Trends and innovations 

  The packaging industry is adopting smart and sustainable solutions to make product packaging more consumer-, brand-, and environmentally friendly. The major packaging industry trends that enable smart packaging are the internet of packaging, active packaging, and the use of nanotechnology.
    However, since the COVID-19 pandemic has kept people in their homes, packaging from online shopping creates the serious challenge of waste production. Hence, accelerating innovations around biodegradable, recyclable, and edible packaging. At the same time, the deployment of 3D printing and robotic packaging simplifies packaging processes and reduces costs for brands and consumer product companies.

Impact Of Packaging Industry Trends
    Innovative packaging to make packaging more connected and interactive. This is done through QR codes, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, augmented reality (AR), and IoT-based food spoilage detection sensors. Increasing consumer awareness encourages companies to adopt circular packaging solutions by using recyclable and biodegradable materials such as post-consumer resins, bagasse, hemp, and polylactic acid (PLA).
    Digital printing on the packaging is another big trend impacting packaging supply chains. With the AI-assisted robots carrying out the monotonous packaging processes of picking and placing, palletising, and inspection, packaging automation is also disrupting the packaging industry. Industries such as food, beverage, cosmetics, and pharma, incorporate active packaging into their products to tackle the challenge of product spoilage. Further, 3D printing, and customised packaging enable brands to stand out and get noticed.

Internet of Packaging
    The internet of packaging brings technological disruption to traditional packaging and allows consumers to better connect with brands. Smart packaging leverages technology such as QR codes, smart labels, RFID & Near Field Communication (NFC) chips. These cutting-edge technologies offer value-added benefits of security, authentication, and connectivity, making the product packaging a data carrier and digital tool. AR packaging gives companies an opportunity to better engage with customers by introducing them to a range of product content, discount codes, and video tutorials. Further, the internet of things sensors and devices allow brands to integrate diagnostic and indicator functionalities in their packaging. This helps customers to know in real-time the product’s condition.
    Offering an anti-counterfeit technology solution. They integrates QR codes and cloud technology to allow brand owners and customers to identify the authenticity of the products. They installs unique security codes on each product, which allows brand owners and retailers to track items throughout the supply chain. This is done through the web-based portal and applications. QTRUST enables brands to interact with customers; deliver the correct brand story, and run customer survey campaigns. The mobile app enables users to check the product information, location of shops, transaction history, and get reward points.

Biodegradable Packaging
    Plastic is the most commonly used packaging material since the early 20th century; however, its slow decomposition rate causes widespread environmental problems. As consumers become more aware of the negative consequences of single-use plastic packaging, they demand eco-friendly packaging. Biodegradable packaging and films gain traction and are suitable alternatives to traditional plastic packaging. For example, starch, cellulose, PLA, polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), and polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), as well as other biopolymers, find applications in the packaging industry. Apart from this, plant-based packaging from sugarcane, coconut, hemp, and corn starch also replaces plastic packaging. These innovations are economical for businesses to adopt and reduce their impact on the environment.
    Producing 100% biodegradable and compostable lamination film and foil packaging. They produce PACK’ON, a packaging foil made of polylactic acid (PLA) derived from corn. The use of silver nanoparticles as antibacterial additives in the foil and its oxygen barrier properties make the solution suitable for food packaging. The film and foil break down in natural materials such as water, carbon dioxide, and composite. The polymer threads of the product are biaxially oriented and, hence, make it durable and less prone to tearing. Moreover, PACK’ON indicates no migration of oils and other elements which makes the product safe for packing of food and cosmetics.

