Special Edition: Smart Packaging

Nifty packaging: Could data tech be the future for bakery shelf life?

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

Data on bread freshness could be collated to cause a color change in labels, explains Canadean analyst
Data on bread freshness could be collated to cause a color change in labels, explains Canadean analyst

Related tags: Shelf life

Using data exchange technology like near field communication (NFC) to link bread staling information with color-changing labels is a promising future concept, says Canadean.

Sam Allen, analyst at Canadean, said there was significant potential in the baked goods market to develop ‘smarter’ packaging that consumers interacted with.

Packages that extended shelf life and used visual displays to indicate best-before or use-by dates like color-changing labels, for example, could encourage more purchase occasions in a category where consumers were often skeptical of claims on shelf life, he told BakeryandSnacks.com.

“It’s a similar kind of thing that we’ve seen driving innovation in categories such as beer cans – think Coors and their cans turning blue when a beer reaches optimum drinking temperature,” ​he said.

Bakery manufacturers could, for example, link data to bread staling using NFC (near field communication) – a data recognition technology commonly used for mobile phone devices, he said.

Taking NFC tech further

While NFC technology hadn’t yet been adapted to do this – it was more commonly used for mobile device interactions with packaging, like QR codes – Allen said investments in the area held promise.

“It’s quite a technical thing to explain as it’s so forward-thinking… But the opportunities here are to use NFC for things like color-changing indications of when bread is at its freshest, then changing when it’s still good, and finally when the bread goes stale – this would be done either by technology to track the date or more likely through air exposure and an analysis of the breakdown of bread.”

This data on ‘freshness’, he said, would be pre-programmed for the NFC technology to detect.

Data on how 'fresh' the bread is could be detected by the NFC tech to spur a color change in the label
Data on how 'fresh' the bread is could be detected by the NFC tech to spur a color change in the label

“It is the use of NFC that would allow things like color-changing inks to be used more across food, which is what a lot of the investment and innovation is focusing on, going further than just responses to temperature but actually an analysis of the product itself,”​ he said.

Allen said that while using something like NFC or other visual cues on packs would need substantial investment, the value added in terms of experience “should not be underestimated, particularly in more indulgent sectors such as cakes, cookies and savory baked goods.”

Warning: Don’t compromise brand or push too hard

However, he warned that any attempts to implement ‘smarter’ packaging concepts should not compromise the brand’s heritage and manufacturers should keep in mind it would remain niche.

“Classic packaging functions will always be design, brand logo and across fresh products assurances of freshness or tamper evidence, and smart packaging should not come at the expense of any of these more influential consumer needs,”​ he said.

Maintaining iconic packaging familiar to consumers, he said, was vitally important. “Examples in the food market would be Heinz Beans fridge packs, which retained the iconic heritage packaging while offering a greater value proposition by extending freshness. Manufacturers in the bakery, snacks and cereals market should follow similar models.” 

Heinz had done a great job of maintaining brand heritage with fridge pots, Allen said
Heinz had done a great job of maintaining brand heritage with fridge pots, Allen said

Allen added that ‘smarter’ pack functions would only likely be used by a very small number of consumers. “Brands must realize that any innovations in smart packaging will not appeal to everyone. Instead they should focus on emphasizing the premium credentials of a product and position it around exclusivity,” ​he said.

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