Innovative Food Packaging Solutions IFT® Discusses Recent Innovations in Food Packaging Materials

October 20, 2008

Chicago – Advances in food packaging lead to improved food quality and safety. Released this month from the Institute of Food Technologists® (IFT) is a Scientific Status Summary (SSS), a peer-reviewed report published in the Journal of Food Science, which reviews the current state of innovations in food packaging. The IFT Scientific Status Summary on food packaging provides a complete overview of the latest innovations in food packaging. It begins with a brief history of food and beverage packaging, covering the more prominent packaging developments from the past, and proceeds to more modern advances in the packaging industry. Current and emerging innovations in active and intelligent packaging, packaging mechanisms that control volatile flavors and aromas, and advances in food packaging distribution are explored.

Innovations in closer detail:

  • Active and intelligent packaging allows packages to interact with the food and environment. A good example of active packaging is the drip-absorbing pad for moisture control and oxygen removal used by the poultry industry.
  • Intelligent or smart packaging is designed to monitor and communicate information about food quality. Examples include ripeness indicators and radio frequency identification. These smart devices may be incorporated in package materials, attached to the inside or outside of a package, or sometimes the product itself.
  • Advances in volatile flavors and aromas that reduce the transfer of components between and within food and packaging include flavor and odor absorbers like films and sachets, and barrier materials like polymer blending and coating combined with packaging materials.

At present, food and beverage packaging comprises 55 percent to 65 percent of the $130 billion value of packaging in the United States. Food processing and packaging industries spend an estimated 15 percent of the total variable costs on packaging materials. Industrial processing of food, reduced consumption of animal protein, importation of raw materials and ingredients to be converted in the United States, and scarcity of time to select/prepare food from fresh ingredients have enhanced innovation in food and beverage packaging.

Many packaging innovations emerged during World War I and World War II as a result of protecting food in war zones. The current quest for innovation in food and beverage packaging is primarily driven by consumer needs and demands influenced by changing global trends, such as increased life expectancy, fewer organizations investing in food production and distribution, and regionally abundant and diverse food supply. The use of food packaging is a socioeconomic indicator of increased spending ability of the population or the gross domestic product as well as regional (rural as opposed to urban) food availability.

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About IFT Founded in 1939, the Institute of Food Technologists® (IFT®) is a nonprofit scientific society with 22,000 members working in food science, food technology, and related professions in industry, academia, and government. IFT publishes various resources for the food industry, including Food Technology® and the Journal of Food Science™. IFT also conducts the world’s largest annual convention on food grown, processed, manufactured, distributed, and eaten worldwide: the IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo®.