As the year 2015 draws to a close, we can look back and reflect upon the changes in technology in this year. Each year, we are seeing increasingly groundbreaking technologies entering into our daily lives, making mundane day-to-day tasks easier and more optimized and sometimes even erasing the need for these tasks altogether.
Proper packaging and timely distribution of food items, whether fresh or processed is essential for the success of a business. Packaging should be economical, environment-friendly and practical. Much research and development is being done to incorporate the packaging concepts into reality. Hopefully, we will be able to see these modern concepts soon in shopping centers, restaurants and in our kitchens which will “go beyond” the basic task of packing from safe, hygienic, durable to even making it reusable & eatable. Let’s get into these cool technologies which are the new interest within the packaging industry.
1. Edible Packaging
Inspired by a simple apple, which preserves itself within its own natural edible covering, a team of researchers at the Harvard University led by Professor David Edwards have innovated a wide variety of foods which are tastefully packed and supplied in suitable edible covering. For example, pumpkin soup is in a spinach membrane and chocolate syrup is in a cherry membrane. This serves the dual purpose of reducing thrash and increasing the flavor and appeal of the food. Interestingly, this kind of packaging has been in use in Japan for many years now, by Bontan Ame, which packages its candy in edible rice wrappers.
2. Smart Packaging
Keeping a check on how many days a food item has been kept in the kitchen and whether it is still edible or not, researchers at the University of Connecticut, Rutgers University and Kraft Foods have invented an “electronic tongue”. The basic idea is to install sensors into the packaging which will give an indication by changing color of its packaging incase food has been rotten or spoiled. Other features are also being worked on such as an insta-preservative that saves food right before it begins to decay. Another aspect is antimicrobial packaging, which actively repels agents such as bacteria that damage food and keeps it fresh, giving it a much longer shelf life.
3. Water Soluble Packaging
A revolutionary new product invented by MonoSol for the fast foods and instant foods markets is water soluble packaging. Used especially in the case of food such as cereals and soups that only require water to cook, this packaging essentially dissolves in water, leaving no traces whatsoever. This method is being applauded as not only time and effort efficient but also a step in the right direction to reducing wastage.
4. Micro Packaging
Plastic, though widely criticized for its environmental impact, plastic is being used today because its strength and durability is irreplaceable so far. Scientists in the Texas A&M University have decided to tackle this problem directly with the invention of micro packaging, a material that can be used to package foodstuffs, but is stronger and more durable than plastic and, most importantly, thinner than a strand of human hair and is thus easier to dispose of and decompose. This wonder material is made of water, a soluble polymer and clay. According to AstroPackaging, the great advantage of using nanotechnology in food packaging is that it substantially increases the shelf life of foods, especially processed foods such as fizzy drinks, beer etc.
5. Self-Cooling and Self-Heating Packaging
Addressing the everyday problem of having to open packaged food and heat it or cool it before consumption, researchers have, recently, managed to make self-temperature alterations possible within the packaging of the food. Self-cooling is done by “microcool” technology, which absorbs carbon-dioxide from the atmosphere and releases it when the button is pressed, causing an immediate drop in temperatures. For self-heating packaging, a product called HeatGenie is used which is added at the bottom of the food packaging and has the potential to heat foods up to 145 degrees Fahrenheit in two minutes.
Today, technology has seeped into every aspect of our lives and revolutionized our lifestyles. Looking towards the future, we can say that cool and environment-friendly technology like these will definitely help us to make our lives easier and comfortable.