Most consumers would seem to think that food production has become more low-tech as we drift away from highly processed ingredients and production methods that seem “unnatural,” but the truth is that technology has enabled our food to become simpler while still delivering modern industrial conveniences.
The reason that most people do not recognize these innovations lies in the fact that they are practically invisible. New packaging and food packing processes allow food to be fresher while generating less waste and increasing recyclability. Ideas are set to only get more ambitious on the horizon, including packaging that — instead of getting thrown away — gets cooked right along with the food!
See how the future is now with these four groundbreaking innovations in food packaging technology, all of which are set to become major disruptions on the horizon.
Edible Food Packaging
Imagine that, instead of taking ingredients out of the package to cook them, you just throw them right in, package and all? That vision straight out of a Tex Avery cartoon could soon be a reality thanks to innovations developed in labs at Harvard University.
Named “WikiCells,” these containers eliminate the need for plastics and replace them with organic, dissolvable materials that actually contribute flavor to the meal. The packaging materials are made of charged particles that use electrostatic forces to maintain rigidity, chemical stability, and structure. Examples include a pumpkin soup housed inside a spinach membrane and melted chocolate encased in a cherry-flavored membrane.
While cooking the package along with the food might be convenient, cooking the food in the package would be even more convenient. This futuristic dream could be a reality thanks to self-heating packagings.
These packages have air-activated heating compounds contained within them. Removing a label kick-starts the reaction process, allowing the contents to self-heat before they are consumed or used. Current applications include melting chocolate for use as a topping, but the design could soon allow soups and hot meals to be ready on-the-go sans microwave.
3D Digital Package Decoration
While many of these ideas transform the packaging themselves, a recent winner of the DuPont Awards for Packaging Innovation created an all-in-one system for packaging decoration. The system uses 3D digital print packaging technology to create high resolution images at just a fraction of the overhead compared to offset, gravure and flexo printing. Hot foiling and digital spot UV capabilities enable personalized embossed foil accents and decorative special effects, and the entire system can utilize variable data to create limited runs from one to 100,000.
In an age where experience matters more and more for catching consumers’ eye, having limited edition effects and one-off personalization can easily allow a product to stand out.
Innovations in Food Packaging as Responses to Consumer Demands
One emerging area of packaging innovation comes not from technological breakthroughs but increases in consumer demands for more practical packaging. Examples include resealable packages and single-portion items, which both prevent spoilage while reducing waste overall.
When creating these packages intended for an extended shelf life, clear labeling becomes more important than ever. Variable printing and coding will help manufacturers place tighter controls on the manufacturing process while also giving consumers more information they need to avoid spoilage.
If you are interested in adding the latest inkjet, thermal printing, labeling, coding, and scanning software to your production line so that you can respond flexibly to the latest trends in food packaging, you can speak to one of our expert customer representatives today to discuss your needs and goals.