Nanotechnology is poised to have a big impact in food and beverage packaging, according to a report published by IRAP.
A thin layer of nanoparticles is sufficient to change the properties of packaging materials without significant changes in density, transparency and processing characteristics. The addition of certain nanoparticles into shaped objects and films has been shown to render them light, fire-resistant and stronger in terms of mechanical and thermal performance, as well as less permeable to gases. IRAP says new packaging solutions will focus more on food safety by controlling microbial growth, delaying oxidation, improving tamper visibility and convenience.
According to the report, three basic categories of nanotechnology applications and functionalities appear to be in development for food packaging: improved plastic materials barriers; incorporation of active components that can deliver functional attributes beyond those of conventional active packaging; and materials that can sense and signal relevant information. Expect to see new food packaging materials with improved mechanical, barrier and antimicrobial properties, and nanosensors that can monitor and report on the condition of food during transport and storage.
According to Nano-Enabled Packaging for the Food and Beverage Industry – A Global Technology, Industry and Market Analysis, the total nano-enabled food and beverage packaging market in the year 2008 was $4.13 billion, which is expected to grow in 2009 to $4.21 billion and forecasted to grow to $7.30 billion by 2014, at a CAGR of 11.65%. Active technology represents the largest share of the market, and will continue to do so in 2014, with $4.35 billion in sales and the intelligent segment will grow to $2.47 billion sales.
Time/temperature indicators are a major share of intelligent packaging, with radio frequency identification data tags forecasted to show the strongest growth in this category in the future.
In food products, the bakery and meat products categories have attracted the most nanopackaging applications, and in beverages, carbonated drinks and bottled water dominate.
Among the regions, Asia/Pacific, in particular Japan, is the market leader in active nanoenabled packaging, with 45% of the current market, valued at $1.86 billion in 2008 and projected to grow to $3.43 billion by 2014, at a CAGR of 12.63%.
In the United States, Japan and Australia, active packagings are already being successfully applied to extend shelf-life while maintaining nutritional quality and ensuring microbiological safety. Examples of commercial applications include the use of oxygen scavengers for sliced processed meat, ready-to-eat meals and beer, the use of moisture absorbers for fresh meat, poultry and fresh fish, and ethylene-scavenging bags for packaging of fruit and vegetables.
Nanoclays have shown the broadest commercial viability due to their lower cost and their utility in common thermoplastics like polypropylene, thermoplastic polyolefin, PET, polyethylene, polystyrene and nylon.