Marketplace Demands And Driving Forces

Packaging is critical in providing products that meet the consumer needs in a society. Packaging is even more critical in providing food products because they are more perishable and fundamental to the health and progress of the society.

Many driving forces result in increased marketplace demands for foods that offer quality, convenience, safety, and low cost. Some of these driving forces are lifestyle changes, demographic changes, and market globalization. The most noticeable lifestyle changes are influenced by smaller families, the increasing number of single-person households, and dual-income families. The major demographic change was the population spike that occurred after World War II ("Baby Boomers"), which resulted in an increased number of older consumers who demand more nutritious and healthier foods that are easy to prepare. Market globalization has resulted in increased importing and exporting of foods to and from many different and distant regions, creating strong consumer demands for regulations that ensure food safety and better product labeling. Some other driving forces are the macroeconomics in Europe and North America, the continued consolidation in industry, and the public concern over packaging disposal problems.

To meet the challenges presented by these driving forces, the packaging industry has made numerous technical innovations. Many innovations have come from the area of plastics packaging, because plastics are cost effective, lightweight, nonbreakable, heat sealable, micro-wavable, easily fabricated, and corrosion resistant. For example, significant advancements have been made in coextrusion, lamination, and coating technologies, which enable the design of plastic packaging materials with a wide range of properties (1). Another innovation is active packaging, including the technologies of modified atmosphere packaging for fresh produce, oxygen scavengers, time-temperature integrators, and antimicrobial films (2).

New concepts in food packaging technology are needed to meet the challenges of the Information Age. One of the concepts emerging is a greater emphasis on a systems approach in the delivery of better product value; one that addresses the integration of the product, the package, and the environment as a complete resource cycle, from raw material through use and recovery. Another concept is the use of information technology to enhance the communication role of packaging, allowing packaging to serve as a more intelligent messenger for information sharing in this resource cycle.

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