Advances in food processing and food packaging play a primary role in keeping the food supply safest in the world. Tanweer Alam and Nishtha Talwar describe here various emerging technologies such as UHT processing, MAP, CAP etc.

The packaging is an interface, and environment between product and user. Its role is not just to contain and protect the product but also to facilitate the product’s sale by triggering the purchase act. Packaging presents the product and contributes significantly to its sale. The defining elements of the product promotion function include the identification and presentation of the product, informing the customers, creating a positive attitude towards the product, producing changes in the mentality and habits of the buyers and easing communication with the customer.

The packaging is truly the “mute salesman” of the product that draws attention, informs and educates aesthetically the consumer. It consists of important information such as hologram which ensures the safety of the product, labelling which encompasses the mandatory compliances for nutritional facts of a food product. Advances in food processing and food packaging play a primary role in keeping the food supply safest in the world. Various emerging technologies such as UHT processing, MAP, CAP etc. have diversified the study of the packaging technologies and hence increased the scope of the same. Today success of any kind of business depends on how good the packaging is.

Now, packaging has also become a source for tracing and tracking the product as well as it is responsible to prevent counterfeit of any valuables. With the ever-increasing production of multiple product range into the market daily, the need for packaging experts has grown manifold. Packaging has become critical and essential for promoting food safety, extending shelf life and thereby enhancing food security. This article provides an overview of the food packaging industry in India and the whole World.

Food Packaging Industry in India

To note, the Indian packaging industry has registered a robust growth of 15% CAGR in the last five years and is estimated to achieve $32 billion annual turnover by 2025. In the wake of increasing disposable incomes and a growing number of nuclear families has contributed to the boost of the processed food market to 30% in 2017. According to the Packaging Industry Association of India (Economic Times 2017), food packaging in India is one of the fastest-growing sectors, partly because it spans almost every industry segment. Right from packaging of food and beverages, fruits and vegetables, drugs and medicines, to highly dangerous products, packaging has led to greater specialization and sophistication over a period of years. The packaging market in India has become the sunshine Industry which is well supported by favorable demographics aspects such as growing urbanization, a rising proportion of middle-class consumers, increasing disposable income levels, rising consumer awareness and demand for convenience and processed food, and the multinational giants taking rapid strides in the food, beverages, cosmetics & toiletries and pharmaceuticals space, are expected to be the key drivers of this growth story in the field of packaging. These changes drive the need for packaging reforms, such as different sizes, materials, and strength. This key factor is responsible for both packaging suppliers and end-user industry to shift from bulk packaging to retail, unit-level, primary processing packaging unit, and small-sized packaging. Besides, organized retail growth and newly relaxed FDI investment norms in retail and other sectors predict well for the packaging market in India. Not only this, but the industry is also creating lucrative, innovative jobs in the field of packaging.

Indian packaging market

Figure 1: Indian packaging market

Furthermore, with the ever-increasing industries dealing with manufacturing and designing of various kinds of packaging machines such as Form-fill seal machine, stretch wrapping, shrink wrapping, palletizing, etc. has contributed towards the need for popularizing packaging technology. However, India’s per capita consumption of packaging is only 4.3 kg per person per annum, as against Germany’s 42 kg and China’s 20 kg, which is very low compared to global standards. Initiatives are needed to convert the large unpacked commodities into processed and packed and well-presented commodities. During the period 2016-2021, the Soft Drinks and Food industries have the potential to be the highest packaging market share gainers (by units) with share growth of 3.4% and 1.3% respectively. The growing organized retail sector has been a significant driver of the growth especially in the Food & Beverage industries, which in turn drives the growth of the Indian packaging industry.

