Active packaging to satisfy the new consumer’s demands

Category: Plastics in the food industry

The present and the future of the package industry are marked by the new consumer’s needs, which are met by the industry through the innovation and the technological development. The development of new packages and food packaging technologies is a constant due to the high consumer’s demands for fresh products or with minimal treatments. In addition, the lifestyle changes have caused a high demand for easy to consume and semi-elaborated products which guarantee a longer conservation time for the food. The active packages have been a solution for these requirements for a few years now.

For a long time, the package has complies with three functions: contain, conserve and protect; only having a passive role, protecting the product from those external factors which can deteriorate it or make it a non-secured product or  commercially viable. 

The active package is a food/package/environment system which acts coordinately to maintain or, even, improve the healthiness, the organoleptic properties and the quality of the packaged food, increasing its self life. Like this, the package plays an active role and ceases to be a mere food container or a physic barrier between the food and the exterior. So, the agent or the element active must be incorporate to the system, which will play a key role during the food’s self life.

The development in active packages are very varied and allow controlling the different deterioration problems or the alteration in food quality, such as the control of gasses’ decomposition inside the package (oxygen, carbon dioxide, ethylene,…), regulation of the humidity, the control of the oxidation process, the elimination of smells and undesirable substances, or the control of the microbiological pollution. In addition, it is also possible to provide the food with determined aromas or to add chemical preservatives through an active system. In this sense, the active package systems can be classifies into absorbers, which eliminate undesirable substances, and emitters, which release substances of priority.

In the active package, there are basically two action mechanisms: introduction of the active element inside the package, together with the package which must be packaged (bag, envelope or label) or the incorporation of the active element in the package’s material like and additive.

The last developments of active package have been focus on the second mechanism, since the operation of the active system introduction in the package is eliminated, and it is treated attractively for the consumer, because there is not a foreign element with the food. In addition, these systems have the advantage that every active component surface is in contact with the packaged product.

In this sense, the antimicrobial active and/or the antioxidant packages are very interesting because the main alteration causes of many food are the microorganism and deteriorations produced by the oxidation of its fatty components, and the economic implications are very important for manufacturers, distributors and consumers.

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