smart packaging

Smart Packaging: Everything You Need to Know

Product packaging has evolved into a highly effective brand marketing tool for both consumer and industrial products. In fact, packaging is now considered one of the 7 Ps of the marketing mix. 

Over time, consumer expectations for product packaging have also evolved. Traditional packaging methods are no longer sufficient in achieving these expectations, especially with consumers who aim to reduce their carbon footprint, leading to the emergence of smart packaging.

According to the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, packaging solutions are a critical factor in reducing food waste. Improved package design and active and intelligent packaging, which are types of smart packaging, generate a combined net revenue of $4.13 billion. This is a significant market impact that businesses must consider if they aim to practice and satisfy the market’s growing demand for sustainability in purchased goods.

The benefits of smart packaging go well beyond reducing carbon footprint, which is a significant contribution in itself. If your business is looking for a packaging solution that enhances your products’ safety, protection, and quality while also being a sustainable choice, consider utilizing smart packaging solutions.

Form and More Function: A Quick Rundown on Smart Packaging

Smart packaging refers to product packaging that offers extended functions beyond protection or containment of the product. These functions can include anything from embedded sensor technology that extends shelf life and monitors freshness to electronic displays that indicate the product’s quality, temperature, pH, and moisture.

Through the integration of advanced technologies, smart packaging also allows for an immersive digital experience, making it easier to access and track information about products and brands.

Key Benefits of Smart Packaging for Your Business

The combination of several factors, such as protection, safety, convenience, and communicating product information, makes smart packaging a powerful tool among  many other available packaging solutions. Here are specific ways in which smart packaging can benefit your brand

Smart packaging:

Ensures product quality

Smart packaging can be designed to help monitor a product’s condition using advanced sensors and indicators. For instance, some smart packaging materials can adjust according to the ambient temperature or humidity outside and inside the package. Other smart packaging materials can detect food spoilage and loss of quality of the products packed.

Empowers customers

Assuring customers of the status and quality of your product can be a deciding factor  in selecting your brand instead of other alternatives.

Quick Response (QR) codes, Radio-frequency Identification (RFID), Near-field Communication (NFC), and other smart labels can supply information such as product details and operation guides, sourcing, nutritional values, and dietary concerns for food products, among others—aiding customers in making well-informed and confident purchase decisions.

Creates and maintains brand relevance

Showing interest in and utilizing advanced technology can help capture the attention of existing and potential customers, especially those who are tech-savvy.

Furthermore, smart packaging can provide an advanced customer interface and better shopping experiences as it can receive a greater amount of information than traditional package labeling. This makes it easier for customers to remember and engage with your brand.

Enhances food safety

To ensure that the perishable products customers buy are fresh and safe to eat, smart packaging can use tiny sensors that indicate temperature and the passage of time. These notify consumers that the product is about to reach its expiration date. Other types of smart packaging can filter out harmful light and prevent moisture and other toxic agents.

Heightens protection against theft and counterfeiting

Smart packaging solutions can help businesses keep track of their products better and ensure legitimacy to their consumers. For instance, packaging can now bear unique digital IDs in the form of QR codes that can be scanned to inform the consumer about their product’s journey and confirm its authenticity.

The Current Smart Packaging Trends You Need to Know

To take full advantage of smart packaging, brands should know how the technology is being utilized today. Here are current smart packaging trends to consider:

1. Traceability

RFID transponders are being integrated into packaging so the item can be tracked at all times. Not only does this help prevent theft, but it also streamlines supply chain management, transport, and logistics.

In the pharmaceuticals industry, RFID is used to track individual drug products or packaging units. These products can be recorded in a matter of seconds for inventory monitoring.

2. Safety

Active packaging, a type of smart packaging, can help fight post-processing contamination and prolong the shelf life of food products. Protection against contamination is achieved by coating the food packaging’s interior with chemical compounds such as antimicrobial agents and antioxidants that can also act as preservatives to keep the product fresh.

Shelf life can be improved through Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP), which helps keep oxygen levels low to minimize the growth of harmful bacteria. Intentional packaging designs can also be used, such as creating wings inside the plastic package of meat that divert its juices away from the main meat product, thus prolonging its shelf life.

3. Quality

Advanced sensors and indicators help monitor a product’s condition to inform whether or not it is compromised. As discussed, certain types of packaging can increase shelf life, while others help detect counterfeits.

Indicators incorporated into packaging can change color when exposed to specific environmental conditions such as temperature. All these ensure access to genuine, consistent product quality.

4. Interaction

Today, brands are taking advantage of digital print packaging to personalize their products and connect to social media platforms. This enhances customer experience and establishes the brand’s favorable reputation.