Besides, innovations in the packaging industry, such as the development of lighter packaging with better barrier properties, add to the improvement of the packaging industry. In terms of packaging material, Glass and Rigid Plastics can be among the major segment, with a growth of 0.7% and 0.6% respectively during 2016-2021. Flexible Packaging observed in various food products has become the leading the pack type in the Indian packaging industry and will grow at a healthy CAGR of 8.9% during 2016-2021. This success is largely driven by its low cost and flexibility to suit multiple shapes and sizes, convenience (zip-locks, plastic closures), and low-carbon footprint on the environment as compared to Rigid Plastics. Furthermore, the increasing eminence of low-density flexible packs in high protein foods is expected to drive growth in the future. All this clearly states that there is tremendous scope for the growth of the food packaging industry in India.

Food Packaging in the World

The global packaging market

Figure 2: The global packaging market

Global production of packaging materials is estimated to be more than 180 million tons per year, with demand for more unique and innovative packaging material increasing annually. It has been observed worldwide that the plastic packaging material with food packaging has become the leading package sector. In 2003, North American markets, including the USA, Canada, and Mexico, accounted for the largest share of global packaging at $132 billion (32%), ahead of Western Europe (26%) and Asia (26%). The largest single national packaging market during the same year was the USA with sales of $113 billion. Japan ranked second with sales of $49 billion, ahead of China at $32 billion, Germany at $21 billion and France at $19 billion. The global packaging market is expected to expand up to US$975 billion by 2018 and grow at an annual rate of 4%. Asia alone has the potential to represent over 40% of the global demand. Presently the flexible packaging is growing @ 4% amounting to more than 16 million tons, with a value exceeding US$50 Billion. Such enormous growth observed in the world market has attracted many students and entrepreneurs towards this field of study. The health of the packaging industry is very much linked to the world economy. The more the progress of the packaging industry, the more positive improvement in the economy of the world.
Driving factor responsible for growth in the packaging industry

The evolution of packaging demand is influenced by a wide range of factors, from year to year and also factors with much longer-term influence. While the economy plays a central role in influencing the size and growth of the market, there are several other factors which can be seen as having a direct or at least indirect influence on packaging demand or, at any rate, the nature of this demand, irrespective of the performance of the economy. These include:

  • The aging of the world population
  • The trend towards smaller households
  • The increasing need for convenience among consumers
  • Rising health awareness among consumers
  • The trend towards ‘on-the-go’ lifestyles among increasingly time-poor consumers
  • Growing requirements for brand enhancement/ differentiation in an increasingly competitive environment
  • New packaging material development
  • Increase of nuclear families
  • Increasing awareness of environmental issues, and the adoption of new regulatory requirements on packaging recycling

Out of all the above-mentioned factors, health awareness was regarded as the single most important factor responsible for growth in the packaging industry.

Basics of Food Packaging Science and Technology

“Food packaging is essentially packaging for food. It requires protection, tampering resistance, and special physical, chemical, or biological needs. It also shows the product that is labeled to show any nutrition information on the food being consumed.” Physical protection from shock, vibration etc. is necessary for the food product enclosed in the package. Other requirements include a ‘barrier’ to prevent the food product from being contaminated by dust, water vapor, etc. Packaging also refers to the process of designing, evaluating, and ensuring the safe delivery of the product to the customers. It is described as a coordinated system of preparing goods for transport, warehousing, logistics, sale, and end-use. It is heavily integrated in our day to day lives and one cannot just simply do daily chores with any form of packaging.

Packaging also encompasses numerous disciplines from science, technology, and engineering to printing, marketing, and graphic design. Broadly, the areas cover design, manufacture, and marketing. Packaging technology offers multi-disciplinary careers and requires specialized knowledge of the materials, processing, design, quality, and environmental trends. The science of packaging technology guides about right packaging material and right shape from the preservation as well as the production point of view based on his/her knowledge of chemical and mechanical engineering.

