Smart packages come with multiple built-in watchdogs.
Packages nowadays are not only stronger than ever, but also require less material to manufacture while still allowing efficient handling, thanks to new safety watchdogs like: integrated time-temperature indicators, and; microchips that constantly indicate the product’s state of quality.
Some packages–known as active system–are even capable of improving the quality of the contents during storage.
For product manufacturers, smart packaging should be a keen focal point when discussing how to present their product to the consumer.
When it comes to Bachofe-Güggeli, their much-loved grilled chicken, the Swiss are not willing to make any compromises. Unless the chickens are reared in humane conditions, subjected to regular health checks and are absolutely fresh, they don’t make it to the table. Because of the consumers need for such standards, The Ernst Kneuss Geflügel poultry company in Switzerland has come up with something original for the fastidious Swiss.
On the cardboard boxes of the Bachofe-Güggeli grilling chickens, the company prints an OnVu label, a time-temperature indicator, that accompanies the chickens on their journey to the shops. A special pigmented ink in the interior of an apple symbol is irradiated with UV light during packaging and turns blue. From then on, the color gradually fades in relation to time and temperature. The longer the product is stored in a warm place, the faster the color changes. When the color in the apple becomes paler than the surrounding reference color, the consumer knows that it’s better not to eat the chicken.
“By enabling our customers to check the freshness and quality of our products, our labels underline our quality philosophy,” explains Ernst Kneuss Geflügel chief executive officer Daniel Kneuss. The poultry producer introduced the OnVu label in 2008, and other companies now aim to follow its lead.
“We’re negotiating with fast-food and retail chains worldwide,” says Martin Angehrn, in charge of OnVu at BASF, the global leading chemical company. In 2008, the German chemical corporation purchased the Swiss paint specialist Ciba that had developed the indicator together with the German machine manufacturer Bizerba.
Best-before date not enough
To assure customers of absolute product safety, the entire logistics chain has to be monitored from production through to the consumer. This applies particularly to perishable foods and to pharmaceutical products. Experience has shown repeatedly that spoiled foods and medicines pose a huge risk.
Until now, consumers only had the ‘best before’ date to go by, a date that indicates how long a product can be used without loss of quality if correctly stored. The problem, however, is that in the event of breaks in the cooling chain or of moisture penetration, the product spoils prematurely and may put the consumer’s health at risk.
On the other hand, foods are often still fresh beyond the ‘best before’ date, but are thrown away for safety’s sake – an unnecessary waste of resources. Time-temperature indicators show the precise degree of freshness and can prevent waste.
“They thus also contribute to sustainability,” says Angehrn.
Because more and more consumers are attaching importance to healthy and green products with added value, experts anticipate strong growth in the smart packaging market.