Developments of Nanotechnology in Food and Beverage Packaging
Monday 21 May 2007The packaging is becoming more and more a service and trying to meet as many customers´ requirements as possible. Simple traditional “packing” is to be replaced with multi-functional intelligent packaging methods to improve the food quality thanks to the application of nanotechnology in this field. According to Helmut Kaiser Consultancy (www.hkc22.com), nanotechnology has been significantly increasing its impact on the food and beverage packaging industry during last three years. The sales of the nano-related packaging products have been rising from US$ 150 million in 2002 to $ 860 million in 2004 worldwide. Nonetheless, compared with the over $100 billion food and beverage packaging industry, the growth potential of the nanopackaging is still enormous. It is predicted that nanotechnology will change 25% of the food packaging business in the next decade, that means a yearly over $ 30 billion market.
The rocketing market growth comes mainly from the rapid multiplication of the applications employing nanotechnology. While there were less than 40 nanopackaging products in the market three years ago, this number has been going beyond 250 today. Present major market trends include enhancing the performance of packaging materials, prolonging shelf life, antimicrobial packaging and interactive packaging.
Nanotechnology enables the designers to alter the structure of the packaging materials on the molecular scale, to give the materials desired properties. With different nanostructure, the plastics can obtain various gas/water vapor permeabilities to fit the requirements of reserving fruit, vegetable, beverage, wine and other food. By adding nanoparticles, people can also produce bottles and packages with more light- and fire-resistantance, stronger mechanical and thermal performance, and less gas absorption. These properties can significantly increase the shelf life, efficiently preserve flavour & colour, and facilitate transportion & usage. Further, nanostructured film can effectively prevent the food from the invasion of bacteria and microorganism and ensure the food safety. With embedded nanosensors in the packaging, consumers will be able to “read” the food inside. Sensors can alarm us before the food goes rotten or can inform us the exact nutrition status contained in the contents.