Active food packaging helps to meet clean label challenges

Demand for more natural food products has created opportunities for new packaging solutions as producers move away from chemical preservatives, says Lux Research

Consumers are demanding for more natural food products, with 'clean labels,' ingredient lists devoid of chemical preservatives and other ingredients widely considered unhealthy.

However, food must still stay fresh, so innovative developers are now turning to active packaging to maintain food quality and safety, without compromising taste, texture and shelf life, according to Lux Research.

Compared with standard packaging, which is inert and simply provides a barrier, active packaging materials contain ingredients that actively absorb moisture or oxygen, or actively kill microbes or fungus. As a result, it can help to keep food fresh longer, without requiring additives to the food itself.

'Active packaging has the potential to address challenges for clean label formulations, but no single packaging technology is capable of delivering a complete solution,' said Joice Pranata, Lux Research Associate and lead author of the report, 'Coming Clean with Packaging: Active Packaging Technologies Tackle the Clean Label Challenge.'

'Packaging developers need to work with their counterparts in processing and alternative ingredients,' she added.

Lux Research analysts evaluated 35 clean label developers and their active packaging solutions. Among the developers they highlighted

Sushi and meal sets get natural solution. Mitsubishi-Kagaku's Wasauro has incorporated allyl isothiocyanate — a naturally occurring compound from plants such as horseradish and mustard — into packaging to target microbes and fungi. Its packaging is currently used to maintain freshness of meal sets and sushi.

Ethanol vapour keeps breads and buns fresh. Freund's Negamold product is an ethanol vapour generator that inhibits mould growth and absorbs oxygen, enhancing the shelf-life of wheat bread, rye bread and prebaked buns. Negamold is sold in sachets that release ethanol vapour into the packaging headspace.

Oxygen scavenger preserves beverages. With its acquisition of ColorMatrix, PolyOne owns the oxygen scavenger products Amosorb and Hyguard. Both are used in clear packaging of beverages such as PET bottles, beer, wine, nectars, teas and UHT milk.