Smart Packaging: packaging that talks
Blog 10/03/2022

Smart Packaging: packaging that talks

We are in the Smart Packaging era where objects and packaging are increasingly interconnected. Discover Now!


If it is true that “you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover”, it is also true that packaging (and packages in general) has a significant influence over our perception of the product, thus taking on a strategic role in marketing.

Today, however, the role of packaging goes one step further thanks to new technology, and becomes a smart tool, capable of interacting with the environment and creating a relationship with manufacturers and consumers.

We are in the Smart Packaging era where objects are increasingly interconnected.


What is Smart Packaging? Definition and examples

Smart packaging is a burgeoning trend in many application sectors in which packaging can be made to “talk”.

This growing trend is demonstrated by the market value of smart packaging which is estimated at around 6 billion dollars and is set to grow by 6% by 2024.

But what exactly is Smart Packaging and what is its definition?
Smart packaging can be considered a technological upgrade which allows packaging to communicate data and interact with the environment by introducing digital electronics within it.

This means that the packaging will have “capabilities” and functions that far exceed the purpose of simply containing products.

Examples of Smart Packaging

This is a truly innovative packaging concept with practical examples in numerous fields.

Smart packaging, for example, is now widely used throughout the supply chain.

In supply chain logistics, it means that processes can be optimised to ensure greater agility in planning, allowing the real-time tracking of the path that products and packaging take along each stage of the supply chain.

In terms of product safety, smart packaging also provides greater control over the integrity of primary and secondary packaging thanks to the use of tamper-proof sensors.

The sensors also help to reduce food waste as they can record the temperature and shelf-life of food products. In the event of variations in the temperature which could compromise the quality of the food, the sensor can send alerts and notifications.


IoT technology makes packaging smart

What made this revolution possible, making packages smart and able to ‘talk’, is the result of a technological process called IoT.

IoT, the acronym of the Internet of Things, is cutting-edge technology that has succeeded in recent years in conquering the market and gaining a foothold in different sectors.

From simple QR codes, we have moved on to even more advanced and innovative solutions, such as RFID and NFC technologies.

These technologies make it possible to insert electronic tags directly inside the packaging, thus offering special new functions.

The packaging is no longer just the inner wrapping in which to place the product and protect it. It becomes a vector of information, an exchange tool between producer and consumer.

This technological upgrade of packaging not only allows logistics and product traceability to be improved, but also to initiate an authentic dialogue between the manufacturer and the consumer, in real time.

The challenge for companies in this context is linked to privacy and the processing of personal data. The user must, in fact, be properly informed about the fact that “smart packaging” needs to collect information.

To avoid compromising the relationship of trust with users, therefore, where smart packaging is concerned, brands must explicitly declare that personal data needs be collected to activate the functionality of the packaging.

Packaging capable of generating and collecting data provide the brands with a more in-depth understanding of its consumers, their habits, behaviour and preferences.

Smart Packaging design and types

Smart Packaging design and types

The smart packaging design is a growing trend which uses cutting-edge technology and advanced strategies. This combination makes it possible to develop new packaging concepts, thus obtaining smart and “talking” packaging.

The world of smart packaging design is a broad-reaching one which covers different types of packaging.

Active packaging

Packaging featuring technological materials that can acquire information about temperature and moisture which benefits the quality of food products and their preservation.

Smart packaging

Packaging with the ability to communicate through indicators and sensors placed inside it (or on the outside). The sensors can perform a real-time diagnosis of the product and thus provide information and details about its state.

Design-led packaging

This is a type of packaging design which enhances the function of the container and improves the user experience.

Connected packaging

A strategy that allows brands to “connect” with their consumers through packaging that integrates technologies such as RFID tags, QR codes or sensors.

Smart Packaging Food: a growing trend

The food packaging sector is one that has been revolutionised in recent years with the advent of smart packaging.

Smart packaging technology, therefore, allows safer food products to be introduced onto the market with guaranteed quality, thanks to active packaging.

The smart packaging systems revolve around the application of tags or sensors and allow the state of the packaged food to be monitored.

It is thus possible to obtain real-time information on the quality of the product throughout the supply chain, such as transport and storage.

Modern food packaging, known as smart packaging, does not, therefore, merely play a passive role in containing and protecting the product, it also has active functions.

These active functions allow packaging to play an important role in the preservation of food, also guaranteeing long-term quality and safety throughout the distribution chain.

As we have seen in the classification in the previous paragraph, the concept of smart and active differ in packaging because the first does not act directly on the food while the second acts on the environment surrounding it (e.g. the temperature) to thus increase its duration.

Smart Packaging Food: a growing trend

An example of Smart Packaging applied to food: Freshness indicator

Freshness indicators are smart technology which can monitor the quality of the food during storage and transportation.

Freshness indicators can be activated to check a change in temperature to which the product is subjected or to analyse the chemical reactions of the food if it deteriorates due to contact with target micro-organisms.

Freshness indicators normally use dyes that are sensitive to pH changes caused by product deterioration. A change in colour in the indicator thus visibly signals the problem encountered.

Freshness indicators are employed in many products in the food sector, including:

● fresh food,
● fruit,
● seafood.

There is also a type of smart packaging in the food sector with a different function to providing information about the quality and state of packaged food. It can provide automated traceability thus helping to prevent counterfeiting.

The most widely-used technologies in the food packaging sector are labels with barcodes and RFID technology. The latter is ideal for being read throughout the supply chain.

Barcodes have, in fact, been widely employed in large-scale distribution but the most advanced data support devices are now RFID systems.

This technology offers numerous benefits, such as the high number of codes stored in the tag and ability to communicate even at long distances.

We, therefore, live in a world where food products can communicate and provide information on their quality status even from a distance, thanks to smart packaging and packaging that protects consumers and support brands to improve food supply and quality. A better market and a safer world.