Smart Packaging Protects Shelf LifeTue Jan 22, 2019
Smart packaging protects and extends product shelf life in a variety of ways. Technologies include desiccants and scavengers, antimicrobial materials and temperature-control packaging, labels and devices that control and/or monitor environmental conditions to ensure product is maintained at the appropriate temperature. Once reserved primarily for frozen or refrigerated products, temperature monitoring/control is increasingly seen for products that must be maintained at room temperature
Desiccants and scavengers absorb deleterious substances that can affect product shelf life and efficacy. Desiccants capture water vapor; scavengers can be designed to absorb for various substances including oxygen, carbon dioxide, ethanol and volatile organic compounds. Packaged in the form of small canisters, capsules or sachets, desiccants and scavengers are commonly dropped into the package along with the product and often work in conjunction with barrier materials.
Recent innovations for these drop-in scavengers include more powerful absorbing capabilities, solid canisters and differentiating colors. However, more recent designs build the absorber into the container or closure. Integrated designs eliminate the dispensing operation on the packaging line and related equipment as well as the risk of accidental ingestion of the desiccant/scavenger.
One example of an integrated design from Italy’s Bormioli Pharma builds a silica gel desiccant into a child-resistant closure.
Another closure-based option, Activ-Seal tamper-evident screw closures from CSP Technologies, now part of Aptar Group and renamed Aptar CSP Technologies, press-fits the desiccant/scavenger component into an induction-seal-equipped cap. The integrated design offers a seamless transition because it works with standard bottles and requires no changes to capping systems. Aptar CSP Technologies’ desiccant/scavenger technology also can be built into bottles, blister packages, films and vials.
For products that lose efficacy if exposed to heat or cold, smart packaging can maintain the appropriate temperature range for the required time period.
The A20 insulated shipper from AeroSafe Global combines lower cost shipping with one-time use for shipments that need protection for 24 to 48 hours. Pre-qualified to ISTA 7D summer and winter profiles, the shipper simplifies pack-outs due to a minimal number of components.
Insulated shippers may keep products within the proper temperature range while in transit, but often are criticized from a sustainability perspective because commonly used insulating materials like expanded polystyrene foam are not widely recycled. As a result, interest has grown in reusable, recyclable and renewable options.
One more sustainable design from Kodiakooler, the Kodiakotton natural fiber insulated shipper, consists of an easily recycled corrugated box lined with natural fiber insulation (primarily cotton) plus a gel or dry ice refrigerant. The renewable, biodegradable insulation is easily separated from its film bag and can be reused, composted or recycled in programs where #60 cotton is accepted. The material also offers superior cushioning properties.
OptumRx, a pharmacy care services company, has converted from foam-based insulated shippers to the Kodiakotton shipper. With about 4 million prescriptions shipped each year, the conversion is expected to generate an annual savings of nearly 2 million pounds of carbon dioxide, 17 million gallons of water and 4 million kilowatt hours of energy.
Another renewable alternative, the ClimaCell insulated shipper from TemperPack, is also a plant-based design and carries the How2Recycle label indicating the liner can be recycled along with its outer corrugated box or paper bag.