Digital Printing
    The process of printing on packaging comes with many challenges, some of which are accuracy, low quality of color, and high labor costs. This gives the opportunity to innovate the process with digital printing, making it one of the top packaging industry trends. Unlike traditional offset or flexo printing techniques, it does not require separate plates for different prints. All the content is printed in a single pass in digital printing, making it less laborious. Modern digital printing has a limited impact on the environment as it eliminates the need for prepress procedures or additional labeling which, in turn, reduces waste and lowers inventory requirements. Additionally, with less turnaround time and more flexibility to experiment with the design, digital printing facilitates customised packaging for brands to cater to different subgroups of consumers. Direct thermal printing is another printing technique that uses thermal imaging and is used to print labels and flexible packaging, without the use of inks.
    Offering digital printing for flexible packaging. It uses a HP Indigo digital press for printing on flexible packages, pouches, shrink sleeves, and labels. The technology offers gravure-matching quality along with a wide color scale, increased productivity, and high-quality automated finishing. The technique also makes it easier to print variable data such as barcodes or QR codes. Further, Flexible Pack offers printing on heat-sensitive materials as well.

Packaging Automation
    The major challenges associated with packaging are productivity, precision, and quality control. Automating the packaging processes, e.g., for pick and place, depanning, filling, packing, sealing, labeling, and palletising is a big packaging industry trend. Packaging automation with the use of robotic arms and grippers not only eliminates human errors but also ensures the safe handling of delicate products. Finally, developing artificial intelligence-powered vision systems that take pictures of the finished goods on the floor to analyse the packaging that meets the set standards. These vision-assisted robots are used to automate processes such as product sorting, quality control, and inspection to increase overall efficiency.
    Making robotic systems to handle extremely delicate objects. The robotic system is capable of performing functions like trimming, picking, and packing fresh produce including tomatoes and grapes. Wootzano robots use complex machine learning algorithms to execute their tasks and adapt to the changing environment. Further, LiDAR is used for inspection automation and weight estimation. The robot’s hand covered with electronic skin has high sensing capabilities. This feature allows it to handle delicate fresh produce without squeezing them. It also predicts product shelf life which, in turn, helps manufacturers ensure only fresh produce stays on the shelf. 

Active Packaging
    According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), one-third of all the food produced for consumption is wasted globally. Food waste is a big challenge to be addressed as companies often incur huge losses because of the same. Active packaging is a growing packaging industry trend, which is used with the goal of increasing the shelf life of the product and has applications in the food, beverage, cosmetic, and pharmaceutical industries. For example, modified atmospheric packaging uses oxygen or ethylene absorbers and moisture regulators to keep food fresh. Another example of active packaging releases antimicrobial agents to prevent bacterial growth in the product.
    Developing food-saving packaging. The techniques for infusing food-grade natural extracts into film or containers that release controlled active vapor in the food item. Mold spores absorb the vapor, slowing down their metabolism to the point that they struggle to survive. SoFresh’s packaging products include standard and custom bread and bakery packaging, over-wrap films, lid stock materials, and barrier laminations. Its technology is tested with food items such as bread, cheese, and berries hence is well suited for companies selling these eatables. SoFresh’s active packaging solution enables companies to extend food travel life, shelf life, and consumption time so as to mitigate spoilage and wastage.

Custom Packaging
    The appearance of a product plays a big role in attracting consumers to a product. Hence, the packaging holds as much importance as the product itself, as it’s a crucial marketing tool for businesses. The challenge for the brands is to make the packaging eye-catching to attract more customers and boost sales. Making the unboxing experience more personalised and unique is the key to creating a lasting impact so that customers come back to the brand. A good example is Coca-Cola’s popular “Share a Coke” campaign, which had names printed on the packaging to give it a personal touch.
    Allowing businesses to design their custom packaging on their online platform without having to hire a designer. Also, the platform makes it possible for the brand to preview its design in 3D and get instant price quotes. PACKMOJO promotes sustainability by using packaging material made from 50% post-consumer waste. Further, they use eco-friendly inks like soy ink for printing, and water-based varnish instead of lamination to seal the ink.

