Smart packaging is not simply icing on the cake – it has the potential to bring significant savings to baking and snack companies and consumers. With key driving forces such as increased safety, brand protection, extended shelf life and compliance with regulations, the demand for smart packaging continues to grow.

The 2019 Flexible Packaging Marketing Assessment from PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, notes that technology developments, like those used for smart packaging, continue to support packaging growth across a broad variety of manufacturing segments.

Smart packaging refers to packaging systems with embedded sensor technology used to extend shelf life, monitor freshness, display information on quality and improve product and customer safety. Other benefits include enhanced functionality such as moisture control, and can incorporate features that indicate status, communicate product changes and additional information. According to research from Smithers Pira, The Future of Active & Intelligence Packaging to 2023, the smart packaging market is forecast to grow at an annual average rate of 5.9%, hitting $7.56 billion by 2023.

This growth is due to several factors:

Engaging consumers

Engaging consumers is one of the biggest drivers of smart packaging. Brand owners are using packaging to connect with consumers through their smartphones, using methods such as a Q.R. code that leads to a simple smartphone game.

One trend on the horizon is using smartphones for payment, allowing buyers to scan items in the store and automatically pay without waiting in a checkout line. This approach provides brands with a new route into the digitally-engaged consumer’s lifestyle, via their packaging.

Smartphones for brand protection

Q.R. codes and Near Field Communication (NFC) technology are being used to fight counterfeiting. Since smartphone devices can now read these codes automatically, global smartphone owners have become an army of product authenticators — with no cost or additional technology. Consumers can identify counterfeit products at the point of sale, pressuring retailers to ensure counterfeit products do not even enter the supply chain. This is predicted to be the biggest deterrent against counterfeits. Once an authentication scan has happened, the same outlet can be used to engage with the consumer further.

Reducing food waste

Manufacturers say that “fresh” is critical in growing markets like flexible packaging, according to PMMI’s Flexible Packaging Market Assessment. When a “best buy” date expires, or food does not visually look good to the consumer, it gets trashed. About one-third of the food for human consumption is wasted annually — and smart packaging can help reduce this. Components such as freshness indicators and time-temperature indicators benefit the whole supply chain. One example is the use of color indicators, which lets consumers, distributors and packagers know the ideal consumption period for a food product. These features provide clear information about the condition of the product, without the use of arbitrary “best before” labels, minimizing unnecessary waste.

Regulatory compliance and track-and-trace

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requires consumer packaged goods companies (C.P.G.s) to be able to, at a minimum, identify the immediate supplier and recipient (other than retailers to consumers) of a product, placing responsibility on baking and snack food manufacturers to monitor the path of products. RFID and smart labels are easy to integrate into current packaging formats to help track products through the supply chain, as well as prevent theft.

Track-and-trace through RFID and smart labels can help prevent recalls as well as minimize their impact by identifying where and how in the supply chain any contamination occurred and locating any affected products. RFID labels can also diminish the number of stolen items and allows for cashier-less stores like the one Amazon has opened.

By implementing RFID within its packaging, companies can scan and obtain data for all inventory items immediately across the entire value chain. The constant need to monitor the state of goods is fueling the growing popularity of sensors being used to track temperature and quality.

With the many demands put on baking and snack food manufacturers from retailers and consumers, smart packaging is providing much-needed solutions that meet the needs and reduce costs. But keeping up with the advances in smart packaging can be a challenge. Produced by PMMI, PACK EXPO, being held Sept. 23-25 in Las Vegas, is the place to source the right smart packaging solutions for any application. The Snack Break Lounge in the Upper South Hall showcases new technology to meet the specific needs of the baking and snack food market. The PACKage Printing Pavilion in the Central Hall will focus on the advantages of digital printing, highlighting the latest in cost-effective solutions for smart packaging, as well as short-run, on-demand, cost-effective, variable data and personalized packaging. The Reusable Packaging Pavilion, sponsored by the Reusable Packaging Association (R.P.A.) and located in the Upper South Hall, will feature sustainable packaging solutions, to help reduce waste, cut costs and gain chain efficiency.

Registration, which includes access to both PACK EXPO Las Vegas and Healthcare Packaging EXPO, is $100. For more information and to register online, go to