable materials to package retail products. Instead of
using mass-produced new cardboard, some companies package retail products
in recycled plastics, glass and paper from discarded consumer product packages.
Leftover raw materials can even be broken down and recycled to create retail
packaging. Recycled materials in many cases can be used to produce a good
portion of the types of packaging that the manufacturer needs.This is also a
money-saving technique that companies use instead of relying on shipments of
new product retail packages and materials.

Advantages of Retail packaging:

Easy to Recognise

• Clear graphical recognition of product

• Clear position of the brand / any variant / size information

Easy to Open

•Clear opening instructions

•Secure retention of product when opening

Easy to Shelf

•Maximise effective use of shelf space - size, depth and height

•Assess how many consumer units per RRP Pack

Easy to Shop

•Ensure brand, varient and size visible to shopper on consumer


•Shoppers can easily remove and place back consumer units

from RRP Pack

Easy to Dispose

•Handling after use

•No mixed material that cannot be separated

Packaging that contains single unit dosages or units.

• The advantage of unit packaging is easy to use.

• The major disadvantage is there may be tampering of the
packages during transportation.


• Active Packaging
• Intelligent / Smart Packaging

How Activated Packaging Systems Work

This consists of a matrix polymer, such as PET, an oxygen

scavenging/absorbing component and a catalyst. The oxygen-scavenging
component is a nylon polymer (MXD6) melt blended with the PET at around
the 5% level. The catalyst is a cobalt salt added at a low concentration (less than
200ppm) that triggers the oxidation of the MXD6. The OXBAR system remains
active for periods of up to two years providing protection to oxygen sensitive
products such as beer, wine, fruit juice and mayonnaise throughout their shelf-
lives. Active food packaging systems using oxygen scavenging and anti-
microbial technologies (e.g. sorbate-releasing LDPE film for cheese) have the
potential to extend the shelf-life of perishable foods while at the same time
improving their quality by reducing the need for additives and preservatives.

How Intelligent Packaging Works

In ‘intelligent’ packaging, the package function switches on and off in response

to changing external/internal conditions, and can include a communication to
the customer or end user as to the status of the product. A simple definition of
intelligent packaging is ‘packaging which senses and informs’, and nowhere
does this generate a more potent vision than within the smart home of the

Quality Assurance Using Intelligent Labels

Another important need is for consumer security assurance, particularly for

perishable food products. The question as to whether, for example, a chilled
ready-meal is safe to use or consume is currently answered by ‘best by’ date
stamping. However, this does not take into account whether the product has
inadvertently been exposed to elevated temperatures during storage or
transportation. In the future, microbial growth and temperature-time visual
indicators based on physical, chemical or enzymatic activity in the food will
give a clear, accurate and unambiguous indication of product quality, safety and
shelf-life condition. As an example, COX Technologies has developed a colour
indicating tag that is attached as a small adhesive label to the outside of
packaging film, which monitors the freshness of seafood products. A barb on
the backside of the tag penetrates the packaging film and allows the passage of
volatile amines, generated by spoilage of the seafood. These are wicked passed
a chemical sensor that turns FreshTag progressively bright pink as the seafood
ages, figure 1.

Figure 1. Colour indicating tags attached as a small adhesive label to the
outside of packaging film can be used to monitor the freshness of perishable
food products such as seafood.

Intelligent Packaging for Fresh Fruit and Vegetables

Fresh-cut produce continues to be one of the fastest growing segments of food

retailing and while conventional film packaging is suitable for lettuce and
prepared salads, it cannot cope with the high respiration rates of pre-cut
vegetables and fruit, leading to early product deterioration. In the USA, novel
breatheable polymer films are already in commercial use for fresh-cut
vegetables and fruit. Landec Corporation supplies Intellipac packaging films
that are acrylic side-chain crystallisable polymers tailored to change phase
reversibly at various temperatures from 0-68°C. As the side-chain components
melt, gas permeation increases dramatically, and by further tailoring the
package and materials of construction, it is possible to fine tune the carbon
dioxide to oxygen permeation ratios for particular products. The final package is
‘smart’ because it automatically regulates oxygen ingress and carbon dioxide
egress by transpiration according to the prevailing temperature. In this way, an
optimum atmosphere is maintained around the product during storage and
distribution, extending freshness and allowing shipping of higher quality
products to the consumer.

Self-Heating and Self-Chilling Packaging

Improved convenience is a value-added function that customers are likely to

pay extra for as lifestyles change. Self-heating packages, for soup and coffee,
for example, and self-cooling containers for beer and soft drinks have been
under active development for more than a decade, but have yet to achieve
commercial status. However, Crown Cork & Seal is pioneering the development

of a self-chilling beverage can in conjunction with Tempra Technologies and
development is nearing completion. The Crown/Tempra technology uses the
latent heat of evaporating water to produce the cooling effect. The water is
bound in a gel layer coating a separate container within the beverage can, and is
in close thermal contact with the beverage. The consumer twists the base of the
can to open a valve, exposing the water to the desiccant held in a separate,
evacuated external chamber This initiates evaporation of the water at room
temperature. The unit has been designed to meet a target specification set by
major beverage customers cooling 300ml of beverage in a 355ml can by 16.7°C
in three minutes. This performance level has been achieved in laboratory tests
and working samples are currently undergoing focus group trials with