Furthermore, smart packaging encourages engagement, as smart labels provide customers with necessary information (e.g., nutritional value, usage instructions, compliance standards, etc.), which they can obtain by scanning the label.

5. Sustainability

Use-By dates on packaging were introduced as a safety measure to prevent customers from eating food that may be unsafe. However, due to date inaccuracies or confusion about what they mean, still-edible food can be unnecessarily discarded—contributing to a significant food waste problem

Smart packaging solutions, such as indicators and MAP, help minimize unnecessary wastage while improving overall safety and quality.

6. Transparency

With more consumers aiming to make sustainable purchases, businesses are now being held accountable by their customers for the environmental impact of their overall product.

Through smart packaging, consumers and enterprises can learn where product materials are sourced or manufactured and other relevant information. This information will influence the consumers’ decision about whether they should purchase from a brand with ethical or socially conscious attributes.

6 Tips to Maximize Smart Packaging Solutions

Leverage the benefits of smart packaging solutions through the following tips, which can enhance your operations and allow your brand to provide an unparalleled customer experience as well.

1. Use smart codes

Smart codes allow you to embed more information onto your packaging. QR codes, for instance, can communicate product details that inform the consumers about the product, its benefits, and its uses. This builds customer trust and imposes brand transparency. 

Furthermore, QR codes can help you obtain demographics on sales and be used to redirect customers to your support and feedback platform. 

2. Add intelligent functions

Adding intelligent functions involves integrating different manufacturing components to connect, capture, analyze and provide business intelligence. Connecting packages to smartphones and cloud services allows you to monitor conditions and behaviors, track supply chains, and foster interaction.

NFC tags are immensely useful in this area. Upon tapping an NFC tag on the product packaging, users are redirected to a landing page that contains information about the origin of the product, its production or manufacturing process, and points of purchase in case of repurchasing. 

NFC tags also allow you to track interactions with the product in real-time, fine-tune consumer profiles, and gain insights into a campaign’s performance.

3. Use flexible materials

Flexible packaging comes in various forms, such as resealable pouches, stand-up pouches, microwavable pouches, and zipper and vacuum bags. It uses the best characteristics of plastic, paper, and aluminum foil to create versatile, lightweight, cost-efficient, and environmentally-friendly packaging. 

By integrating flexible packaging materials with your smart packaging solutions, you ensure that your packaging has better protection, durability, printability, and ease of use—all while improving your product’s shelf life and keeping it fresh.

4. Create sensory experiences

Create immersive sensory experiences for when the package is opened. For instance, thermochromic inks that change color according to temperature have been widely used in the beverage industry to show when the drink is chilled to perfection. The ink can also “disappear” when in contact with the subtle heat from touch, adding an interactive element.

Packaging with augmented reality (AR) elements can provide memorable sensory experiences as well. AR involves visualizations that virtually supplement real images on a smartphone or tablet. Virtual tours, theme worlds, competitions, or operating instructions that appear on the packaging when photographed or filmed have already been made possible.

5. Guarantee protection

Utilize RFID codes to guarantee protection against theft. These codes are either printed on the packaging or integrated directly into it. The RFID system sends identifying signals to an RFID reader, which can be a regular smartphone, to enable automatic, contactless communication with the package.

RFID technology allows you to determine the current status of your package in a matter of seconds. You can trace your products along the entire value chain, at the factory, the warehouse, and during transit to stores and your end-users.

6. Redesign packaging for an omnichannel experience

Unifying packaging design across online and retail can save product packaging costs by reducing packaging formats, keeping brand consistency, and maintaining operational efficiency. This is made possible with an integrated supply chain, which goes hand in hand with smart packaging solutions.

RFID, QR codes, and NFC all collect real-time data at every step of the supply chain, ensuring better transparency and efficiency for the business and consumers. This real-time data also helps companies optimize for demand shaping and predictive forecasting, reduce the risk of inventory shrinkage, and increase the chances of better margins.   

A Smart Solution: Keeping up With the Course of Technology 

As smart packaging solutions continue to evolve, the future of packaging seems promising. Ideally, packaging will increasingly operate on a system that incorporates both intelligent and conventional materials. On one end, packaging is expected to add value and benefits across the supply chain. On the other hand, businesses are expected to use packaging to provide value and benefits for their consumers. 

Although your business may not need to adopt smart technology immediately as it emerges, try to keep up with the advancements. Continue to research innovative sustainable packaging—as it is bound to become smarter as technology evolves.

Through professional printing solutions, you can integrate smart packaging design elements that make the most sense for your brand and products. Talk to experts from Meyers to learn how you can achieve this today.