A panel of industry experts provides an inside look at smart packaging that can improve consumer engagement, operational costs and efficiencies and address food safety concerns.
It’s enlightening when industry visionaries share what they see so the rest of us can see things more clearly. That was the intent of last week’s Global Food & Beverage Packaging Summit sponsored by Packaging Digest in Chicago, where several hundred attendees convened to hear a stimulating group of industry thought leaders speak on various topics. One of the sessions that kicked off Day 1 was a three-member panel on the topic of Smart Technologies, Intelligent Labels & Sensor Development: Tools to Help When the Best by Date May not be Enough. That lengthy title led to a quick-moving 45-minute discussion of opportunities, applications and challenges in smart packaging.
“Don’t get lost in the technology,” advised Niall Murphy, founder and CEO, Evrythng, a company involved in activity driving the Internet of Things. Murphy identifies the IoT as the 3rd wave of technology that combines mobile devices, smart tags and sensors and The Cloud to yield real-time value. He pointed out the company’s strides using printed electronics done in conjunction with Thinfilm Electronics, which PD has reported on several occasions including most recently in March (Johnnie Walker ‘smart bottle’ performs for consumers and supply chain).
Smart packaging panel members (L to R) Bizerba’s Pedro Garza, Evrythng’s Niall Murphy and Jim Warner of JW3D.
Jim Warner, president, JW3D, helped set the tone early on that this wasn’t all about technology for its own sake by asserting that a smart label “was very humanistic because it is relevant to people.”
“Connectivity is crucial for the next evolution in smart packaging,” he observed. “Make it part of the social media channel and make it [seamless] with dynamic interaction.” He foresees a time when smart technologies supplant physical components, such as a smart cap that can signal its own opening and thereby eliminate the need and costs of a tamper-evident band while adding on-going value.
Murphy pointed to the value of “adjacency” wherein the product is linked directly and appropriately to a new, unique value proposition for consumers. He noted a case study in which a chocolate manufacturer successfully targeted 28-year old females who were linked with a casual gaming experience.
Education is essential: “You must identify the value for the consumer and ‘billboard’ that,” Murphy said.
Dynamic indicators for seafood
Third panelist member Pedro Garza, product manager, label technologies, Bizerba North America, provided a thumbnail history of smart indicators starting with pioneering TempTime labels that were developed to monitor vaccines.
“Date coding using best by, freeze by and other wording creates confusion for consumers,” he stated, citing a Harvard University’s “The Dating Game” study from 2013.
The situation hasn’t changed all that much over the last two years: Packaging Digest’s own 2015 poll echoes similar results (see Do confused consumers need more than a date code on packages? )
Garza sees the ready-to-eat and after-purchase markets as the having the best potential for smart labels.
He cited a 150-store west coast implementation using color-changing indicators that turn from dark blue to gray on packaged seafood. Because the application involves different seafood species with varying shelf lives, the system was engineered for inline activation using ultraviolet light that tailors the indicator to the species-specific shelf life. Branded as Fresh Meter and measuring about 1.5 inches square, the indicator labels are applied at two seafood processing facilities at rates to 100 per minute.