Convenient Packaging- A promising channel to functionalize Nutrition Security  

By Dr A. Raajeswari

Convenient packaging should not only define convenience but also posses many qualities like, it also extends shelf life with barrier properties and maintains the food organoleptically acceptable. It incorporates frustration-free tear or opening features and minimizes chemical or  physical deterioration. It creates infestation-free protection and reduces costly returns.

There are many challenges to solve the above mentioned purpose like, to preserve at best the quality of food products as well as increase shelf life of food products. Maximum protection to food products from environment should also be provided. Reduction of cost also matters.

Classification of Convenient Packaging

Convenient packaging can be classified by the following way: Resealable package, pouches and bags, lidding films and shrink films.

Easy-Open/Reclose (Resealable) Package-  It improves overall package functionality and enhance consumer convenience because it provides frustration free alternative which is easier to open, pour and store.

Pouches and Bags– Easy to store and pour. It is available in individual pack. It is ideal for sauce sachet, butter cubes, milk pouches.

Lidding Films– These films can go with aluminum (uncoated or lacquered), PP, PE, PS, PVC, paperboard, pulpboard/fibre trays. Lidding films can incorporate the following additional features: laser perforation, hot needle perforation, steam venting, macro hole perforation, peel seal or weld seal, low to very high gas barrier, suitable for pasteurisation/ hot fill, very high strength/ impact resistance, chilled/ frozen/ ambient.

Shrink Films- These are of following types-

Plain or printed multi-pack film for tray or pad-supported packages

Corrugate-free  film for unsupported packages

Film for film-to-film applications and prevention of inter-package adhesion

Perforated shrink film organizes, dispenses cans and bottles.

Characteristics of shrink films- It optimizes for high-speed operations and gives outstanding strength and durability.

Benefits- These are sustainable, economical multi-pack, ideal for replacing corrugate, paperboard and plastic rings for PET bottles, aluminum cans and more. It reduces packaging material more than 50% by weight lower the costs as much as 30%.

Shrink films are great for bundling aluminum cans, glass bottles, PET bottles, tetra Pak boxes and more in everything from convenience store to club store pack sizes. Applications include beer and adult beverage multi-packs, bottled water multi-packs, canned vegetables, juice box multi-pack, peanut butter multi-packs, pudding, soda/soft drink multi-packs, soup multi-packs, yogurt cup multi-packs.

Flexible packaging for convenience Aluminium foils- It provides superior product protection. It has high strength alloys for high speed machine wrapping. It can be laminated to paper or plastic films using wax or adhesives. It can be reversed side coated in a heat sealable lacquer. It is supplied in reel or sheet form. It can  be  embossed  with sophisticated patterns and specific logos.

Films- It may be of different types including coextruded film, cold-seal films, laminated films, metallized films, PCR content films, shrink films, steamable films.

Paper- A range of confectionery wrappers includes a wide variety of printed specifications and in some cases, combination with other materials. Printed and wax coated papers are available for twist  wraps  pre-made bags in paper and paper/plastics combinations.

Packaging for maintaining and enhancing nutritional value of food Edible films and coatings- Edible films are defined as a thin layer of material which can be consumed and provides a barrier to moisture, oxygen and solute movement for the food. The material can be a complete food coating or can be disposed as a continuous layer between food components. Edible films can be formed as food coatings and free-standing films.

Type of edible films and coatings-

Hydrocolloids, lipids, composite. Application includes- Wrapping, brushing, spraying, immersing.

Composition of hydrocolloids- These are water based colloidal mixtures of proteins and/or polysaccharides.

Properties- It has poor resistance to water vapor but provides barriers to oxygen & carbon dioxide it has mechanical strength.

Lipid films- It includes films made up of waxes fatty acids, acetylated monoglycerides, sucrose fatty acid esters, shellac.

Properties- It provides barriers to water vapor. Coatings add gloss. It lacks structural strength & durability and requires supporting matrix. Many lipids exist in crystalline form. Composite films

Bilayers- In which one layer is deposited over another layer.

