Active packaging is a modern method of packaging which involves the addition or withdrawal of certain gases and liquids within food packages, in order to prolong their shelf lives. Food industry is a major consumer of active packaging materials. Oxygen scavenging, ethylene scavenging, ethanol release, carbon dioxide release and water vapor removal are some of the methods of active packaging. Fresh farm produce and poultry are biologically active when packed in flexible packaging materials. They release certain gases due to metabolism. These gases tend to accumulate within the headspace of the packaged food stuff. The accumulated gases cause the deterioration of the packaged food. Scavengers are used to absorb these gases and liquids accumulated within the headspace of the packaged materials, in order to prevent their spoilage.
The increasing demand for packaged food has been boosting the active packaging market. The growing inclination of individuals towards packaged and ready to eat foodstuffs has been propelling the active packaging market and this trend is expected to continue within the forecast period. Chopped and packaged fruits and vegetables employ active packaging to a large extent as they release gases within the packaging. However, incorporation of active packaging materials such as sorbents in food packages is expensive, which is expected to hamper the market within the forecast period. Nanomaterials and bio sensors detecting the accumulation of gases within packaged food items are expected to open new areas of opportunities for the active packaging market within the forecast period.
Active packaging can be in the form of absorbent sachets or they can be incorporated within the packaging material. The latter mode of food preservation is expensive; nonetheless it is being explored to a large extent by contemporary packaging material providers. Besides absorbing gases, active packaging can be designed to absorb dripping liquids, controlling humidity, absorbing odors and maintaining the right concentration of gases and moisture within the packaged food items. Regions such as North America and Europe dominate the active packaging market. Asia Pacific and rest of the world are nascent markets for active packaging materials.
Technological advances in the field of active packaging are expected to make these materials affordable which would increase their demand in Asia Pacific and rest of the world countries. Advanced versions of active packaging materials release controlled quantities of ethanol into bakery and meat products in order to curb microbial growth in these food items. The choice of active packaging material depends on the type of food stuff it is designed to preserve. For instance, lowering of oxygen is beneficial in case of cured meats, nuts and powdered milk. However, in cheeses, fresh & processed meats and baked goods, carbon dioxide has a beneficial effect. It imparts an antimicrobial effect to certain food items.
Therefore, it is paramount to choose active packaging in accordance with the type of food product being preserved. In case of ethylene scavenging, a pink colored indicator is incorporated into the absorbent sachet in order to indicate the amount of absorbent consumed. These sachets are used in ground coffee and desiccated food items. Certain microbial inhibitors such as ethanol and sulfur dioxide are released in controlled amount in baked goods and cut fruits respectively, to inhibit microbial growth.
Some of the key competitors in this market are 3M, AstraZeneca, Active Packaging, Accutech Packaging, Inc, Amelco Desiccants Inc, BASF SE and DuPont among others.