Innovation: The mechanism for sustenance

September 23, 2015

Innovation is a continuous process and innovative packaging has no limitation. It can be either for raw materials, conversion technologies, and process automation or for the final packageDr. N.C. Saha, Director and Principal Executive Officer of Indian Institute of Packaging 

With innovations is technology, more emphasis is being given to active and intelligent packaging of perishable goods

In the 21st century, it is a well-known fact that innovation is important for a nation to grow and sustain its industries.  In order to be ahead in the race, it is essential for the manufacturing as well as the service sector to keep on experimenting.  Packaging innovation can be made either in material science in terms of high functional properties or in the manufacturing process with more productivity and less wastage. At the same time, the companies are also concerned about retaining the image of their products by the way of introducing innovative package design in the market. Packaging innovations are mostly observed in the field of material science as experiments are mostly done in relation to structural engineering of the material, changing composition or by introducing alternative material with higher functional properties.

With innovations in technology, more emphasis is being given to active and intelligent packaging of perishable goods. Active packaging plays a dynamic role in food preservation and allows packages to interact with food and the environment. It includes controlled respiration rate, delayed oxidation and moisture migration. Many other improvements in packaging technologies include odour absorbents, ethylene removers, carbon dioxide absorbents / remitters and aroma remitters. Oxygen removal, purge and moisture control have been noticeable in active packaging, of which purge control is commercially the most successful. Smart and intelligent packaging has enabled manufacturers to monitor and communicate information about the food quality with the help of time and temperature indicators, radio frequency identification, ripeness indicators and bio-sensors. These devices may be incorporated either in package materials or attached to the inside or outside of a package. As of now, the commercial applications of these technologies have been limited, but they are likely to gain prominence as a mechanism for tracking and tracing products and other perishable commodities.

In an exhaustive study and report carried out by the IIP earlier this year on a new technology called modified atmosphere packaging, the following benefits have accrued

1.  The shelf life of goat meat has increased from 3 days to 9 days.

2.  Shelf life of buffalo meat has improved from 7 days to 13 days.

In line with IIP’s new three pronged role which is 1) Export promotion, 2) Packaging education and 3) Packaging research, this research will change the way exporters are currently sending meat overseas.

Beef has become an important foreign exchange earner for India among the agriculture commodity exports after basmati rice, with 31% increase in quantity and 52% rise in value terms during 2013-14. India was ranked second largest beef exporter in the world with 20% market share after Brazil; by the department of agriculture of the United States (USDA) in its recent report. As per the figures of APEDA, the beef exports totaled Rs.26, 458 crore in 2014. With this technology, India can become a market leader soon. The meat export industry in India is currently at Rs. 33128.30 crore. Such initiatives will give a huge impetus to the industry and encourage Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Make in India’ campaign. 

According to a recent report submitted by the Indian Institute of Packaging to Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), exporters are all set to save 50% on the energy cost of transportation of meat products. At present meat is exported in frozen condition (-20 degrees centigrade). With this modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) technology exporters will be able to now send consignments at 4 degree Celsius. This is a massive saving in cost and will hugely benefit the exporter community. The report has now been submitted to APEDA. It has opened up the potential of the export market by increasing the shelf life and allowing some cushion time to plan the export.

This innovative technology will be highlighted by IIP at the upcoming World Packaging Congress (9th October, 2015) which is to be inaugurated by Smt. Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Hon’ble Minister of Food Processing Industries and Indiapack 2015. Indiapack 2015 is being inaugurated by Nirmala Sitharaman, Hon. Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry.

Now, more and more companies are innovating in the field of package design by means of shape, size, capacity with effective performance properties like mechanical, optical or barrier properties and graphic design in terms attractiveness which make the packages more acceptable to the modern consumer.  Here are a few of them:

1. Fresh produce like fruit salad, hummus, yoghurt etc are often marketed in plastic containers, only some of which are recyclable whereas metal cans are normally lined with plastic coatings which sometimes are found to cause leaching of BIS-Phenol A (BPA) into food and beverages. Therefore, a number of innovations have been made in paper packaging. Wax-coated paper sandwich bags are used to wrap the lunch instead of plastic bags and are bio-degradable while paper based composite cans are also used for the packaging of butter, cream or other milk based products.

 2. Shipping of perishable, highly temperature sensitive goods such high value pharmaceuticals has traditionally required the use of highly insulated cardboard cartons. Also, the cost and complexity of reverse logistics has not made reusing those cartons feasible. However, developing a depot system which is also rugged, returnable and reusable temperature controlled box with intelligent thermal solutions reducing waste will also create a new business model for the cold chain shippers. The insulated carton may maintain a temperature of 2°C to 8°C for five days and can be used up to 100 times.

 3. Made from recycled paper board and news print, this is one of the most sustainable packaging materials available and is used in the form of protective packaging or as food service trays, beverage carriers and clam shell containers. Molded pulp is also less expensive as compared to expanded polystyrene (EPS) or thermocol, vacuum formed PET, corrugation and foams. The containers are lighter and stronger than conventional pulp containers and are moisture with a smoother finish.

4. Radio frequency identification device (RFID) enabled packaging is expected to gain significant consumer confidence in the coming years, especially in the case of meat and pharmaceutical products. It can improve traceability throughout the supply chain and also the safety of products.

5. A UK based company has recently introduced the latest generation paper based, honey comb pallet solution with special features. The pallets are moisture resistant, made of 100 per cent recycled kraft paper (liner board) and water based adhesives, laminated with a polyethylene film that does not impact the recycling process after usage. The pallets can be used in wet environmental conditions during shipping and also in production plants.

6. Seeking a greener alternative to petroleum-based cushioning materials for heavy packaging, a leading computer manufacturing company has introduced mushroom packaging. The mushroom bio-science is based on using common, agricultural waste products. Cotton husk, rice husk or wheat chaff is placed in a mold and injected with a mushroom spawn. Five to 10 days later, the mushroom root structure completes its growth, and it is as strong and protective as Styrofoam.

Conclusion

Innovation is a continuous process and innovative packaging has no limitation. It can be either for raw materials, conversion technologies, and process automation or for the final package. It needs to fulfill the requirement of modern consumers in terms of strength and disposability without compromising on their attractiveness and multi-functionality. Packaging innovation could be either based on technology to increase the shelf-life of perishable goods or on a technique with less carbon footprints. In addition, the innovations on the structural as well as graphic design of packages are also highly appreciable to attract the modern consumers so as to compete with other branded goods. In short, innovation can be considered as the mechanism to sustain in this competitive world.

Author: Dr. N.C. Saha is the Director and Principal Executive Officer of Indian Institute of Packaging. He is also the secretary general of Asian Packaging Federation (APF), a board member of World Packaging Organization (WPO) and the Chairman of nine sectional committees of Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) for the formulation of national standards on packaging. He has close to 28 years of experience.


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