Packaging Advancements Moving Into 2014

Posted on 12/19/2013 1:29:15 PM By Jeff Timm

As we approach 2014, there are some fairly obvious packaging industry trends that have driven us through through 2013 like recycling, sustainability, and the clarity created around 'green' marketing brought to the forefront with programs like the FTC Green Guides and the USDA BioPreferred®  program.  Diving deeper into the aspects of packaging there are also some advancements that have taken hold on the packaging design side that are beginning to become more common place and viewed as value added rather than just a “cool” market innovation. 

These design advancements were presented recently at the Focal Point 2013 – Frontiers in Packaging conference hosted by the Wisconsin Institute of Sustainable Technology, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (WIST).  WIST provides research, education and services to improve the long-term environment and economy through the collaboration of educators, students and researchers.  One of the conference presentations was made by Wayne Wegner, Director of Sustainability for the Bemis Company in Neenah, WI.  Bemis is North America’s largest film converter at $5.1 billion. Parts of Wegner’s presentation are shown below:

  • Active Packaging    
  • Case Ready
    • Modified Atmosphere (MAP)
    • Vacuum Pack
    • Controlled Permeability
    • Portion Control
    • Opening/Reclosing Convenience

Active Packaging:

Active packaging is a feature incorporated into the package that actually performs a function within the package during its lifetime.  Examples of active packaging are quality improvements, safety-sensors, increased stability and usability.  These features are achieved by the use of...

  • Oxygen scavengers - eliminate oxygen from the interior of the package as well as retarding oxygen migration through the package
  • Odor absorbers - scavenge confinement odors, removing them from the package to enhance the flavor profile of product
  • Corrosion inhibitors - scavenge H20 from package
  • Food preservatives incorporated into the film inner layer to minimize the need of BHT & Nitrites in the actual product
  • Flame retardants, anti-microbials, aroma enhancers

Case Ready:

Case ready is the centralization of food preparation.  This process extends shelf life and creates supply chain efficiencies, thereby reducing downstream food waste at retail.  Techniques like vacuum packaging which eliminates atmospheric gases inside the package and modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) substitute atmospheric gas inside the package with a protective gas mixture.

Controlled Permeability:

With controlled permeability a package material is selected to control the movement of gas through the film at a controlled rate.  The packaging design engineer can select films tailored to organic properties of specific products greatly increasing shelf life and reducing spoilage cutting food waste.  Examples of this are packaged salads that do not wilt and packaged fruits and vegetables like bananas and cucumbers that are allowed to ‘breathe’ at controlled rates.

Portion Control:

Portion control and multipacks allow consumers to purchase, store and consume only the items that are needed at a certain time.

Opening/Reclosing Convenience:

By improving convenient opening and reclose features product integrity is improved, potential for contamination is reduced and shelf life is increased.  Additionally opening/reclosing convenience is an enhancement valued by senior citizens and families with small children.

Examples are easy peel films and lidding stock (reclosable cookie bags), tear filaments on boxes and film packages (sliced lunch meat), perforations/die cuts, press-to-close and slide zippers on sliced cheese and a host of pressure sensitive adhesives (PSAs) and tapes all add to ease and convenience.

All these advancements have a common thread.  They guarantee the integrity of the food consumers around the world purchase, store and conveniently open and safely consume.  These technical advancements are paramount to supply the world food requirements in the future.  Wegner’s presentation went on to illustrate the need to make this connection between effective advanced packaging design and the future food supply citing the following trends and forecasts.

Increasing food consumption

  • Global population to increase from 7.2 billion to 9.6 billion by 2050 and increasingly urban.
  • The middle class – income is projected to rise nearly 200% which translates to more prepared and ‘upscale’ food offerings
  • Net increase in consumption of nearly100% - total food production to rise by 70%.
  • Demand for fresh, nutritious food will increase sharply as consumer awareness of the benefits of these foods increases.

Movement of food around the world

  • Global distribution rapidly expanding
  • E-commerce

Rise of sustainability awareness

 Wayne Wegner’s presentation was one of many outstanding presentations on various aspects of packaging.  The under the radar WIST - Focal Point series of packaging conferences has presented a very impressive group of speakers and topics since 2011.  The 2014 conference arrangements are being planned.  To be placed on an email list to receive updates about Focal Point, email

Note:  Special thanks to Wayne Wegner, Director of Sustainability, Bemis Company, Neenah, WI for his permission to liberally use his WIST Focal Point 2013 presentation as the basis for this Packaging Blog.

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