Conglomerates- One layer includes a mixture of several components. It is again of two types- Components distinct and Components intermixing. For instance, lipids provide a barrier to water vapor movement and hydrocolloids provide the supporting matrix. So, the film having both properties is composite films. Another example is films of casein and acetylated monoglycerides which are effective barriers to water loss in fruits and vegetables.

Effects of Edible Coatings: Edible coating reduces water loss and protects against contamination. Reduces gas diffusion and improves mechanical integrity. It encapsulates aroma compounds, antioxidants, pigments, vitamins etc. It reduces environmental pollution and establishes modified atmosphere.

Some examples of edible coatings- Nutre seal (modified cellulose polymers), Pro-long (sucrose polyesters of FA + Na salts of CMC), waxes, long-chain fatty acids like paraffin , shellac is a resin secreted by an insect, sealgum and spray gum (gum acacia & gelatin), nutri-save (carboxy methylchitosan) Additives to enhance nutritive value- They modify mechanical properties of the film and cause significant changes in barrier properties.

Components       include        antimicrobial compounds, antioxidants, flavor and aroma compounds, pigments, preservatives, vitamins.

Types of Film Additives

Emulsifers – Keep the components in solution.

Surfactants – Reduce the surface tension of the film formulation to achieve uniform coverage.

Plasticizers – modify mechanical properties, water and relative  humidity. For example, glycerol, polyethylene glycol and acetylated monoglycerides, sucrose.

Active packaging for convenience- Active packaging employs a packaging material that interacts with the internal gas environment to extend the shelf life of a food. Such technology modifies the gas environment and may interact with the surface of the food by removing gases from or adding gases to the headspace inside a package. Recent technological innovations for control of specific gases within a package involve the use of chemical scavengers to absorb a gas or alternatively other chemicals that may release a specific gas as required.

“Packaging in which constituents have been deliberately includes substancein or on either the packaging material or the package headspace to enhance the performance of the package system”. Eg- sachet, flexible tubes etc.

Some areas of atmosphere control in which active packaging is being successfully used

  • Oxygen scavenging
  • Carbon dioxide production
  • Water vapour removal
  • Ethylene removal
  • Baked foods

Modified atmosphere packaging for convenience- It is a practice of modifying composition    of    internal    atmosphere    of a package in order to improve shelf life of food product. There is modification in the amount of oxygen which varies from 20.9%  to 0% which slows down growth of aerobic organisms.    Oxygen      is replaced with nitrogen or carbon dioxide,  which lowers pH or inhibits  growth  of bacteria. Carbon monoxide can be used for preserving the red color of meat. Re- balancing of gases inside packaging can be achieved using active techniques such as gas flushing and compensated vacuum or passively by designing “breathable” films known as equilibrium modified atmosphere packaging (EMAP).

Characteristics of packaging films for EMAP

Gas permeability, water vapour transmission rate, mechanical properties, transparency, type of package, sealing reliability.

 Barrier films are designed to prevent the exchange of gases and are mainly used with non-respiring products like meat and fish. Permeable films are used for fruits and vegetables.

When it comes to convenient packaging, the keys to remember are that allowing the consumer the easiest possible path toward choosing your product is often the best one. Allow smaller sizes and different flavors so that consumers have options. Provide packaging that helps consumers stay healthy without harming the environment to ensure sustainable outcomes for our future generation.

   The Packing industry is going through the most substantial transformation in many years. From milk, ice creams, coconut water to wines and spirits everything is available in paper-based packaging. Companies have realized that packaging needs to add value to the product in order to stand out among competition. Living ahead of the curve, Tetra Pak’s paper carton packaging has been the most wonderful invention of all times. The development of the  Tetra Pak  package and the aseptic packaging technology made it possible to eliminate the cold chain supply for distribution and storage, substantially increasing access in the remotest parts of the country and even overseas.

The author is Assistant Professor(SG), Avinashilingam Institute for Home Science and Higher Education for Women, Coimbatore,  India.,