Many groceries in the supermarket are packaged in some way. There is a reason for this. A product has to pass through several stages before it arrives safely in stores and in households. This requires suitable packaging. The requirements are high. The packaging should protect the product from external influences, preserve the aroma and at the same time provide important information for the consumer.
Optimal protection of the product
The packaging maintains safety and quality. It protects the food from environmental influences such as light, water vapour, contamination and damage. This reduces spoilage caused by microorganisms, loss of flavour and vitamins and foreign odours. The packaging preserves the freshness and increases the shelf life. It can also help reduce food waste.
When it comes to storing food, the “shell” also plays an important role. The products are stored or relocated several times before they are consumed. This would not be possible without suitable food packaging. During transport, the packaging protects the contents from the effects of pressure, temperature or moisture.
Diverse requirements for food packaging
Food packaging has to meet different needs. Consumers expect it to be easy to open and close. From the point of view of the food companies, they must be as stable and stackable as possible, suitable for machines and inexpensive to produce. And they must not affect the quality and ingredients of the food.
In addition, there are increasing demands on sustainability. If possible, packaging should be recyclable or disposable with low levels of pollutants. This is why packaging specialists are needed when it comes to packaging product materials.
Functional materials and innovative solutions
Food packaging is made of various materials to ensure the product is optimally protected. The so-called packaging materials include glass, paper, cardboard, plastics such as PE, PP or PET, metal or aluminium. Composite packaging made of several materials is also common. For example, beverage cartons consist of cardboard and layers of polyethene and/or aluminium. New requirements arise as a result of product developments. Ready meals, for example, should be able to be heated directly in the pack.
Food manufacturers are constantly working on further developing the packaging, for example by using new, intelligent technologies or materials. One example is modified atmosphere packaging. The air is mechanically sucked out of the packaging and replaced by a gas mixture, which extends the shelf life of fresh food. Another example is so-called “active packaging”. The packaging binds oxygen or harmful moisture, for example. In order to protect the environment, bioplastics based on renewable raw materials such as corn or wheat are increasingly being used.