In the world of active and intelligent packaging (A&IP), printed electronics (PE), thermochromic and photochromic inks, and high-definition QR and bar coding are having a tremendous impact. As printing technologies continue to play a central role in A&IP’s development, many big brand owners are quickly catching on to its potential for their increasingly complex needs.
As they protect their image, brands have to find new ways to engage and protect consumers. This can prove challenging because counterfeiting is rife, supply chains can be very complicated and open to abuse, and gathering better information about consumer behavior is vital.
Additionally, these technologies can address the need for better food security, less waste and more information about origins, allergens and ingredients. For pharmaceutical companies, A&IP offers routes to compliance, authentication and traceability, which are now more imperative — if not yet legal requirements.
Codes for Blockchains and More
Through a QR code-enabled blockchain pack, Dutch retailer Albert Heijn enables consumers to follow the entire route of its labeled sustainable orange juice product from the Louis Dreyfus Company in Brazil to the store shelf.
"Transparency in the chain is becoming increasingly important. We know all the steps that our products go through to ensure that they are produced with respect for people, animals and the environment. We want to show these steps to our customers," said Marit van Egmond, commercial director, Albert Heijn.
The blockchain was developed in collaboration with technology partner Supply Chain Information Management. Thee data from the product’s various steps is linked and made transparent, allowing customers to use and interact with the QR code on the packaging
The German medical packaging specialists of Schreiner Group developed a label that provides electronic tamper evidence and can be read using smartphones. It’s claimed to benefit manufacturers as well, because integrated geotracking allows them to see where their products are used.
The label, a combination of silicon chip and printed conductive track, includes an invisible PE sensor that is severed in a tampering attempt. It indicates tampering in two ways. Peeling the label off the surface produces a void effect as visual tamper evidence. In addition, when scanning the label with a smartphone, a PE sensor signal will indicate a tampering attempt.
In the summer of 2018, Coca-Cola Turkey launched a promotional campaign making unprecedented use of thermochromic inks to add color, function, and fun to 10 new aluminum beverage can designs, produced by Crown Bevcan.
Usually only one or two thermochromic inks are combined to communicate temperature changes, but in this instance, the ink technology was applied as a true decorative tool as four separate inks were used for designs that stood out when the cans were chilled. Colorless at ambient temperature, the cans’ colorful patterns, including palm trees and sandals, appeared when the drink was chilled and ready for consumption. A total of 70 million units were produced for the campaign..
These are just a few of the A&IP developments enabling niche brands to take on the food, beverage, cosmetics and even pharmaceutical giants in ways they never thought possible. And with advances in printing technologies, A&IP is a rapidly growing market, set to play a leading role in the disruptive digital age. Needless to say, there is plenty more to come from smart packaging.