In recent years, as people's awareness of environmental protection has gradually increased, packaging designers have continuously incorporated green concepts into product packaging. Choosing environmentally friendly materials and adopting safe processing methods to minimize the impact of the entire life cycle of packaging on the environment is the ultimate goal pursued by green packaging advocates. Based on this, many packaging designers are used to looking for the best green packaging solutions from the perspectives of reduction, environmental protection, and recycling. At the same time, some designers have also put forward the green design concept of intelligent packaging, that is, integrating intelligent technology into the existing packaging, so that the original packaging meets the basic functions while also meeting the requirements of green environmental protection, health and safety. At present, this innovative concept has received eager attention from the domestic and foreign packaging markets. In this article, the author will briefly explain the four driving forces that promote the construction of intelligent green packaging systems in the food processing field, and I am willing to share with the industry.
One of the driving forces: new policies promote technology applications
In 2011, US President Barack Obama signed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (hereinafter referred to as "FSMA"), which was a major revision and reform of the current major food safety laws in the United States since 1938, which caused a sensation at the time. The new bill shifts the focus of federal regulatory agencies from food contamination to prevention, and redefines the methods for tracking and monitoring food throughout the supply chain to ensure food safety in the United States. After the implementation of FSMA, most food companies have implemented full tracking of their products from the origin to the retail shelf, which means that various forms of smart packaging must be used to complete this mission.
In addition to FSMA, the US government has also added regulations for the application of smart packaging to other food-related regulations. For example, the "Biological Anti-Terrorism Law" enacted in 2002 stipulated the requirements for product tracking. Chicago-based Bloomer Chocolate Company is the largest cocoa powder processor and chocolate raw material supplier in North America. Out of strict compliance with the "Biological Anti-Terrorism Act", the company has begun to use radio frequency identification technology (RFID) to track shipments , And at the same time continue the tracking to the dealer. Due to the requirements of laws and regulations, some smaller food companies are also gradually applying this tracking technology.
At the same time, the EU is also working in this direction. For example, the European Food Safety Agency has proposed a "farm-to-table" food safety legislative action strategy to ensure that the entire production, processing, and distribution links from farmland to table are everywhere. There is supervision, and offenders will pay a high price for their violations. The strategy not only establishes an effective traceability system, but also stipulates that the product packaging must indicate the ingredients that may cause allergies in the product components, such as nuts, milk, mustard, shell animals and fish, etc., and the labeling information must be Legal and understandable by consumers, not misleading consumers. For example, a high-fat, high-sugar and high-salt food cannot claim to be a good calcium supplement or have other nutritional value.
Driving force 2: Provide effective security
In the past, food companies used an original information tracking method-production flow sheet. Paper production flow sheets do not require a lot of cost, because most of them rely on manual filling. However, from the perspective of ensuring food safety, the manual filling method also makes this simple information tracking method unreliable, so food companies are also changing the original information tracking method through smart packaging tracking services.
In the future, we will see the application of smart packaging in the field of food production. They will save logistics costs, improve logistics efficiency, and replace human repetitive labor in the food and beverage industry. The logistics industry will also use smart packaging (RFID, holograms, smart inks, etc.) to ensure that food is safely transported to distributors everywhere. Various development needs make it a trend to embed RFID or similar "smart" components on product packaging. Below, the author will introduce a traceability system based on QR code technology.
When raw material suppliers provide raw materials to food companies, they enter the original production data (such as manufacturing date, expiration date, origin, producer, etc.) of the raw materials into the QR code, and print out the label with the QR code. Then stick the label on the packing box and hand it to the food company.
When the raw materials of food companies are put into storage, the original production data of the raw materials can be read from the QR code. The employees of the food company make formulas according to the production plan of the day, weigh and subcontract various raw materials according to the usage requirements of each batch, and paste the label with a QR code on the subcontracted raw materials. The QR code contains the name of the raw material , Weight, order of input, number and other information.
In each inspection process after the input of raw materials, the data collector is used to enter the inspection data, and then the data in the data collector is uploaded to the computer to generate the original production database, making it possible to track products and raw materials.
This traceability system based on two-dimensional code technology gets rid of the information tracking method that used the "production flow sheet" in the past. Moreover, through the database, the raw material information of the product can be easily published to consumers on the Internet to achieve information transparency and ensure food safety. In addition, the role of packaging intelligence in the anti-counterfeiting function should not be underestimated.
Driving force 3: Consumers and retailers are more willing to accept smart shopping models
As various types of food retailers have launched various shopping applications (such as Wal-Mart Shopping App), more and more "readers" and "app users" have appeared among food consumers, and the usage rate of shopping applications is increasing. With rapid growth, smart packaging can further promote the development of this shopping model, and at the same time better realize the interaction between food companies and consumers.
But the smart packaging of retail goods is not just about interacting with consumers. Once smart information can be applied to food packaging, retailers will be happy to use it. For example, Wal-Mart knows that smart food packaging can help them gain benefits. They will require food companies to adopt corresponding smart packaging to attract consumers. At the same time, smart packaging can also help inventory management, which can kill two birds with one stone.
Driving force 4: Diversified functions provide more choices
With the deepening of the concept of intelligent packaging, the functions of intelligent packaging are constantly enriched. For example, when consumers buy food and beverages in public, smart packaging is an important factor in their choice, as the success of Coors Beer Company on smart labels proves this. Coors Beer Company’s beer label is printed with LCR/LLC’s thermochromic ink. Once the optimum drinking temperature is 4.4～7.2℃, the white text and Rocky Mountain logo printed with thermochromic ink on the label will change. Colored in blue to remind consumers that they can drink.
The current RFID tags can not only track and trace information, but also reflect the freshness of food by monitoring the concentration of oxygen and carbon dioxide and temperature sensors. At the same time, RFID technology can also work in extreme environmental conditions, so it can be used for cold chain food freshness monitoring. Under the current legal environment, the underwriting food export business of insurance companies encourages companies to use RFID temperature monitoring records to improve quality and reduce risks and losses.
Consumer demand has also prompted the promotion and application of another type of smart packaging, namely active packaging. In order to control the specific gas in the package, the active package uses chemical substances that can absorb or release the specific gas. Its functional system includes the use of biocides, deoxidizers, odor absorbers or release agents, light blocking agents, antifogging agents, and anti-sticking agents. Agents, stabilizers and enzyme inhibitors. Compared with the past use of physical methods to block gas, water vapor and light, active packaging plays a positive and active role in extending the shelf life of food, and can provide better protection for the contents.
Therefore, active packaging as a kind of intelligent technology is being widely developed and applied, and there is a growing momentum, especially the effect of active packaging in extending the shelf life of food is very significant. As Dr. Theodore Labuza of the University of Minnesota in the United States said, in the near future, changes in active packaging will not be general progress, but revolutionary changes. As a kind of smart packaging, active packaging is regarded as a revolutionary change in the packaging industry and the hope of the new century.