Sectors of food packaging industry

Figure 3: Sectors of food packaging industry

Designers and artists who can innovate and design attractive eye-catching packaging that stands out on the shelf are always in demand. It is used for several purposes like innovative and sustainable designing and carrying information that makes attractive display and facilitating transportation and storing of products. It must protect the products from all types of contamination, different types of hazards and damages i.e., mechanical, physical and environmental, stress during transportation, and storage. Packaging education will cover on topics such as packing of food products, logistics and physical distribution, packaging process, quality control, communication skills, package marketing, package economics, packaging laws and regulations, industrial electronics, applied mechanics, printing technology, machine drawing, production management, and packaging management, among others. When we talk about Packaging design both as functional design and graphical is an important part of the packaging system which includes printing as an integral part of the system. There are different types and classification of packaging based on its use and the materials used like primary, secondary and tertiary packaging system, consumer & unit, and bulk packaging systems, along with ancillary materials used for Food Packaging Industry. Packaging Industry has wider choices like paper and paper board corrugated box industry, plastic packaging, glass packaging, metal can, fiber drums, composite cans & laminates are the major Packaging Industry based on materials used for packaging.

Agricultural / Food Packaging: Improving Lives

The recent advancements are seen in the field of food packaging technologies such as modified atmosphere packaging, active packaging, smart or responsive packaging systems, etc. which has revolutionized the field of food packaging and contributed tremendously in the enhancement of shelf-life of the array of food products. These improvements in the field of food packaging have provided innumerable benefits to the professionals associated with food packaging technology. With the increase in the research and development of the field, it has also contributed towards the safe consumption of the food product. Packaging has the power to stop the product deterioration, extend its shelf life as well as increase the quality and safety. Any assessment of the food packaging’s impact on the environment must consider the positive benefits of reduced waste throughout the supply chain. Packaging reduces waste by extending the shelf life of the product and thereby prolonging its usability.

Now, packaging institutes, too, are attracting great attention. There are more than 35000 packaging units throughout the country and most of them are unorganized and lack of skilled manpower. Thus, increasing the demand for packaging professionals. According to a recent study, there is a requirement of 3000 packaging experts annually. There are some 600 to 700 packaging machine manufacturers, 95% of which are in the small and medium sector and located all over the country. According to a recent estimate, there are more than 22,000 registered packaging companies in India, more than 85 percent of which are MSMEs. Hence, creating job opportunities in the country and empowering the lives of many people.

The companies working at a larger scale are highly capitalized and generally involves large supplies and various value-adding activities like material production, innovative products, and design. The organized sector in India accounts for roughly 50 percent of the volumes whereas the balance is highly fragmented. Globally the scenario is somewhat more consolidated – roughly 75 percent of the global packaging industry by value is accounted for by 20 percent of the largest integrated global players. In the box (see page 23), a suggestion has been provided that how the introduction of the primary packaging process at the farm level can improve the lives of farmers.

Food packaging plays a vital role in preserving food throughout the supply and distribution chain. Without packaging, the processing of food shall be compromised as it may get contaminated with direct contact with physical, chemical, and biological content. In recent years, the development of novel food packaging systems such as modified atmosphere, vacuum packaging, Nano-packaging, shrink wrap packaging active packaging, etc. has not only increased the shelf life of foods but also their safety and quality – therefore providing convenience to consumers.

If data is to be believed, the per capita packaging consumption in India is quite low at 8.7 kg, compared with countries such as Germany and Taiwan, where it is 42 kg and 19 kg, respectively. So, it is expected that there is a huge space for the industry to grow.

Meanwhile, the food safety and packaging norms are getting stricter and this is expected to promote the use of good quality packaging. Also, the affordability, smaller urbanized household size and time compression are expected to give way to the packaged food category. Also, the government’s aim to make India a global manufacturing hub will have a positive impact on the growth of the packaging industry.

The concept of shelf life is linked to food packaging. Shelf life is the length of time that foods, beverages, pharmaceutical drugs, chemicals, and many other perishable items are given before they are considered unsuitable for sale, use, or consumption. Hence, food packaging is a very important part of a consumer’s life. The ever-increasing food packaging industry will help in enhancing the lives of many people. It will provide a livelihood for some and the safety of the food product to the consumers. Packaging truly acts as the “mute salesman” of the product that draws attention, informs, and educates aesthetically the consumer.