Recyclable Packaging
    With countries banning single-use plastic, businesses have to look for materials other than plastic for product packaging in order to comply with the regulations. Adopting sustainable packaging remains a challenge for most companies, but the use of recyclable materials is one such packaging industry trend that helps businesses adopt circular packaging practices. For example, post-consumer resins (PCR) are recyclable packaging material that is derived from post-consumer waste. Other than this, developing mono-material packaging instead of multi-layer packaging since mono-material are easily recyclable.
    Developing monomaterial barrier packaging to replace the non-recyclable multilayer packaging and reduce plastic waste. Boostani develops masterbatches and compounds for monomaterial packaging with barrier properties. It uses additives in small proportions to create a barrier, instead of different layers of plastic, which make the compound recyclable. All the materials used are FDA-approved and suitable for food packaging.

Edible Packaging
    Packaging follows the use-dispose model, and so largely contributes towards solid waste and ends up either in landfills or in water bodies. This is why over the last decade, both businesses and consumers are moving towards sustainable packaging. The challenge for businesses is to opt for packaging that satisfies this basic functionality and also reduces or eliminates solid waste. Edible packaging is a revolutionary packaging industry trend that addresses the challenges and also closes the loop for packaging. A good example is packaging made from milk protein used as casein film around food products. These films are better at keeping food fresh, compared to plastic. Also, making edible spoons, straws, or other cutlery items provide restaurant chains, cafes, or ice cream parlors with options other than plastic.
    Innovating a plant-based edible and water-soluble packaging material. The material is tasteless, transparent and hypoallergenic, and is used for packaging in industries like food, detergent, pharmaceutical, and agriculture. Their product, HoneyDrop, is honey packaged in edible packaging material. BlenDay is another product, a blendable plant-based superfood pillow pack, which is consumed by blending into smoothies as-is. The outer layer of BlenDay packs is made of pectin and colorful superfood powders.

3D Printing
    3D printing is a growing packaging industry trend that allows companies to construct different prototypes and innovate their packaging line in near real-time. Brands often experiment with packaging designs, which are costly, time-consuming, and produce waste. 3D printing technology also facilitates personalised packaging, with zero contribution towards plastic waste. The technology offers greater design freedom to engineers and designers and empowers them to produce high-quality products. Additive manufacturing technology is also used by manufacturers to make prototypes of packaging machinery parts, for example, by printing robotic arms for a certain packaging line.
    Hassle-free and fast custom solutions for thermoformed packaging. To optimise packaging solutions while lowering lead times, tForm employs advanced computer-aided design (CAD) and 3D modeling, 3D printing, proprietary mold designs, and lean manufacturing techniques. They utilise the most easily recyclable plastic to minimise its environmental impact. It offers packaging solutions for medical, automotive, industrial, and electronics markets. Additionally, they sell stock shipping trays which have industrial and medical applications via its online store. Moreover, tForm’s designing team and proprietary intellectual property (IP) allows it to tailor solutions for any application and alter production to meet customer expectations.

    From packaging material, product safety, authentication, and tracking; nanotechnology has applications at various phases of the packaging supply chain. The use of nanoparticles mixed with polymer chains in packaging enhances barrier properties and tensile strength. The use of nanomaterials in packaging enables tracing and anti-counterfeiting for brands and packaging companies. Nanotech also has a big impact on the food packaging industry by addressing the rising concern of food safety. Also, nanocoating's are applied on the packaging surface to keep it safe from dirt, dust, and stains. Lastly, several types of nano sensors are useful to monitor the freshness of the food and detect any chemical changes.
    Developing smartphone readable invisible ink to make products traceable. Its proprietary invisible ink uses nanotechnology and is completely undetectable by sight and cannot be felt. Label suppliers use the ink to print unique identifiers or tags with Arylla’s low-cost, small-footprint inkjet stations. The tag platform integrates with third-party software to offer personalized customer experiences, fight counterfeit, and improve traceability. The ink is printable on different materials including woven labels, packaging, hand tags, and patches. The technology is used in luxury items to ensure authentication and prevent counterfeiting.