Nano-enabled packaging involves the use of nanomaterials (NMs), which have external dimensions of less than 100 nanometres (nm). Titanium nitride, silver, and nanoclay are the most commonly used NMs in the food and beverages industry. Nano materials have been exploited world over to be utilized in a wide range of market sectors. Food and beverages packaging is one of them to receive its benefits and extend them to the consumers. Nano-enabled packaging gives longer shelf life to food and beverages as compared to traditional plastic packaging. Growth of several food sectors and increase in food-led export activities are key reasons for the growth of nano enabled packaging in this industry.
Polymer nanocomposites (PNCs) used in nano-enabled packaging are created by dispersing an inert, nanoscale filler throughout a polymeric matrix, which enhances its barrier properties against gases. PNCs are cheaper compared to other packaging techniques, such as multilayer films and polymer blending, owing to the use of fillers that are less expensive and have enhanced tensile and compressive strengths compared to the polymers.
There are two sub-technologies used in the nano enabled packaging in food and beverage namely active packaging and intelligent packaging wherein former is the dominant technology segment. By application the market is segmented into five application areas namely bakery, meat products, beverages, fruit and vegetables, prepared foods and others.
The global demand for meat products is on the rise, which is also propelling the packaging market associated with it. The U.S. and India are expected to see a spurt in meat exports, suggesting an increase in their nano-enabled packaging markets. Large portions of the population in developed countries consume prepared foods. Rising disposable income and increasing women employment (leaving female homemakers with little or no time to cook food) are some of the factors supporting the growth of the prepared foods market in developing countries.
Intelligent packaging is growing at a faster rate as compared to the active packaging. Customers prefer traceable food and beverages packaging, since it offers information such as expiry date and best use period, present state of the consumables. The radio frequency identification (RFID) tags keep customers informed about the state of the food within the packaging. Intelligent packaging is mostly used for fruits and vegetables, meat products, and beverages. Stricter regulations associated with active packaging have been stimulating the use of intelligent packaging in Europe and North America. Intelligent nano-enabled packaging enables consumers to gauge the freshness of food products. It alerts consumers about the presence of microbes, fungi, chemical contaminants, or gases, indicating spoilage of food.
Certain regulations implemented in some of the major food markets have been limiting the use of nano-enabled packaging in food and beverages. For instance, the U.S. Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) rolled out safety guidelines in 2012 that recommend prior safety assessment of products involving nano-enabled packaging. Some nanomaterials not compatible with specific food products have negative impact on human and animal health and they do not pass the safety assessment test. According to the Central Federal Register (CFR) in the U.S., manufacturers must obtain pre-market approval for indirect food additives which include nanomaterials.
Owing to the pressure from consumers for advanced packaging, companies’ efforts to offer consumers better packaged products is expected to increase in the long run. Such demand can already be noted in the U.S., where guidelines for food packaging using advance methods have been laid down. On January 4, 2013, FDA released its proposal to establish science-based standards for growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of domestic and foreign farms as directed by Section 105 of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This is expected to increase scope for the nano-enabled packaging for food industry. Nano-enabled packaging market for food and beverage is very competitive with a large number of players offering an array of patented products. The major players in this industry include Amcor Limited, Bemis Company, Inc., Chevron Phillips Chemical Company, L.L.C., Klöckner Pentaplast, Sealed Air, and Tetra Pak International S.A.
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