In part one of The Big Questions series, a collection of stories imagining the future of the food and beverage industry, we take a look at how packaging could evolve in the coming decades
What will packaging look like in the future? It’s a common question being asked by brands and producers as the food and beverage industry undergoes dramatic changes. Based on what we know today, it isn’t hard to imagine what the near future holds. But what about further ahead? How different could packaging be? What kind of materials can we expect? And how will consumers interact with packaging in the world of tomorrow?
Making every pack personal
As lifestyles become busier, consumers will continue to crave convenience. But to ensure products perfectly fit the way they live, we can expect a new level of personalisation, taking product individualisation to the extreme. Consumers already favour products tailored to their personality and image. But with advancing technology, printing and data collection, we’ll see more packaging that’s highly customised, personalised or localised.
Putting someone’s name or face on a package is only scratching the surface. From unique designs created by consumers themselves, and packaging that instantly reflects local, political or sporting events, to products that can be personalised at the point of sale, tomorrow’s packaging will be able to meet the needs of consumers in every way possible.
The potential of protection
Over the new few decades, food and water shortages are set to become a growing global challenge. To help reduce issues such as food waste and loss, protective packaging will play a key role in making food safer and more accessible as it’s transported over longer distances and needs to stay fresher for longer.
This demand for more protection will be balanced by the demand for more sustainability with highly protective packaging that’s also greener, lighter and more efficient to transport. Innovation will therefore lie in creating new lighter weight packaging that not only offers maximum performance and functionality but is fully biodegradable or even compostable.
Thinking big and small
Packaging is getting smarter but how smart could it be? The possibilities of printed electronics is already clear as NFC, RFID and LED solutions are developing to offer consumers a new level of interaction and infotainment. Another growing area is the realm of nanotechnology, which is set to open up a world of benefits on a molecular level.
Packaging made from nanomaterials could provide a better protective barrier against things like light and air, and therefore extend shelf lives even further. Nanotechnology could also advance active packaging with materials that actually interact with a product’s contents to combat microbes and reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses.
Nanomaterial packaging could also monitor a product’s content so consumers can check if it’s still fit for consumption, and also see the specific nutrient content on the pack in real time. This level of molecular monitoring is still some way off but all signs are pointing to a future where nanotechnology could revolutionise packaging.
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