Strong growth in nano-packing forecast, but Europe still cautious

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cent European union Food

Nanotechnology in food packaging is set experience strong growth over the next five years as the move towards globalisation of the food supply boosts demand for shelf-life enhancing packing.

This trend, combined with the increased monitoring of food safety and quality according to international standards, will see the world-wide market for nano packaging climb from $4.13bn in 2008 to $7.3bn by 2014 – with an average growth rate of 11.65 per cent per annum, said a new industry report, Nano-Enabled Packaging for the Food and Beverage Industry – A Global Technology, Industry and Market Analysis​, by iRAP Inc.

Applications of nanotechnology in food packaging include improved mechanical, barrier and antimicrobial properties, as well as the incorporation of nano-sensors for traceability and the monitoring the condition of food during transport and storage, said the study.

Market shares

Active technology is set to grab the largest share with a market value of $4.35bn by the end of the review period – an increase of almost 10 per cent per annum. However, its overall market share is set to decrease from 66 per cent to 59 per cent within five years. Greatest growth in the sector will be seen in the intelligent packing segment, where compound annual growth will hit almost 19 per cent to reach $2.47bn by 2014. This growth will be instrumental in its market share rising from its current 25 per cent to 34 per cent.

The controlled sector will be squeezed, said the report, with its share of the market dropping from nine to seven per cent over the period. This is because it will expand less quickly than the other segments as its value is projected to climb from $360m to $480m.

Product break-down

The current active packaging segment is dominated by oxygen scavengers, moisture absorbers and barrier packing products, which accounts for 80 per cent of this market. Radio frequency identification tags (RFID) are forecast to exhibit strongest growth in the intelligent packing sector, while time/temperature indicators have the largest market share presently.

Bakery and meat products have attracted most nano-packing technology up until now, while in beverages, bottled water and carbonated drinks dominate. Oxygen scavenging technology in non-carbonated drinks such as juices has also shown a “relatively large demand”​, said the report.

Regional differences

The report identifies distinct regional differences in the use of nanotechnology, with the Asia/Pacific area– and Japan in particular- pin-pointed as the global market leader. Its 45 per cent share is currently valued at $1.86bn and projected to almost double to $3.43bn in five years.

By contrast, the European market for nanotechnology in food and beverage packing is presently estimated to be worth $830m with the study forecasting it to rise to $1.31bn by 2014. The US market, currently valued at $1.44bn, is predicted to increase to $2.56bn.

Active packaging is already being successfully applied to extending product shelf life in Australia, Japan and the US, said report supervisor Dr Thomas Abraham. Examples of commercial applications include moisture absorbers in fresh meat and fish, as well as oxygen scavengers in sliced processed meats, beer and ready to eat meals. Ethylene-scavenging bags are also being employed for fruit and vegetable packing.

Euro-caution could change

However, Europe has yet to embrace nanotechnology with the same enthusiasm said the study – but this might be about to change.

Abraham told “In Europe, however, only a few of these systems have been developed and are being applied now. The main reasons for this are legislative restrictions and lack of knowledge about acceptability to European consumers, as well as the efficacy of such systems and the economic and environmental impact such systems may have.”

He added that the European Actipak project, which will establish and implement active and intelligent packaging concepts within current relevant EU food packing regulations, was likely to address these issues in the near future. The initiative is also designed to enhance the competitiveness of the EU food industry, especially with the USA, Australia and Japan.

Related topics Processing & Packaging

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