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What is Smart Packaging and How Does it Benefit the Flexible Film Industry?

smart packaging

There is a lot of talk today about smart packaging, and there are many different names for technological innovation that are quickly changing the face of flexible film packaging.

Throughout the industry, you’ll hear smart packaging, also referred to as active packaging, intelligent packaging, connective packaging, and interactive packaging. Do they all mean the same thing? No. But all these technologies are poised to grow in usage.

Analysts report that smart packaging is expected to register a compound annual growth rate of 5.8% over 2022-2027. That puts the sector at an impressive global value of nearly $50 billion in just a few years. It’s predicted that the fastest-growing segment will be intelligent packaging.

What is Smart Packaging?

Smart packaging isn’t one type of packaging solution. It’s the umbrella name for a category of innovative solutions that do much more than protect the contents of a packaged good. Think of smart packaging as being “multi-talented” as compared to traditional packaging which only has one job – to hold something inside of it.

Some of the most popular uses for smart packaging include extending product shelf life, product traceability, freshness monitoring, security, information sharing, and consumer engagement. Functionality like this makes the packaging just as valuable as the product inside.

While the food and beverage industry is shaping up to be the market using smart packaging the most, other markets have started to embrace it, including pharmaceuticals, health and beauty, toys, gaming, and even apparel. With the technology still being fairly new, there will no doubt be even more uses discovered over the next few years.

Under the umbrella of smart packaging, you’ll find active, intelligent, and connected packaging. Let’s take a look at what each type of solution does.

What is Active Packaging?

Active packaging is particularly popular in food and beverage. As its name suggests, active packaging interacts with the contents of the package – usually to extend shelf life, increase freshness, or help maintain the quality of contents that are in storage.

How does it work? Certain types of advanced materials are integrated into the packaging itself to help regulate temperature, moisture, bacteria, and even light. One example – active packaging can release an antimicrobial agent if the packaging detects that product freshness is being jeopardized. The agent will stop potential bacteria growth and help keep the product’s quality.

What is Intelligent Packaging?

Intelligent packaging is typically used to monitor product conditions whether in storage, during transit, or on the shelf. It can provide important data regarding location, tampering, freshness, or temperature.

Intelligent packaging can use a variety of technologies to gather the data. Common types include the integration of a printed code, sensor, or microchip into the packaging. One example is food packaging that changes color if it detects bacteria, a leak, or contamination.

What is Connected Packaging?

Connected packaging can empower brands of all kinds to connect with consumers in new and exciting ways. It turns a simple package into a highly engaging digital experience.

By applying digital printing onto the packaging film, a consumer can easily engage with the package. All it usually takes is a quick cell phone scan of the printed code, and the consumer is taken to a website or other online source where they can learn more about the brand or product, get a coupon, play a game, or join a loyalty program. The creative options are endless.

Connected packaging is also a win for the brand. They will often use the digital experience to collect consumer data, which can give insights into target audience behaviors and lead to deeper customer relationships.

What are the Benefits of Smart Packaging Solutions?

Whether it’s active, intelligent, connected, or interactive packaging, the benefits of smart packaging solutions are many. Here are the top 5:

Traceability. Smart packaging technologies make it easier than ever to track products throughout the various stages of their supply chain. A brand can monitor warehouse location, the fulfillment process, a shipping route, or order delivery.

Quality Control. By monitoring a variety of different criteria, product quality can be more easily measured, improved, and maintained. The outcome is higher product integrity in the marketplace and more satisfied customers.

Security. Lost, counterfeit, or stolen goods can damage a brand’s reputation. They can also negatively impact their bottom line. The use of smart packaging can allow brands to keep better track of their products and ensure authenticity to customers.

Transparency. Today’s consumers are holding brands to higher standards than ever before. They care about the ethical, economic, and sustainable impact that products have on them and society as a whole. Through smart packaging, a brand can paint a clear picture of how their product is made – what materials are being sourced, where and how it’s being manufactured, and who is making it. This transparency helps consumers make a more educated purchase decision based on the values important to them.

Better Consumer Experience. Smart packaging is empowering brands to more easily and creatively engage with customers in the digital space. By offering up new and innovative ways to connect with a product, brands are staying relevant and delivering value to their target audience.

Talk to PennPac About a Smart Packaging Solution for Your Brand

There are a number of different types of flexible films that can be used in smart packaging solutions. Contact our team today if you are interested in learning more about our competitively priced flexible packaging films as well as our custom roll slitting, contract slitting, or film sheeting services.