Big companies urged to monitor disruptive packaging technologies

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Technology, Innovation

The demand for high-performance materials is fuelling the growth of so-called disruptive packaging technologies in the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries, said a report from consultants Pira.

Active and intelligent packaging, coatings, packaging design such as aseptic innovations along with non-thermal and aseptic processing are all leading examples of what the group terms as a disruptive technology.

A disruptive technology (DT) is one that upends an existing technology and eventually replaces it or at least becomes it equivalent. This happens even though the innovative product originally appears to be inferior or too expensive, said the study Forecasts of Disruptive Technologies in Consumer Packaging to 2019.

DT trends in consumer packaging

The report said it is evident that while there are many advanced component products coming in to the packaging industry based on disruptive technologies, there is also a “distinct absence”​ of these advancement present in new retail packaging.

“This is not to say that there is no innovation,”​ said the authors. “It is just that much of the innovation is evolutionary not revolutionary – a characteristic of development throughout the history of consumer packaging.”

In a list of top-ranking disruptive technologies as classified by its previous ranking by technologist and also by current evidence of commercialisation, the report said the three most important fields remain unchanged; with natural polymers at number one; followed by engineered polymer additives, films, layered structured and polymer blends; with retort and aseptic packing technologies in third position.

The survey also found that for these prominent DTs, the commercial activity outstripped that as forecast by technologists.

This, however, was not the case for the next batch of highly ranked DTs; tamper resistant technologies; absorbers and emitters, plateless digital printing; conductive coatings and polymer raw material development – where their commercial development fell short of expectations.

Significance and characteristics of DTs

The authors highlight the significance of DTs as having “the potential to transform industries and contribute to the demise of large corporations”.​ Given this game-changing potential, companies are cautioned to consider the impact of DTs when establishing a strategic plan. The study advises firms to note these technologies as early as possible as they are “often hidden owing to the proprietary and competitive nature of the packing business”.

Road mapping via patents analysis, as well as scrutinising press releases and studies are recommended ways to identify DTs, added Pira.

The emergence of DTs is generally seen in either low-ends segments such as moulded pulp, or high-end niche markets such as RFID. They often occur as a result of what the authors call “technology convergence”.

Forecasts of Disruptive Technologies in Consumer Packaging to 2019 is available from Pira, priced ₤3,500

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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