Data sharing may allow households to preemptively order groceries they are running low on. 

In today’s challenging retail market, baking and snack manufacturers must find new ways to attract and engage with consumers. One way to do this is through smart packaging. Consumers care as much about how a package functions for them as how it encloses and protects the product inside. They care that the package is easy to use, convenient and that it works well with how they plan to store and use the product. The more value a package adds, the more likely it helps build brand loyalty.

Some packaging design advances are functional, such as re-closable packaging.  But other new smart packaging designs can do far more, and these new formats have endless potential as technology continues to develop. 

With the expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT), a vast and interconnected data network made up of ordinary objects and machines, packaging design is branching out into data sharing with the connected household of tomorrow. Perhaps tomorrow’s box of cereal will send you an alert when the box is empty, letting you know it is time to head to the store before you wake up the next morning disappointed that your kids ate the last bowl.

IoT and packaging technology are also expected to combine to enhance food safety. Tiny sensors for temperature and passage of time can be attached to bakery and snack products, ensuring consumers that the perishable products they buy are fresh and safe to eat. These smart packages may even provide recipe suggestions to consumers that use other ingredients that are part of the “smart” kitchen.

One new technology that has potential for the baking and snack food market is Near Field Communications (NFC). This technology used in smart packaging enables brands to offer an enticing and interactive consumer experience. NFC-enabled smart packaging can deliver product information, promotional offers, how-to-guides, videos and re-ordering reminders with the simple tap of a smartphone. As consumers engage with the product through smart packaging, they gain brand loyalty. 

Since NFC tags contain unique identifiers by item, not just by product type, content can be targeted and dynamic — different before purchase and after purchase. The tags are small and can be integrated into packaging without affecting brand identity. NFC technology is also more resistant to cloning since the unique identifier prevents counterfeiting and can enable authentication of the product by the brand owner or consumer. 

Despite the numerous benefits, up to this point, NFC technology has been limited largely due to cost. However new technologies and production processes are emerging that will significantly reduce the cost of the key components required for this smart packaging technology to make an impact on the mass market. As these new technologies emerge, NFC-enabled smart packaging is becoming economically viable.

To learn more about smart packaging technologies, be sure to attend PACK EXPO East 2018, April 16-18, in Philadelphia, where 400 leading suppliers of advanced packaging equipment will showcase the latest innovations.