Posted: July 25, 2009

Strong growth forecast for nanotechnology food packaging

(Nanowerk News) Nanotechnology, the science of very small materials, is poised to have a big impact in food and beverage packaging. Due to very large aspect ratios, a relatively low level of nanoparticle is sufficient to change the properties of packaging materials without significant changes in density, transparency and processing characteristics. The addition of certain nanoparticles into shaped objects and films has been shown to render them light, fire-resistant and stronger in terms of mechanical and thermal performance, as well as less permeable to gases. New packaging solutions will focus more on food safety by controlling microbial growth, delaying oxidation, improving tamper visibility, and convenience. Three basic categories of nanotechnology applications and functionalities appear to be in development for food packaging: enhancement of plastic materials barriers; incorporation of active components that can deliver functional attributes beyond those of conventional active packaging; and sensing and signaling of relevant information.
The applications of nanotechnology in the food and beverage sector are only now emerging, but these are predicted to grow rapidly in the coming years. Applications in this area already support development of improved tastes, color, flavor, texture and consistency of foodstuffs, increased absorption and bioavailability of nutrients and health supplements, new food packaging materials with improved mechanical, barrier and antimicrobial properties, and nano-sensors for traceability and monitoring the condition of food during transport and storage.
The rapid use of nano-based packaging in a wide range of consumer products has also raised a number of safety, environmental, ethical, policy and regulatory issues. The main concerns stem from the lack of knowledge with regard to the interactions of nano-sized materials at the molecular or physiological levels and their potential effects and impacts on consumers health and the environment. Research and development in the field of active and intelligent packaging materials is very dynamic and develops in step with the search for environmentally friendly packaging solutions. In this context, the design of tailor-made packaging is a real challenge, and it implies the use of reverse engineering approaches based on food requirements and not just on the availability of packaging materials any longer. Nanotechnologies are expected to play a major role, taking into account all additional safety considerations and filling present packaging needs.
According to a latest study from iRAP, Inc., Nano-Enabled Packaging for the Food and Beverage Industry – A Global Technology, Industry and Market Analysis, the total nano-enabled food and beverage packaging market in the year 2008 was $4.13 billion, which is expected to grow in 2009 to $4.21 billion and forecasted to grow to $7.30 billion by 2014, at a CAGR of 11.65%. Active technology represents the largest share of the market, and will continue to do so in 2014, with $4.35 billion in sales, and the intelligent segment will grow to $2.47 billion sales.
Other highlights of the study are:
– Among active technologies, oxygen scavenger, moisture absorbers and barrier packaging represent more than 80% of the current market.
– Time/temperature indicators are a major share of intelligent packaging, with radio frequency identification data tags (RFIDs) forecasted to show the strongest growth in this category in the future.
– In food products, the bakery and meat products categories have attracted the most nano-packaging applications, and in beverages, carbonated drinks and bottled water dominate.
– Among the regions, Asia/Pacific, in particular Japan, is the market leader in active nano-enabled packaging, with 45% of the current market, valued at $1.86 billion in 2008 and projected to grow to $3.43 billion by 2014, at a CAGR of 12.63%.
– In the United States, Japan, and Australia, active packagings are already being successfully applied to extend shelf-life while maintaining nutritional quality and ensuring microbiological safety. Examples of commercial applications include the use of oxygen scavengers for sliced processed meat, ready-to-eat meals and beer, the use of moisture absorbers for fresh meat, poultry, and fresh fish, and ethylene-scavenging bags for packaging of fruit and vegetables. In Europe, however, only a few of these systems have been developed and are being applied now. The main reasons for this are legislative restrictions and a lack of knowledge about acceptability to European consumers, as well as the efficacy of such systems and the economic and environmental impact such systems may have. The European “Actipak” project will address these issues in the near future.
– Nanoclays have shown the broadest commercial viability due to their lower cost and their utility in common thermoplastics like polypropylene (PP), thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO), PET, polyethylene (PE), polystyrene (PS), and nylon.
Source: iRAP