For the last few years, packaging industry professionals have been curious about the future of smart packaging.
While it's perhaps un-PC if not unfair to characterize certain packaging as dumb, there are a number of packages that can be characterized as smart without hesitation. Smart packaging provides enhanced functionality that can be divided into two submarkets: Active packaging, which provides functionality such as moisture control, and intelligent packaging, which incorporates features that indicate status or communicate product changes and other information.
It's a growing segment: According to a report from Freedonia, demand for active and intelligent packaging in the U.S. is forecast to expand 8.0 percent annually to $3.5 billion in 2017, well above total packaging demand growth. The report identifies food and beverages as the two largest markets for smart packaging in 2012, and projects that pharmaceuticals will be the fastest growing active and intelligent packaging market through 2017, with opportunities driven by the health care needs of the aging U.S. population.
Advances in printed electronics are boosting the potential opportunities for smart packaging by lowering costs. Printed electronics start-up Thin Film Electronics announced in October that it has built the world's first self-contained, integrated electronic tag system made using printed electronics. The company has an agreement with film vendor Bemis, which opens up a clear venue for smarter flexible packaging including for foods, that has been extended by two years.
Smart packaging even has its own association, the Active & Intelligent Packaging Industry Assn. (AIPIA), surely a sign of smarter packaging ahead.