Nanotechnology sales increase to €687.5m in 2004

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food, Nanotechnology, Packaging

Worldwide sales of nanotechnology products to the food and beverage
packaging sector jumped to US$860m (€687.5m) in 2004 from US$150m
(€120m) in 2002, according to a new study by consultant Helmut
Kaiser.

"Nonetheless, compared with the over $100bn (€80bn) food and beverage packaging industry, the growth potential of the nanopackaging is still enormous,"​ he said in a statement​."It is predicted that nanotechnology will change 25 per cent of the food packaging business in the next decade. That means a yearly market of over $30bn (€24bn)."

The rocketing market growth comes mainly from the rapid increase in the applications employing nanotechnology. There were less than 40 nanopackaging products in the market three years ago. Nowthere are about 250 applications on the market, Kaiser said.

The major market trends in the food and beverage sector include improving the performance of packaging materials, prolonging shelf life, antimicrobial packaging and interactive packaging. Simple traditionalpacking is being replaced with multi-functional intelligent packaging methods to improve food quality thanks to the application of nanotechnology in this field, the consultancy said.

Nanotechnology enables designers to alter the structure of the packaging materials on the molecular scale. With different nanostructure, plastics can gain various gas and water vapor permeabilities to fit the requirements ofpreserving fruit, vegetable, beverage, wine and other foods. By adding nanoparticles, people can also produce bottles and packages with more light- and fire-resistantce, stronger mechanical and thermalperformance and less gas absorption.

Such nano tweaking can increase the shelf life of foods and preserve flavour and colour. Nanostructured film can prevent the invasion of bacteria and microorganisms and ensure the food safety, theconsultancy said. With embedded nanosensors in the packaging, consumers will be able to determine whether food has gone bad or find out its nutrition content.

"In the long run, nanotechnology is going to change the fabrication of the whole packaging industry,"​ the consultancy said. " Processing the atoms and molecules will realize zero-emission recycle and save natural resources. Self-assembly will in the end hugely reduce the fabrication costs and infrastructure. More flexible packaging methods will provide the consumers with fresher and customized products."

In a separate study​, Helmut Kaiser forecasts that processors will be able to design food products by using nanotechnology to shape molecules and atoms.

The nanofood market is expected to rise from US$ 2.6bn today to US$7bn next year and to 20.4bn in 2010. About 200 companies around the world are currently active in research and development. TheUS is the leader in the sector followed by Japan and China. By 2010 Asian countries will be the biggest market for nanofood, he said.

"Nanoscale biotech and nano-bio-info will have big impacts on the food and food-processing industries,"​ he said. "The future belongs to new products, new processes with the goal tocustomise and personalise the products."

Improving the safety and quality of food will be the first step. About 180 applications are in different developing stages and a few of them are on the market already.

Further breakthroughs in crop DNA decoding and analysing will allow the industry to predict, control and improve agricultural production. The technology will allow companies to design food with much more capability and precision, lower costs andshelf-life.

The combination of DNA and nanotechnology research will allow companies to target parts of the human bodies and cells to which nutrition is to be delivered, he said. Functional food will benefit firstly from the new technologies, followed by standard food, nutraceuticals andother types of nourishment.

"Some companies are already aware of the impact of nanotechnology in food industry,"​ he said. "Research facilities are established, potential applications are under study, whereas only a handful of nano food products are market available now. Nevertheless, the tremendous potential will attract more and more competitors into this still unploughed field."

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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