|Nanomaterials, due to a very high aspect ratio, have the capability to change the properties of packaging materials without significant changes in clarity and processing performance. Nanotechnology in packaging offers the possibilities of lightweighting, strength improvement, monolayer structures with multilayer capabilities, improved barrier properties against environmental factors, increased shelf life, encoding or decorating individual surfaces, counterfeit protection, smart substrates that can sense and signal food contamination or spoilage within or outside a package, improved recyclability. The addition of certain nanoparticles in plastic end products provides improvement in flame resistance, mechanical & thermal properties, and also enhances resistance to gas transmission.
According to a study from iRAP, Inc., the total nano-enabled food and beverage packaging market in the year 2008 was US$4.13 bln, which is expected to grow in 2009 to US$4.21 bln and forecasted to grow to US$7.3 bln 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 US$4.35 bln in sales, and the intelligent segment will grow to US$2.47 bln sales. One study suggests that the US nanomaterial market, which totaled only US$125 million in 2000, is expected to reach exceed US$30 bln by 2020. Another market research indicates that packaging with nanotechnology is expected to grow at 11.65% from 2008 until 2013.
With the increasing global customer base, food retailing is transforming. However, with the move toward globalization, food packaging requires longer shelf life, along with monitoring food safety and quality based upon international standards. Thus use of nanotechnology in packaging is expected to grow rapidly in the next few years, though application in food packaging is at the developmental stage. Simple conventional packing is to be replaced with multi-functional intelligent packaging methods to improve the food quality thanks to the application of nanotechnology in this field. New packaging solutions will increasingly focus on food safety by controlling microbial growth, delaying oxidation, improving tamper visibility and convenience.
Nano technology offers three distinct advantages to food packaging:
• Barrier resistance
• Incorporation of active components to provide functional performance
• Sensing of relevant information
Applications in this area already support development of improved taste, color, flavour, 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.
As per innoresearch.net, active technology mainly consisting of oxygen scavenging, moisture absorption and barrier packaging, has more than 80% share of the market of nanotechnology packaging.
Bakery & meat product packaging are the two largest food packaging applications in this sector.
Japan is the leader in the market of nanotechnology in packaging with a 45% share of the global market.
Polymers with which nanotechnology has been used include PP, TPO, PE, PS and polyamide.
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 consumer 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 Helmut Kaiser Consultancy, nanotechnology has been significantly increasing its impact on the food and beverage packaging industry. The global sales of the nano-related packaging products have been rising from US$150 mln in 2002 to US$860 mln in 2004 worldwide. Nonetheless, compared with the over US$100 bln food and beverage packaging industry, the growth potential of the nanopackaging is still enormous. It is predicted that nanotechnology will change 25% of the food packaging business in the next decade.The rocketing market growth comes mainly from the rapid multiplication of the applications employing nanotechnology. While there were less than 40 nanopackaging products in the market in 2005, this number has been going beyond 250 in 2008. Present major market trends include enhancing the performance of packaging materials, prolonging shelf life, antimicrobial packaging and interactive packaging. Nanotechnology enables the designers to alter the structure of the packaging materials on the molecular scale, to give the materials desired properties. With different nanostructure, the plastics can obtain various gas/water vapor permeabilities to fit the requirements of reserving fruit, vegetable, beverage, wine and other food. By adding nanoparticles, people can also produce bottles and packages with more light- and fire-resistance, stronger mechanical and thermal performance and less gas absorption. These properties can significantly increase the shelf life, efficiently preserve flavour and colour, and facilitate transportation & usage. Further, nanostructured film can effectively prevent the food from the invasion of bacteria and microorganism and ensure the food safety. With embedded nanosensors in the packaging, consumers will be able to “read” the food inside. Sensors can alarm us before the food goes rotten or can inform us the exact nutrition status contained in the contents. In the long run, nanotechnology is going to change the fabrication of the whole packaging industry. Processing the atoms and molecules will realize zero-emission recycle and save natural resources. Self-assembly will in the end hugely reduce the fabrication costs and infrastructure. More flexible packaging methods will provide the consumers with fresher and customized products. Nanopackaging has been attracting the attention of industrial leaders, governments and research institutes. Multi-national companies, such as Krafts, Henkel, Bayer, Kodak, Budweiser, Pepsi, to name just a few, all have their R&D projects concerning the application of nanotechnology in the field of food & beverage packaging. NASA, US Department of Defense and leading European institutes show their special interests in the related segments as well. It is worthy of noticing that China and Taiwan have already taken a firm foothold in this market and are poised to be challenging competitors in this market.