You must have come across the terms such as: smart, active, and intelligent packaging. 


So, what do these terms imply?


These terms are closely related and it refers to the packaging system that is employed with regards to food, pharmaceuticals, and numerous other products that are available in the market.


An ideal packaging system encompasses: extending the product’s shelf life, display information on quality, examine the freshness, and improve convenience and safety. 


What is Smartness in Packaging?

In the world of packaging – ‘Smartness’ is considered as a broad term and covers a wide range of functionalities. It depends on the product being packaged that can include: beverages, food, household products, pharmaceutical and more.


Current and future functional ‘smartness’ would involve: 


  • Actively preventing food spoilage and retaining integrity
  • Enhancing the attributes of the product – for example the taste, look, aroma and flavour etc.
  • Actively respond to changes in package or product environment
  • Effectively communicate product history, product information or condition to the user
  • Indicating seal Integrity and assist with opening of the product
  • Confirm the authenticity of the product 

Smart Packaging Ideas in the Pharmaceutical Industry

Presently, there are interactive bottle caps available in the market and they have an in-built alarm. It will beep and alert the user that they have to take their medication. Additionally, it also shows the number of times the bottle has been opened and the intervals between these openings.


Via a modem, the bottle can be connected to the healthcare centre. It aids in the automatic transmission of drug usage. Secondly, if necessary, it will offer feedback to the user if non-compliance is detected.


In due course, programmed skin patches will employ smart gels. They will rely on changes in the skin’s properties to initiate drug delivery and could substitute the process of conventional pill-taking medication.


Gillette’s Mach3 blades use a smart packaging feature – a blue ‘wear-strip’ fades away when the blade has become dull and needs a replacement. Likewise, blue bristles in your OralB toothbrush are devised to fade as they wear out. This will prompt you to purchase a new toothbrush. 


The beverage industry – Oculto beer

In early 2015, Anheuser-Busch launched a mass-marketed beer. It was impressive because it had intriguing packaging features to heighten the brand’s mystery.


Later, in a very special limited edition bottle of Oculto beer – Anheuser-Busch leverages IoT (Internet of Things) technology by using smart label packaging with LEDs powered by paper batteries.


The brand partnered with Inland Packaging to leverage smart label technology and created the illuminated bottle.


Using a pressure-sensitive label design – it features the paper batteries, printed electronic pathways, LED lights, and micro switches. The pressure switch is smartly placed at the spot – where your thumb will naturally fall while holding the beer bottle. When it is pressed, for about three to four seconds, the LEDs light up through the eyes of the mask.


The food industry – Kraft

In 2014, Kraft changed both the tub design and the recipe of its phenomenal Philadelphia Cream Cheese brand. The familiar circular vessels were gone.


In their spot came the redesigned oblong containers that stop the products from shifting on store shelves. They also kept the labels facing forward – this way the consumers could easily find their favourite flavours.


This new stackable design allowed Kraft to stock an additional row of products on the shelf. On the other hand, the inclusion of high-quality and in-mold label graphics display attractive images of vegetables and whole fruits.


So, what was the result?


On the store shelves, Philadelphia Cream Cheese continues to stand out and retains its long-standing position as America’s best-selling cream cheese.


Smart packaging in its purest form is a brilliant approach in elevating brands and differentiating products. Additionally, it may act as a platform for sensory experiences, improved performance and added functionality.


What is the future for packaging?

According to the Foresight report ‘Materials: Shaping Our Society’, it mentions that the future of packaging will incorporate both conventional and smart materials, and it will increasingly operate as a smart system. Across the packaging supply chain, it will continue to add value and benefits.


For smart materials to be adopted in packaging, they have to be:


  • accurate and reliable
  • inexpensive in relation to the value of the product
  • in their range of operation – reproducible
  • environmentally friendly and
  • food contact safe


Smarter packages that offer convenience, wellness, better safety, value and gratification will notice a boost in brand loyalty. It’s because these aspects play a crucial role with most purchasing decisions and behaviour.


Overall, as the sector of smart packaging is experiencing massive growth, by 2020 it is expected to reach $39.7 billion.