Active and Smart Packaging on the Rise


You might not think of packaging and printing together, however some of the most impressive advancements in the printing industry are happening in Packaging. “Active Packaging” enhances the performance of the product by interacting directly with the food it contains. The “active” materials are often manufactured right into the packaging materials, either by printing or coating.

Oxygen Scavengers or Absorbers

One type of Active Packaging uses substances that absorb oxygen to reduce the growth of pathogens, improve product quality, and/or reduce oxidation. All of these activities have the effect of extending shelf life. Active packaging is often used in packaging vitamins or spices to reduce oxidation. The same active packaging process may be used to extend pharmaceutical life. Still other example is using a closure or cap that contains a hydrogen activator.

Moisture Absorbers

Another category of Active Packaging is Moisture Absorbers. Water and moisture can have a damaging effect on the item inside. Materials in the packaging that absorb that moisture protect the item from the normal degradation.

Other Examples of Active Packaging

Thermo-chromic inks, inks sensitive to temperature, may be protective to the liquid inside, like those used on Coors’ beer cans. Ethylene absorbers are used in packaging strawberries to allow the ethylene to escape from the package, thereby allowing the strawberries to stay fresher longer. There is even new packaging with antimicrobial protection built in.

Smart (Intelligent) Packaging

Another growing area for the industry is Smart or Intelligent Packaging. With this type of covering, there is an inside or outside indicator on the package which monitoring and communicating to the buyer information about the quality, history, and sometimes change that the product has undergone.

What’s Next for the Printing Industry?

Some years ago, we were engaged by a regional printer to talk about what was next for the industry and his business. The advice we gave was simple, “Diversify”. Printers that have done so have thrived, while many of those who were totally dependent on ink-on-paper printing jobs have seen and will continue to see the sizes of their runs shrink. The distributed printing future we forecast is here today; within the next 10 years, we will even see 3-D printing in a majority of households, as common as is ink-jet and laser-printing in every office in the world.  What’s more we will have multiple 3-D Printers in our homes. we always wondered about the quality of the food produced by a Star Trek replicator. Someday soon, we may know.  

Special thanks to Mark Bohan, Vice President, Technology and Research, Printing Industries of America for the valuable information in this Herman Trend Alert.

Herman Trend Alerts are written by Joyce Gioia


Joyce Gioia is a Strategic Business Futurist concentrating on workforce and workplace trends. Joyce is President and CEO of The Herman Group, a firm serving a wide range corporate, trade association and governmental clients on an international basis.

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