Oxygen-active packaging

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Related tags: Vtt technical research centre of finland, Graham packaging

Packaging that reacts to its environment could help food
manufacturers preserve food for longer and help consumers to
recognise when a particular product has reached its sell-by date.
This, says one industry expert, is the future of packaging.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is improving its innovative inkjet printable indicator, which contains a reactive substance that signals if oxygen is present in a package. The sensor can be printed onto plastic materials to identify package leakage and indicates the presence of oxygen in perishable foods that have been packaged in a modified atmosphere.

VTT now wants to make the concept even more suitable for printing. The sensors are being developed as part of the company's active and communicative packaging systems project, which began in 2002. The project aims to improve the control and traceability of a package in the supply chain.

VTT is attempting to incorporate a number of active and intelligent technologies into one package as part of the project. The initiative is exploring the potential of digital printing methods, novel diagnostic printing inks, coding systems and information networks, for these packs. The packages will be able to communicate their location wirelessly and have an integrated anti-counterfeiting feature.

The results achieved in the project will be used in the EU-funded Sustainpack project ,which starts in June 2004. Sustainpack aims to create a new set of track records in packaging concepts based on renewable raw materials.

The project is being run by EC-Pack, an organisation within Wageningen University and Research Centre. The participants of EC-Pack include the Agrotechnological Research Institute, Wageningen University, Institute for Animal Science & Health (ID-Lelystad) and Netherlands Institute for Fisheries Research (RIVO).

The new technology complements the burgeoning market for oxygen-scavenging packaging. US-based Graham Packaging for example has begun packaging fruit juices and other oxygen-sensitive drinks in single-serve PET (polyethylene terephthalate) Monosorbbarrier bottles.

These bottles are made from a resin blended with a modified formulation of BP's Amosorb DFC additive.

"This development now makes it possible for oxygen-sensitive beverage products to be packed in mono-layer barrier containers,"​ said George Peterson, a business director in Graham Packaging's Food & Beverage Business Unit. "Monosorb bottles enlarge and enhance our existing arsenal ofbarrier technologies and allow us to be even more flexible in how we respondin meeting varying customer needs."

Unlike other barrier technologies, which involve adding a coating or creating multiple layers, the barrier in Graham Packaging's Monosorbbottle is achieved by blending Amosorb DFC into the PET resin immediatelyprior to moulding using Graham Packaging's proprietary process. Peterson said the barrier level in Monosorb bottles can be metered bypercentage to customise protection on an as-needed basis.

Monosorb bottles can be recycled the same way as any other PETcontainer and can be re-used for food-grade packaging. BP's Amosorb DFC additive has received the Champions for Change Award from the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers.Environmentally-friendly packaging that appeals to consumers aesthetic and ecological sensibilities is something that packaging expert Larry Mucha, a former director of Future Technologies at Coca-Cola, believes we will see a lot more of in the future.

"I think most companies want to be good global citizens, and those that aren't will get a bad press,"​ he said. "Packaging has to reflect the aspirations of the consumer, and with growing consensus over green issues, this is becoming easier to achieve. Consumers are now more educated about what they are buying, and they can see if the packaging for a product is necessary."

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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