Simon Balderson, managing director, Sirane, told FoodProductionDaily.com designers have to take their cue from the food industry to ensure there is a demand for products.
He identifies shelf life extension, and packaging that improves the quality of the product inside, as functions that are in high demand.
Packaging has got to have value
“We say there are two types of packaging in terms of intelligent packaging,” Balderson said. “One is packaging that does something: it modifies the atmosphere, it extends shelf life, it has a function. The other type is packaging that tells you something: whether the food’s gone off, where it was packed.”
Packaging that gives you information is interesting from a scientific point of view, he said, but the real demand is coming from packaging that offers a clear function – ‘packaging that does things.’
“There is some really nice stuff going around, but when it comes down to it, the industry is very mercenary,” he added. “They won’t pay for anything that doesn’t give added value. There’s no niceness in the sense that there’s no spare money. Which is lovely, because it means there’s no nonsense.”
Driven by the food industry
Balderson says active and intelligent packaging needs to be driven by the food industry.
“Intelligent packaging is a response to the food industry, not the other way round,” he said. “People think packaging is developed and then pushed into the industry, but it should be driven by the food industry.
“That’s how it will be successful. Otherwise someone comes out with some little thing, everyone thinks it’s great, but a month later they’ve forgotten about it. There’s packaging which is intelligent, but of no value.”
Balderson, whose background is as a scientist, co-founded Sirane in 2003. The company is a NPD product and process development company which also has manufacturing capabilities.
Balderson said he wanted to bridge the gap between a traditional packaging company and the food industry.
“There’s not much cross over between packaging and food industries,” he said.
“The packaging industry, going into intelligent packaging, has got to ally itself with the food industry.”
Balderson uses Sirane’s Dri-Fresh OA odour absorbing pads as an example of a product that has been successful, because it has responded to a need. The pads were launched two years ago, after a year of development. The product is now being expanded into the US market.
“This product was driven by a retailer in the UK,” Balderson said. “They sold a lot of vacuum pack meat, and it has a good long shelf life. But when you open it there’s a confinement odour, simply because there’s no air and you get this stale smell. The food is fine, but the smell is unpleasant – people open it and think the food is off. It was costing the company an absolute fortune.”
The product traps odours from within the pack, and can be integrated into different packaging formats.
“Our product was a straight forward idea, but gave a very tangible cost saving,” Balderson said.
The pad is now attracting the American market because most meat is vacuum packed, and needs a long shelf life because it has to be transported across large distances between cities, he added.
Survival of the fittest
Sirane’s development process can last from a few weeks, to a continuous improvement programme for existing products.
“Not all projects go where you think they will go, we have a very fluid development programme,” Balderson said. "We’ve got a lot of projects going on, some allied to each other, and that works. If you decide to do one thing and put all your resources in and it fails – you’re stuck.
“More resources go behind the ones that are really working – we think of it as survival of the fittest.”