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How brand owners can benefit from smart packaging

How brand owners can benefit from smart packaging
Thin Film Electronics prints “memory” on polymer-based substrates instead of using silicon and chips. This powers Thin Film's Smart Labels, which are economically produced on roll-to-roll machinery in amounts of thousands at a time.

Curious about how your products can take advantage of smart packaging technologies? The Active & Intelligent Packaging Assn. (AIPIA) can help you sort it all out. The AIPIA Congress, held during Pack Expo International 2014 (Nov. 2-5; McCormick Place, Chicago), brings together nearly three dozen experts to present technologies and new research on hot topics such as the Internet of Things, interactive packaging, anti-microbials, nanotechnology and more. See the complete line up of topics and speakers at the AIPIA Congress at

Andrew Manly, AIPIA communications director, answers Packaging Digest’s questions about what’s new in this space and why you should care.

What are the most exciting developments going on in printed electronics and how can brand owners take advantage of this technology?

Manly: It is difficult to pick out one particular thing as there seems to be innovation on a range of products. For example Thin Film, which is headquartered in Oslo, Norway, has delivered functional samples of its Temperature Sensor Smart Labels to Temptime Corp. The samples were shared by Temptime with potential customers attending the 12th annual Cold Chain Global Forum in Boston, MA, recently.

During the AIPIA Congress, OE-A, the Organic Electronics Assn., will set out a roadmap on just how brand owners can benefit  through the combination of new materials and cost-effective, large-area production processes that open up new fields of application.

Michael Ciesinski, CEO of FlexTech Alliance, also will review and explain his perspective on the development of a manufacturing infrastructure for flexible, printed electronics.

We should also not forget that more traditional radio frequency identification (RFID) tags have much greater functionalities these days, so Avery Dennison and others will cover that aspect.

We see printed electronics offering security in the supply chain but also with enormous potential for mobile marketing and better customer engagement via, for example, the Internet of Things.

What smart packaging technologies can brand owners explore for using their packages to connect consumers to the Internet of Things?

Manly: A number of speakers are going to look at this area. One of these is Andy Hobsbawm, founder  of Evrythng, who is focusing on where the smart money is going in smart packaging.

As we have already said, the potential for mobile marketing, greater knowledge of customer preferences and relationship building through the Internet of Things is enormous. But brand wwners need to be educated about how to use the technology to best advantage. Consumers are ahead of the curve on using these facilities when they are available and do not consider them intrusive.

Another speaker, Laurent Tonnelier, of mobiLead says there is much buzz these days about “active objects” connected to the IoT. He believes that active connected objects will represent the tip of the iceberg. Much more prevalent will be individually marked “passive” manufactured objects, documents and consumer packaged goods that are each connected to value-added mobile services such as extended packaging, anti-counterfeiting, one-to-one marketing, warranties, customer loyalty, recyclability, traceability, gaming and even education.

What are the benefits—to the brand owner and its consumers—of a package that connects consumers to digital information?

Manly: That is a big question. Brand owners and retailers that AIPIA has talked to all seem to have different priorities. These range from better supply chain management and security, through stock and inventory management to compliance issues—for pharmaceutical products—and condition monitoring. Another big benefit is the reduction in shrinkage that can result from your items being connected, via the packaging, to a surveillance system.

The issue of faked products, for example, is a big problem for the spirit manufacturers, as well as for fashion and sports apparel brands—but probably less so for most food or “small ticket” items. However the potential for damage to brand reputation if a consumer is harmed by the contents of even a cheap fake wine or a battery in your phone (these are real examples) should be making even those companies aware of the risks they run if they do nothing.

But again, l come back to the fact that information is power. If you know much more about your customer from a passive and non-intrusive technology, think how much more carefully you can target your marketing and loyalty campaigns or special offers. In the end, consumers will manage these relationships, not the product provider.

Packaging Digest readers should really come listen to Dr. Lee Nicholson, director at PepsiCo’s corporate R&D, who will discuss this very topic in his presentation “Opportunities in Interactive Packaging for Consumer Goods.”

How can interactive packages also be environmentally friendly?

Manly: Ah, this is the easiest question of them all for an AIPIAer to answer! The fight against food waste has been gathering momentum for some time. And the waste from this source is far greater than anything the packaging industry can be accused of—even allowing for all the recycling initiatives now in place.

Active and intelligent packaging just looks at it from the other end of the telescope. How do we use packaging to reduce food waste? Rather than how do we minimize packaging, which, in my opinion, is often a counter-productive solution, particularly for the consumer.

The Congress features a whole host of technologies to help extend shelf life, reduce waste and ensure the product is in good condition as well as telling you when it’s about to go off. There is far more certainty using a condition monitor rather than a “Sell By” or “Best Before” label. Much of the food retailers throw away or consumers trash from their fridges is perfectly okay. So won’t it be better if you know rather than guess?

Come listen to Sumitra Rajagopalan of Bioastra tell us about the fascinating science and applications of smart polymers and their potential to create a new class of smart and intelligent packaging films; or Michael Stephens of Symphony Environmental who is talking about the benefits and flexibility of intelligent additive materials; or Rachel Morier of PAC Food Waste, who is exploring the interplay between packaging innovation and causes of food waste. And that’s just three!

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